UK biodiversity tech start-up secures Innovate UK grant to help women farmers in Kenya out of poverty.

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UK, York based biodiversity tech start-up company, AgriSound has won funding from the UK’s National Innovation agency, Innovate UK, to supercharge a development project in sub-Saharan Africa which will help women farmers in Kenya to maximise their avocado crops and greatly improve their economic situation. 

AgriSound’s project ‘Automated pollinator monitoring for improved Crop Health in Sub-Saharan Africa’ aims to improve the consistency of yields and quality of large-scale and smallholder production in Kenya using its ground-breaking Polly bio acoustic pollinator listening device, to give female-led farms the insight to increase crop yields, alleviating poverty and food insecurity in the poorest areas. 

AgriSound’s technology enables the health and activity of pollinators such as bees to be monitored and cared for in hives as well as in commercial agricultural spaces with the aim of revolutionising beekeeping and farming culture around the world. 

AgriSound’s highly successful POLLYTM operates in a similar way to how a smart speaker functions. The device is equipped with a microphone and environmental sensors, measuring temperature, light and humidity. Each one is completely solar powered. Polly listens 24/7 for the sounds of insects and uses advanced sound-analysis to translate the data into activity scores. This information, available in real time, can be used to target the introduction of pollinator-protection measures to the areas of greatest need, and determine actions such as the planting of wildflowers or creating new habitats. 

Avocado production

Avocado production is currently a growing industry in Kenya, offering the opportunity for producers at small and larger scales to increase profits and contribute to a sustainable food supply. Many small-scale farmers have switched to growing avocados in recent years as a strategy to cope with climate change. 

According to research by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)1, more than 70% of women in Africa work in Agriculture. Their farms are often small-scale and rely on manual labour and are typically run by women who have taken on the role of primary caregiver for their families. Many of these women have limited access to resources and education, which can make it challenging for them to expand their operations or increase their yields. Predictions from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)2 of the United Nations predicts that if women had the same access to resources and technologies as men, they would increase farm yields by 20-30% (DFID, 2018) 

Casey Woodward, founder, and CEO of AgriSound, said: Securing this funding from Innovate UK has been fundamental in allowing us to develop with this crucial project to help beat food poverty and bridge the gender pay gap between avocado farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. This venture will bring AgriSound into new markets, develop new understanding of pollinators and harness huge benefits for crop yield enhancement. Our project will help to improve farm sustainability and resilience and give us the potential to maintain and care for pollinators in a way that has not been reliably done across the globe.” 

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