Maksure rolls out field sensors, automated irrigation, a weather station, camera sensors and internet of things (IOT) technology in quest for precision farming
Zimbabwe Digital Express
This week Zimbabwe Digital Express caught up with CEO of Maksure Risk Solutions Simba Makwembere and spoke to him about the Maksure Weather Station at the company’s Midrand Prototype Farm.
This is in the same week in which Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Ambassador David Hamadziripi paid a courtesy call on the Midrand Maksure Prototype Farm with a delegation from the Embassy and was appraised of the fitment of a 30-kilowatt solar energy system and how the weather station will benefit farmers in the sub-region.
1. You said that you want to make sense of one and a half-year of weather data when you released a picture of your team recalibrating the weather station. Also what is the significance of the 18 months in weather terms?
Although one and half years in terms of understanding climate patterns could be very short, we were glad to understand within and between seasons variability of weather patterns which points out at season quality especially with respect to rainfall amount.
18 months since the installation of the weather station were two full seasons. We noted that there was a great variation in terms of season quality.
Season quality generally explains the variability of weather elements from the onset to the end of the season. Rainfall a weather element of agricultural importance greatly varied in Gauteng during these two seasons.
During the 2019-2020 season we received early rains in the first half of the season followed by a decrease in the second half.
This had an implication on the reproductive stages of many crops which could potentially affect the yields. In insurance terms such a trend is associated with more claims in terms of actual losses or moral hazards.
On the contrary, the 2020-2021 season was associated with late-onset of rainfall, around the end of December. This is associated with poor crop establishment which is associated with more replantings. Hence most insurance policies.
2. What are weather derivatives and how do they feature in the business of insurance
A weather derivative is a financial instrument used by companies or individuals to hedge against the risk of weather-related losses.
The seller of a weather derivative agrees to bear the risk of disasters in return for a premium.
If no damages occur before the expiration of the contract, the seller will make a profit and in the event of unexpected or adverse weather, the buyer of the derivative claims the agreed amount.
3. Tell us more about SmartFarming4.0 and Agri technology at Maksure
It’s a set of technologies whose function is to automate farm activities in a seamless fashion increasing productivity whilst minimising losses and overheads.
They have the capacity to monitor and perform certain activities at the same time, quantifying them with great precision in real-time.
These technologies which includes drones, field sensors, automated irrigation systems, automated weather station, camera sensors among another can be integrated together via internet of things (IOT) technology to monitor possible risks and simultaneously trigger response action.
4. You were quoted as saying: “We believe that Africa should move from food security to food sovereignty. Food security entails securing food and could be through donations and importing food. We are promulgating food sovereignty which means securing food by utilising internal resources (independence). This means issues of agriculture risk management and the use of technology need to be elevated and embraced. Please elaborate?
The biggest threat we have to food security is climate change. We have already highlighted from our 2 season weather data a great variability in-season quality from one year to another. If we are use technology to rapidly detect responses of crops and livestock to changes in weather patterns we can minimize losses associated with them.
We believe the food security status of most nations in Africa will be greatly determined by the efforts to contain and manage effects of catastrophic weather events as result of climate change.
5. Please identify the two gents in the recalibration of the weather system? What went into the recalibration of the weather system?
Far left is Steven Makwembere, an Electrical engineer by profession. He has more than a decade of engineering expertise in electronic equipment in the space of green energy, weather stations and hydro-electrical power.
He was responsible for the installations, calibration and configurations of the weather station. On the right is Richard Makanza our Computational Agronomist also PhD student at Wits School of Engineering and Information Science.
He has more than a decade of expertise in crop simulation modelling, design and development precision farming tools utilising cutting edge machine learning technologies.
He assisted with re-calibration of field sensors by conducting sensor-based in-situ simulations and field mapping for sensor placements based on spatial variability of terrain and soil type.
6. You recently hosted the Namibia National Reinsurance Company (NamibRe) team and shared experiences in Agriculture Insurance and Reinsurance. This is what you said afterwards: “The learnings from our prototype farm will influence underwriting, policy wording construction and claims management.” Please expand.
We have been collecting valuable information from the current and previous trials we established at the farm. It was amazing to discover crop-specific information that varied across different production conditions on the same small area and these are often overlooked during the underwriting process.
For example simulations of spinach under shade net, greenhouse and open land demonstrated significant differences in yield as a result of different growth rates.
This consequently affects yield basis product underwriting.
Hence we believe in the development of customised insurance products based on the extent of risk mitigation on the farm.
In addition loss assessment tools which are in the process of development, near completion have the potential to easy claims management as information can be quickly sent to claims managers without visiting the field.
7. Since you hosted the Ambassador and a delegation from the Embassy, could we see Smartfarming 4.0 in Zimbabwe anytime soon? Please unpack the PPP aspect in the answer
We have already taken our own initiative to establish one in the outskirts of the capital city, Harare.
However, we feel the size of the farm is quite small.
Zimbabwe being one of the biggest farming countries in Africa and in top five in terms of insurance premium, a small farm won’t do justice to provide us with the opportunity to innovate across different agricultural class.
We need government intervention through the ministry of Agriculture, to provide us adequate land, a proper farm, maybe more than 500Ha where we anticipate investing more than R50m for innovation in technology and agriculture insurance product development.
We have confidence in the ambassador and delegation to facilitate this initiative.
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