Buzz Farm drones to the rescue

In early 2018, Anesu Mapisa walked through the doors of Midlands State University in Zimbabwe armed with a BSc in Agriculture and a vision.

His peers began seeking employment in the agricultural sector, one of the highest paying in Zimbabwe, but Mapisa’s mind was elsewhere; he wanted to innovate and transform the lives of farmers.

Instead of knocking on doors for a dream job, Mapisa talked to a classmate and friend, Emmanuel Marume, about the idea of ​​teaming up as entrepreneurs. Marume bought into the idea, and in 2018 they registered their business, Farm Buzz.

“Even though we didn’t have the capital to go into business, it was a dream come true; first we had to figure out how to help farmers increase their yields,” Mapisa said.

For Mapisa, the decision to focus on helping farmers increase their yields was informed by personal experiences. “I was raised on a farm in Macheke, so my parents farmed at a low level, and it didn’t produce much. I wanted to provide solutions for subsistence farmers, including my parents, so that they could efficiently produce a lot of food, which can support the family and the farm.

With the growing trend of young people in cities to operate farms in rural areas, partners recognized that many were experiencing losses and needed knowledge and practical advice from people.

These “telephone farmers” were spending a lot of time and money manually spraying pesticides and herbicides, without getting the results they were paying for.

Mapisa and Marume have taken to social media to teach efficiency in farming and seek out customers.

“We worked on the business from scratch, with no capital, with nothing; we just started doing consulting on Instagram and Facebook and grew from there,” said Mapisa, 22. “We are promoting smart agriculture in Zimbabwe through best agronomic practices and agrotechnology.

In the beginning, most of their consulting work was in farm management and seasonal budgeting.

Soon enough, the two entrepreneurs recognized the opportunity to use drones to increase the efficiency of the farms they were tasked with consulting, particularly when it came to weed control.

But then the hurdle of lack of capital straddled the path of this young company. A basic crop spraying drone costs around $10,000.

Undeterred, they chose to seek collaborations. The first was with Alley Capital Group, a company that had just entered the Zimbabwean market with drone technology. A partnership was born and in 2019; Farm Buzz introduced drones to the market. Since then, they have provided pesticide coverage on 500 hectares, mostly on small farms.

“Many farmers lose money by using other traditional methods like knapsack sprayers and boom sprayers, which are expensive and inefficient,” Marume said. “They lose a lot of chemicals through these methods. Backpacks are heavy and you need more manpower. For example, a person can spray one hectare a day, using a backpack, but with a drone, one hectare can be done in 15 to 30 minutes.

Mapisa said the services they provide end up being cheaper; Farm Buzz charges $21 per hectare, while commercial farmers using tractor-pulled boom sprayers pay around $75 per hectare.

The company also uses drones for farm mapping and scouting, helping farmers know the exact size of their fields for proper planning and resource utilization.

Although there was growing interest in the drone option, farmers did not immediately accept the technology. Traditional methods and experience stood in their way.

“My father, for example, who has been a farmer for 20 years, uses the old methods like knapsacks and boom sprayers because they have served him well over the years,” Mapisa said.

The duo therefore had to spend a lot of time explaining to farmers the efficiency, time savings and profitability of using drones. Today, they’re winning hearts – and wallets – as farmers increasingly accept the new technology.

Among them is Louise Musungwa, who runs a farm in Nyabira, a settlement of agricultural plots on the western outskirts of Harare.

She started farming after retiring from nursing and has worked there for five years. She lives in Harare but travels to Nyabira to oversee her projects.

“I was born on a farm; my father had a farm in Masvingo, but I never liked farming. After school I went to nursing and worked as a nurse, mostly overseas, until I retired and returned home,” she said.

“I decided to revisit my youth where I was forced to do farming. So I started farming. I was a farmer for five years, and since I had no land, I just rent to those who have unused land.

After adopting drone technology to farm, she is seeing better yields on her 10 hectares. Previously, it took his workers weeks to complete the weeding, requiring him to commute from town every day.

“I was using people, and they were cheating me: most of them were just not serious, they were interested in money, not in crop yield and health,” Musungwa said.

Musungwa also used a tractor to spray but was unhappy with the result. “I like being on the pitch, making sure things are done by the rules, giving instructions where I can,” she said. “With drones, I can sacrifice a day and know I’m done with an activity.”

Mapisa said drone technology can also help people who are no longer physically able to do manual labor.

He says the company’s footprint in Zimbabwe could have been larger had it not been for the infrastructure limitations that sometimes stand in their way. “Some of the technology we bring requires Wi-Fi and here in Zimbabwe data is expensive; it is difficult to bring the technology to some of these farms.

Mapisa says his company is helping bring Zimbabwe closer to the food security that the country aspires to. “We are improving performance, starting with planning, developing the correct budget. We go to the production side; we follow all the good agronomic practices that a farmer must follow to produce high yields. By doing this, we can increase yields by ten tons per hectare, using precise agronomic practices that our ancient farmers do not use.

In 2020, Buzz Farm won the BancABC StartUp of the Year award.

“We participated in many start-up challenges; some we managed to be among the finalists. Our biggest award so far has been from BancABC,” said Mapisa.

Mapisa and Marume now want to take Farm Buzz continental.

“In Zambia, there are good climatic conditions, good soils and good farms, so we will start with Zambia and then work our way up to the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Mapisa said.

He said he believes Africa’s food security needs can be met if the capacity of farmers is increased.

“I believe that’s where the world is going; the technology is there to help us in our agricultural operations,” he said, predicting that in 10 years drones would be a mainstay of agriculture on the continent. — bird

About Chris McCarter

Check Also

Invite Stock: Split Business Model Offers Tactical Opportunity

Pijitra Phomkham/iStock via Getty Images Investment thesis Illumina’s (NASDAQ:ILMN) technological advances in gene sequencing have …