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Microsoft Student Ambassadors - Kenya

Riveting Success of The Plant Signal Team

Sony
Making mistakes since 2000 ๐Ÿ˜Ž
ใƒป5 min read

Want to know why your team hasn't taken off yet? It would help if you learned from the success of The Plant Signal Team. They've made huge milestones in the Agricultural industry in Kenya to the point of getting recognition from the UK High Commissioner to Kenya, Her Excellency Jane Marriot.


Imagine Cup Kenya had the privilege of interviewing this amazing team from Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, taking a peek into their journey.

They've created an app to improve agricultural production through its services while contributing to zero hunger SDG goal. The Plant Signal mobile app detects plant diseases and pests and offers remedy recommendations to salvage the plant.

A Signal is a medium conveying information. The app revolves around plants and their products' information hence the name, Plant Signal.

Getting the remedies has never been easier. The app provides a market section where you can buy and order the products from verified agrovet stores; in partnership with Plant Signal. Rest assured that the items will be delivered in due time.
Demonstration of Plant Signal app
The team is made up of:

  • Maria Njoroge - the Chief Executive Officer, currently in her final year undertaking Geospatial Engineering and web developer.
  • Aaron Kipkoech - the Chief Technical Officer, a Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador, and an android developer.
  • Shadrack Kiprotich - the Chief Operating Officer, an Android enthusiast, C# developer, and also a Microsoft Learn Student Ambassador.
  • Delvice Ndegwa - Chief Public Relations Officer, a web developer and data science enthusiast.

Sony: How did the team come up with the idea?

The Team: Plant Signal came to life during the 2019 Engineer's Hack. We were running out of time and we just had to attend the Engineer's Hack because of all the hype; we also didn't want to let down the main organizer.

Majority of the residents around Dedan Kimathi University are farmers. Over the years, a lot of them have had a hard time with pests and diseases. For instance, the effects of fall armyworms destroying maize plantations for about 86% of farmers across the country by 2018; I bet you didn't know all the nerdy stats. Many farmers still don't know what to do about it.

Besides that, we noted that farmers are often victims of purchasing counterfeit chemicals, which is frustrating. That's why we came up with the whole idea of building the solution to curb all the difficulties.

Sony: Does the team have any plans on monetization?

The Team: Yes. Plant Signal plans to generate money through the e-commerce platform where professional agrovet stores have to pay a fee for their products to be displayed in the application.

H.E Jane Marriot and the Plant Signal Team

Sony: What challenges have you faced while trying to advance the project?

Maria: Our marketing strategy. Most farmers are still "analog" tech-wise.

Aaron: One major challenge is insufficient development and maintenance funds. This staggers the growth of the product.

Shadrack: Team management could be better. We sometimes find ourselves not achieving what we set out to do before a deadline and we end up lagging.

Delvice: Shortage of funds. Plant Signal app relies on a well-trained model to be able to detect diseases in crops. However, training a model for more accurate results is expensive. The Plant Signal app would be more accurate and support more plants if there were enough funds to sustain model training.

Sony: What's the biggest take away from the team?

Maria: Aha... getting recognition from the President, we didn't expect that.

Aaron: All ideas are good. When it doesn't seem possible, look for a better angle.

Shadrack: Every stage of the startup counts and we should embrace every stage. They will come with their lessons, challenges, best moments and we need to learn how to tackle them and overcome the challenges.

Delvice: Growth comes with exposure. Attending various tech events and interacting with different mentors is what challenged us to make Plant Signal better.

Farm

Sony: Do you have any regrets?

Maria: Yes. Not having a marketing team. Had we known, we would have come this far. We would have had marketing personnel. Too bad we're all nerds.

Aaron: No regrets at the moment, LOL.

Shadrack: I don't think so.

Delvice: There are no regrets about how things have turned out so far. We are growing consistently.

Sony: What has been your lowest moment as a member of Plant Signal?

Maria: Well, having to deal with an external member who demanded to be included in the group. I felt it was so urgent that I had to ask a lawyer what to do. I felt as if it was a burden I was now carrying for the company. And when we registered, I realized it's now real. We had a company to build.

Shadrack: As a team, we tend to have disagreements. One of the lowlight moment as a member was a disagreement between myself and one of the members on something that I felt was right.

Delvice: Public speaking. It gives me the heeby-jeebies.

Sony: What about your highlights?

Maria: Meeting different people through Plant Signal and learning a lot about machine learning. I'd never thought of it.

Aaron: Not sure how to answer this...

Shadrack: Being recognized by the President during the Fursa Vs Virus Challenge organized by the National Youth Council. It came unexpectedly.

Delvice: I've been running Plant Signal social media accounts.
Maria Njoroge

Sony: What other projects are you working on?

Maria: We, as Kenova - led by the CEO Aaron Rono - have developed more products like DeChat, a music player, a spinning game, and a gaming hub.

Aaron: Apart from Plant Signal, I've been involved in some startups as well, including AjiraAdi and ConVas.

Shadrack: Yep, we have closely worked with the team on DeChat, a solution where DeKUT students can engage, solve issues within the fraternity and bring togetherness within the ecosystem.

Delvice: I have been freelancing and developing websites for businesses.

Sony: What's your advice to anyone in your shoes right now?

Maria: It doesn't have to work right away, but it will work out when you take the first step.

Aaron: Technology is at its best when it solves problems.

Shadrack: Take every opportunity that comes your way. You never know what's in store for you, then work on the opportunity until you achieve the end goal. This will help you learn and have that growth mindset.

Delvice: Be aggressive with the idea you hold, and be patient through the journey.

Stay in touch.

Show some love to the team on Twitter @plant_signal and
LinkedIn @plant-signal.
Thank you, Plant Signal, for agreeing to do this with us. More power to you.

Hey... please don't be shy. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this piece ๐Ÿ‘‡.

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