Mobile technology unlocks dairy farming potential in Kenya
iCow, a voice-based WAP enabled application, helps farmers track livestock while giving them tips on breeding.
On a typical day, Susan Wanjiru checks and replies to her emails, updates and checks off items on her appointment book before she starts work at a busy Nairobi hotel.
She also receives a text message informing her of the progress of her small dairy farm in outside Nairobi. The message has come through an iCow application that is promising to change the way small holder farmers in Kenya manage their dairy cattle.
iCow is a voice-based WAP enabled application that keeps farmers abreast of essential animal breeding and feeding methods through technology. A farmer can register his cows free of charge through the iCow portal and gets regular SMSs about the breeding and production patterns of the livestock.
Details of elements like the estrus cycle, feeding patterns, prevalent diseases, milking calendar and calf management practices that are essential for dairy cattle rearing are relayed through the system.
The text message cost about 5 cents (US$0.05) each and come at varying intervals during the day depending on the unique needs of the animals.
iCow was developed by a Kenyan, Charles Kithika, and was entered into an Apps competition for Africa which saw Mr Kithika win a cash prize of $5,000 and an Apple iPad.
“Through iCow I can keep track of the individual needs of each cow such as quantity of feed needed and medication if any and relay the information to someone on the ground,” says Ms Wanjiru.
“Although the farm is quite a distance, and my job in Nairobi mostly confines me there, I can manage the farm as if am on site through regular text message updates.”
Ms Wanjiru , who has registered her three Friesian cows on the iCow portal gets daily texts about the animals’ nutritional needs and milking patterns which she then forwards to a farm hand in Kinangop for action.
“Before I switched on iCow I had little information about dairy farming. It is especially difficult to research on things like diseases and feeds for the calves if you have to hold your day job,” said Ms Wanjiru.
She is just one of the many small holder farmers mostly from Nakuru and Kiambu who have registered for the service.
A product of Green Dreams Tech Ltd, the iCow is aimed at creating a simple digital solution for dairy farmers looking at improving the way they manage their livestock.
According to Su Kahumbu, the creative director of Green Dreams, iCow’s main objective is to assist small scale farmers to maximize returns from their small herds through technology.
“We found out that most dairy farmers do not get the most out of their livestock because they depend on rudimentary livestock management methods.”
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