Three innovative Kenyans have won the €4,000 Special Africa Prize during the Farming by Satellite awards ceremony in Berlin.

The team “Shamballite” won the prize on Monday with their innovative and well-documented idea for a mobile and satellite-based Farming Information System.   The overall winner of €5,000 was a team from ISA Lille in France with their idea for using satellite data to pair the issues of managing nitrogen levels together with solving soil compaction, and using cover crops to address this in an environmentally sensitive way.

They beat stiff competition from 76 other young people across 13 European and 8 African countries. Judges selected seven teams from Europe to take forward to the final ‘live’ judging round, and another three from Africa, who made their presentations by video-link. Portugal was successful in getting two teams through to the final round, and other finalists were from Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany and Italy. For the Special Africa prize, it was Kenya that was particularly successful – providing two out of the three finalists, with the third coming from Morocco.

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The €3,000 Second Prize and €1,000 Third Prize went to Czech Republic and Italy respectively.

Farming by Satellite Prize is an initiative of the European GNSS Agency (GSA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA). It is sponsored by CLAAS, a leading manufacturer of agricultural engineering equipment, and crop protection experts Bayer CropScience.

Reviewing the winning entries this year, GSA judge Reinhard Blasi said that the judges were particularly impressed with the high quality and professionalism that has evolved over time, especially for the African participants. It was this and the holistic approach focussing on a real challenge for Kenya´s farmers that helped “Shamballite to win first place.

“The idea sends simple mobile messages to support farmers with decision-making by closing specific information gaps,” said.

The Kenyan team is made up of Catherine (left) an environmental lawyer and sustainability enthusiast with a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) from the University of Nairobi and a MSc. Environmental Governance at the University of Freiburg. The other is Stephen (middle), a civil engineer alumnus of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology where he gained knowledge in both agriculture and technology.  The other is Abe (right) who is a geospatial engineer who works in the spatial Industry with interests in energy, entrepreneurship and diverse environmental matters.

Commenting on the environmental aspect of entries, Hans Dufourmont of EEA said “it has been remarkable to see how the Copernicus’ European Union open data policy becomes a real game changer that boosts the uptake of satellite imagery for improving the environmental aspects of farming practices.”

“As agriculture becomes more knowledge intensive, our role extends beyond machinery design and manufacture to use science, innovation and technology to make a difference across the whole value chain. We really want to encourage tomorrow’s innovators to apply their talents to the agriculture sector, which is why we have supported the Farming by Satellite Prize since the first edition in 2012,” said Christian Radons of CLAAS.

Commenting on the entries Alex Melnitchouck of Bayer CropScience said that “today’s farmers have a lot of knowledge at their fingertips, helped by the spread of mobile communications. Combine this with the latest seed varieties, detailed weather data and crop analysis tools, and they have a better chance to increase production and cope with climate change. There is a real opportunity to help farmers with decision-making and use advanced technology in simple ways to manage their businesses better, and to lower costs. The Farming by Satellite Prize is a way of raising awareness of these opportunities and tapping into the talents of young people to make them happen.”

Entrants must be under the age of 32 and can take part as individuals or as a team. They can submit case studies of trials, or new ideas and innovations, particularly those relying upon European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), the forthcoming GALILEO system and COPERNICUS (the European Earth Observation Programme).

For more information visit: www.farmingbysatellite.eu or contact organiser Andrea King at andrea.king@askhelios.com.

 

 

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