In Summary
  • Greenhouse farming can be draining and labour intensive because the structure needs constant monitoring, which many do not do leading to losses.
  • One can remotely control the soil moisture, humidity, check temperature and switch on the water pump using the application.
  • Their system uses solar to power the gadgets saving the farmer the cost of paying electricity bills for most part of the year.
  • The system also gives advice and recommendations on the best practices, such as what type of chemical or fertiliser is required and at what time and where can it be applied. It also suggests the best pest control methods.

A screw driver in his right hand and an electric cable in his left, Muriungi Kithinji, 23, inserts the latter in a tiny hole and fastens it with a screw meticulously inside the greenhouse in Nyeri.

He then picks a plastic box, and with the help of his friend Denzel Wambura, 22, screws it on a post in the structure.

The students are fixing a sensor that helps farmers monitor their greenhouses and control activities remotely using an app they have also developed.

Greenhouse farming can be draining and labour intensive because the structure needs constant monitoring, which many do not do leading to losses.

The many challenges the farmers face, according to Kithinji and Wambura, are what motivated them to come up with the technology that they have named Nelion Farm System, which digitises greenhouse farming, making it convenient and stress-free.

“Inside the greenhouse we install a camera and sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and soil moisture. The gadgets collect information which the farmers accesses through the app,” explain Kithinji and Wambura, who are third year Mechatronics Engineering students at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology.

“Then one uses our app to get information from the greenhouse while miles away. One can remotely control the soil moisture, humidity, check temperature and switch on the water pump.”

The sensors and camera installed also make the farmer aware of any intrusion or security breach into the farm.

“The app is convenient for a telephone farmer, who lives in the urban area but farms in the countryside. He is able to have full control of his farm without travelling,” says Kithinji, adding the system is installed either at planting or soon after the planting.

GIVES ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS

And in case of insect or disease outbreak, the farmer inputs the symptoms of the attack in the system and it recommends the appropriate control method.

Their system uses solar to power the gadgets saving the farmer the cost of paying electricity bills for most part of the year. But during the cold season, the farmer can switch to the power grid to avoid inconveniences.

So impressed was the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, with their innovation during a tour of the university in September, that he contracted the duo to digitise his two greenhouses in Chaka, Nyeri.

So impressed was the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, with their innovation during a tour of the university in September, that he contracted the duo to digitise his two greenhouses in Chaka, Nyeri. PHOTO | GRACE GITAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“Through the system, the farmer also monitors the plant height, thus being able to know when the crop is ready for harvest.”

And even more interesting, when the crops are ready for harvest, the app informs the farmer what is happening in the markets, in terms of prices, for better decision making.

“It informs the farm of the nearby markets, where they can sell their produce and at how much,” says Kithinji.

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