AgriSound, the UK based biodiversity tech start-up company, has gained funding from Innovate UK to lead a development project for women farmers in Kenya.
Named ‘Automated Pollinator monitoring for improved Crop Health in Sub-Saharan Africa’, the project aims to help women farmers in Kenya to maximise avocado crops and improve their economic outlook. The consistency of yields and quality of large-scale and smallholder production in Kenya will be improved by using the Polly bio acoustic pollinator listening device.
The technology enables monitoring of the health and activity of pollinators, such as bees, and it operates in a similar way to how a smart speaker functions. Equipped with a microphone and sensors which measure temperature, light and humidity, the solar-panelled device listens for the sounds of the insects. Advanced sound-analysis then translates the data into activity scores.
The information generated can be used to target the introduction of pollinator-protection measures to the areas of greatest need, and determine actions to be taken going forwards.
Avocado production is a growing industry in Kenya offering the opportunity for producers at small and larger scales to increase profits and contribute to a sustainable food supply. Many small-scale farmers have switched to growing avocados in recent years as a strategy to cope with climate change.
Women farmers in Africa
Research by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has shown that more than 70% of women in Africa work in agriculture. Farms are often small-scale, relying on manual labour, and are typically run by women who have taken on the role of primary caregiver for their families. Many have limited access to education and resources, making it challenging for them to expand their operations or increase yields. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations predicts that farm yields could increase by 20-30% if women had the same access to resources and technology as men.
Founder and CEO of AgriSound, Casey Woodward, said: “Securing this funding from Innovate UK has been fundamental in allowing us to develop with this crucial project to help beat food poverty and bridge the gender pay gap between avocado farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. This venture will bring AgriSound into new markets, develop new understanding of pollinators and harness huge benefits for crop yield enhancement. Our project will help to improve farm sustainability and resilience and give us the potential to maintain and care for pollinators in a way that has not been reliably done across the globe.”