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SA tech start-up has high expectations with agri-drone innovation

SA tech start-up has high expectations with agri-drone innovation

South African-based engineering and tech start-up The Gryphon Corporation is ready to roll out its crop-spraying drone innovation and agriculture data consultancy to bolster local farming practices.

Founded in 2018 by aeronautical entrepreneurs Samuel Mathekga and Clive Mathe, the start-up (incubated at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria since 2018) aims to tackle large and small-scale agriculture sector.

"A crop-spraying drone platform that is cheaper, more efficient and more reliable than any traditional crop-spraying platform. Traditional crop-spraying platforms include manned-aircraft crop-spraying, manual spraying and tractors," says co-founder Mathekga.

"The innovation also comes with a data-acquisition package that collects data for specialised trend analysis to help make better farming decisions in the future. The objective for this is to adopt robust, adaptive farming methods that are in sync with the uncertain weather patterns, natural farm inputs (such as pest attacks) and the required need for increased crop-yields across Africa."

Mathe added that the innovation is aimed at increasing food security in the region.

"To do this, under uncertain climate (and other drivers of farming success) conditions, it is necessary that not only more efficient processes be adopted, but that robust and adaptive methods become part of the farming system," said Mathe.

"A first-principles analysis of most of our farms in Africa clearly shows a lack of infrastructure in general, and this has resulted in inefficient execution of many of the farming processes. This is not in sync with the heightened development in technology, engineering design, and the decreased cost of acquiring and deploying these. Through the right amount of synergy between technology and design, we can help leapfrog that lack of infrastructure with enhanced platforms such we are developing," he added.

Mathekga and Mathe believe their innovation will be a significant player in the agricultural sector in Africa. "Besides the skills training that will come along with its application, it will see farmers spending significantly less money in the crop spraying process while at the same benefitting from the efficiency it adds."

The start-up was a finalist in the 2018 SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards and received a seed grant of R200 000.

In September 2018, at the annual Gartner Symposium ITXPO, tech experts agreed that agritech is growing in value across Africa and there is more extensive application of AI to extract and use data on livestock, to analyse crops, share information etc.

There is an opportunity to extend this and develop the ecosystem, but that will depend on the continent developing competence, skills, and on governments establishing and making datasets available.

2019 competition

The 9th Annual SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards and 4th annual Disability Empowerment Awards are now open for entry.

According to organisers, the awards carry total prize money of more than R12-million, and first prize is up to R1.3-million in grant funding.

The Social Innovation Awards are aimed at innovators, social entrepreneurs, institutions and social enterprises with prototypes or early-stage businesses that can solve social problems.

The Disability Empowerment Awards seek and award social enterprises, which have come up with innovative solutions, which improve access to the economy, and/or solutions for disabled people, while generating enough revenue to become sustainable over time.

Online applications close on 28 March 2019 at midday.

Applications can be completed by visiting the SAB Foundation website.

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