Celebrating Innovation in Agriculture

A groundbreaking AI-powered agricultural tool from Kenya claimed the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Esther Kimani, the innovator behind this remarkable invention, becomes the third woman and second Kenyan to win the award, securing £50,000 for her efforts. The tool, which significantly reduces crop losses and increases yields for smallholder farmers, marks a pivotal advancement in agricultural technology.

Harnessing AI for Pest Detection

Kimani's invention utilizes solar-powered, AI, and machine learning-enabled cameras to detect and identify agricultural pests and diseases swiftly. This technology provides real-time alerts within five seconds of an infestation, offering tailored intervention suggestions to farmers and notifying government agricultural officers, thereby enhancing broader agricultural management efforts.

Impact on Smallholder Farmers

The tool has a profound impact on smallholder farmers, who are often most vulnerable to crop losses due to pests and diseases. By reducing crop losses by up to 30% and increasing yields by as much as 40%, the device offers a lifeline to farmers, many of whom lose an average of 33% of their crops annually. Priced at just $3 per month, it provides an affordable alternative to traditional methods such as drones or agricultural inspectors.

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize

Founded in 2014, the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation supports innovators developing sustainable and scalable engineering solutions to local challenges in Africa. The prize has grown to support nearly 150 entrepreneurs across 23 countries, generating over 28,000 jobs and benefiting more than 10 million people through innovative products and services.

Milestone Anniversary and Alumni Reunion

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Royal Academy hosted the Africa Prize Alumni Reunion, bringing together 100 past innovators for a three-day programme ahead of the final ceremony. This reunion underscored the strength and unity of the community formed through the prize.

Esther Kimani’s Vision

Kimani expressed her motivation for developing the tool, citing personal experiences of her parents losing up to 40% of their crops each season. Her vision extends beyond immediate relief; she aims to empower smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, to increase their income and reach one million farmers within the next five years.

Supporting Innovations and Future Prospects

Kimani received KSh 8.3 million to further develop her device, marking the largest amount awarded to a winner in honor of the prize’s 10th anniversary. The final ceremony saw four finalists deliver their business pitches to an audience of approximately 700, highlighting the competitive and collaborative spirit of the event.

Runners-Up and Honorable Mentions

Three runners-up were each awarded KSh 2.5 million for their innovative solutions:

  • Eco Tiles by Kevin Maina (Kenya): An environmentally friendly roofing material made from recycled plastic, offering a dual solution to plastic pollution and high building costs.
  • La Ruche Health by Rory Assandey (Côte d'Ivoire): A health information and service platform featuring an AI chatbot and digital backend solution.
  • Yo-Waste by Martin Tumusiime (Uganda): A mobile application for efficient on-demand rubbish collection and disposal.

Additionally, the ‘One to Watch’ award went to Dr. Abubakari Zarouk Imoro for his Myco-Substitutes innovation, receiving £5,000 in honor of Martin Bruce, a late Ghanaian alumnus.

Future Opportunities and Continued Support

The 2025 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, launched at the 2024 final, is now open for entries. The Academy seeks scalable engineering solutions to address local challenges, inviting individuals and small teams from sub-Saharan Africa to apply by October 15. This initiative continues to support the brightest minds in tackling global challenges while promoting economic prosperity and sustainable development in Africa through engineering.

Engineering a Brighter Future

The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation highlights the transformative power of engineering in addressing critical challenges and improving quality of life. Esther Kimani's award-winning pest detection tool exemplifies the potential of innovative solutions to make a significant impact on local communities and the broader agricultural sector. As the Africa Prize continues to grow and support new innovators, it paves the way for a brighter, more sustainable future for Africa.