By BOB KOIGI
August 15,2018,Nairobi.In another industry first, Red Lands Roses Ltd has introduced a digital method of pest and disease scouting, the process of assessing flower threats to track crop damage, allowing the farm to accurately monitor pests and diseases trends while informing precise interventions.
Traditionally, pest scouts would move around greenhouses with maps while manually keying in any threats they identified, a laborious process that would usually miss vital details like the concentration and spread of pests. Data was also prone to human error which at times interfered with accuracy.
With the new program that has been developed by the farm with financial assistance from DEG the German Development Bank, pest and disease spreads are monitored at close range and the level of misrepresentation is near nil. “This new technology has allowed unique and dedicated approach to how we tackle pests and diseases, some of the greatest threats to any flower farm.
The program, in-house developed, is able to interpret data on the type of threat, the trend and then generate a report on the specific kind of intervention we need. It has completely transformed the farm’s operations and is saving costs and losses,” said Stefano Banella the Crop Protection Manager and the man in charge of the program.
Pest scouts are given tablets that has preset data on all the greenhouses in the farm, each greenhouse is divided into chapels which are further divided into beds with the beds then divided into partitions pointing to the accuracy of the application in identifying pests and diseases.
A partition is a small representative area that allows the scout to record the level of pest or disease infestations in that particular area. Once the scouts identify a threat they key it in the tab from a drop down menu that has a set of the anticipated threats. They then identify the reproduction stage of the pest and the location of the pest in the plant, whether top or bottom. At the end of the day all this data is then downloaded into a server and is consolidated.
It then generates a map that shows the situation in various greenhouses, the level of infestation and the trends compared to previous scouting. On the screen, the data entry personnel can see the severity of each particular greenhouse to attacks. Yellow indicate low level, orange medium and red high alert. With this data, the program is then able to automatically recommend what pesticide to use and calculate the right volume to spray. “In terms of data gathering in the field this process is a bit time consuming compared to the manual one.
That extra time spent gathering this data is priceless in terms of identifying the exact location of these pests and diseases and recommending specific and accurate volumes to fight them. We have had impressive results so far,” added Stefano.
Data that was previously recorded on the manual maps has been incorporated into the system. “We have segmented all this data twice per week and we can go back up to two years ago. It is very crucial for us to interpret this information so that it informs us of what to expect going forward and the effectiveness of the measures we have taken or efficacy of certain chemicals.
We are able to analyze what month we had the highest levels of what threat, how has this been consistent in the next year and with such rich data we know what to expect in future,” Stefano further said.
For George Onyango who has been pest scouting for years at Red Lands Roses, the new application is godsend. It has allowed him to smoke those tiny fellows from the depth of their hideouts as he says. “For the last five years I have been doing this, I have become so used to the pests. Sometimes I just need to look at a plant and automatically know, even without using a magnifying glass, what the pest or disease is.
This new program and especially the use of tablets to record these threats has been a game changer. It has made our work easier, less strenuous and we are now seeing lesser pests since the technology was introduced,” he said.
Aldric Spindler the Executive Director at the farm agrees saying the investment has been informed by the need to tame the high cost of pests and disease control and ultimately ensure there is minimum damage to flowers. “We have embraced technology heavily and this is one of our flagship tech investments. We are very happy of the results we have seen so far especially considering that this program has been designed by our farm.
It has had a huge implication on our approach to pest control, cutting cost while ensuring we are able to accurately identify threats and ultimately resulting in high quality flowers. We are looking forward to a great experience with the program,” he added.