Meet the boss
Motivated by the desire to improve local food security, Tumo Kgabeng together with his two business partners; Tlamelo Makati and Kesego Mokgodi have developed an agri-tech business named, Anton Tech.
In the face of global increasing food demands and supply chain complexities, the 25-year-old Mmathethe native is of the view that agriculture, infused with technology is the perfect solution. Established in 2020 and currently based in Gaborone, Anton Tech has rolled out a deep, learning based distributed agri-tech solutions for the agriculture sector.
Let’s take a journey back to the past, professionally?
My journey with technology started a couple of years ago but was accelerated through developer communities in Gaborone. I joined the local developer communities in 2018 where I met a lot of industry professionals and experts who opened the right doors for me and guided me in a lot of things I was doing.
When I was in my third year at Botswana Accountancy College I got selected by Google developers to lead Google Developer Student Clubs which is a program offered by Google, that aims to foster a community of student developers on university campuses.
Take us through Anton Tech’s business model?
Anton Tech uses a business-to-business model. We work with institutions which finance farmers to help them assess risks during the funding process. This helps maximize profits on the funding institutions and maximize yields on the farmers’ end. We also help research institutions with accurate and validated data which they can use while conducting their research.
Farmers can also use our data to pick recent trends on their farms and be able to predict the likely changes based on the data they have.
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What services does Anton Tech offer?
Anton Tech offers field mapping using drone technology, treatment spraying using autonomous drones, centralized data analytics and real time crop and animal disease detection with treatment recommendations. We also offer an API (Application Programming Interface) which other developers and innovators can use to leverage on our data, all this under one solution called Project Anton.
Elaborate on Project Anton,..
Project Anton is a machine learning and Deep Learning-based distributed agri-tech solution which uses image data remotely sensed from devices (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), satellites) or any other device with a camera to detect pests, diseases, predict Soil Organic Carbon (SOC) levels. It does give recommendations on the treatments or appropriate interventions to apply, therefore acts as a global trans boundary disease alert system.
Project Anton has two components. First is a WhatsApp agent which works the same way that whatsapp works, that’s where farmers can send images of their crops to our models and we do the detection and give them treatment recommendations in real-time. No need to wait an entire month to get feedback. Farmers can also get accurate past and current weather reports.
They can also get forecasts so they are always aware of what might come, they can also ask Project Anton any question in the agriculture space and the solution will give them a response instantly, cutting the turn around times.
Is this project already rolled out or launched?
We are currently working with organizations that offer different services directly to farmers like CEDA, to integrate on the already existing processes to accelerate and aid farmers get maximum yields.
Further we have already conducted field scouting tests and analysis on some farms that are under CEDA and the roll out to the entire public are underway. We will be releasing the WhatsApp number to the entire public where they will be able to interact with the solution.
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How is the reception for the services locally?
The farmers locally are happy with what we have to offer and they have even suggested some of the features that we implement, since they experience the problems first hand.
Any plans to roll out Project Anton to the world?
Anton Tech is already working on rolling out it’s services to countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Namibia and Kenya in the near future.
What is the cost of your services ?
The WhatsApp agent is free of charge to the entire public, no hidden costs, and the analytics dashboard is being offered through a subscription model to the enterprises.
What really inspired this Project Anton?
Project Anton came from a hackathon competition, but scaling it and offering it to the public was inspired by the problem of trans boundary pests and diseases that we all grew up witnessing in our day to day lives. Since most part of our economy is being supported by agriculture and the problem affects both small and large scale farmers we decided to chip in.
How have you positioned your services to make them affordable to every Motswana?
Small scale farmers can utilize Project Anton through WhatsApp which is free. We will be integrating to other messaging services like Facebook messenger, Instagram and telegram. No registration is needed to access the solution.
Any major milestones thus far ?
Anton Tech has been able to partner with organizations like Botswana Digital & Innovation Hub, CEDA and Orange Botswana to scale and accelerate the process of getting the solution to farmers.
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We also won the Creative Business Cup finals and the team will be traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark on June 2nd to represent Botswana and other innovators and entrepreneurs locally at the Global finals. We are hoping to gain insights, partnership and funding opportunities from the finals that can be utilized locally.
What challenges have you experienced thus far?
Access to reliable internet connectivity, especially in rural areas, can be a challenge. Adequate infrastructure, such as broadband connectivity and power supply, may need to be established or improved to ensure seamless communication and data transfer.
Familiarizing farmers with the technology and ensuring their willingness to adopt it can be a hurdle. Conducting extensive awareness campaigns and providing training and support to users may be necessary to encourage widespread adoption and usage of the solution.
In countries like Botswana, where multiple languages are spoken, language support and localization of the solution may be needed to ensure effective communication and understanding between the farmers and the system.
Do you think Botswana’s food security and supply challenges can be addressed by agri-tech?
Botswana faces unique challenges in ensuring food security for its population. However, emerging technologies in the field of agriculture, such as agri-tech, offer promising solutions to address these challenges. As a passionate advocate for technology, I firmly believe that leveraging agri tech can play a pivotal role in transforming Botswana’s agricultural landscape and bolstering its food security and supply. Investing in infrastructure, providing training and support, and fostering an enabling policy environment are essential for unlocking the full potential of agri tech in Botswana.
With concerted efforts and a forward-thinking approach, Botswana can leverage agri tech to achieve sustainable agricultural growth, enhance food security and meet the evolving needs of its population.
Since you have partners, what brought your team together?
We all met through developer communities’ meet ups, even though Kesego and I went to the same tertiary school and studied the same course. Tlamelo studied mechatronics engineering at BIUST and she’s currently pursuing her PhD in Ireland.
What are your future plans for Anton Tech?
The aim is to get involved in continuous innovation and expansion of our solutions under Project Anton. By incorporating advanced technologies, improving data analytics, and promoting collaboration, we aim to empower farmers with comprehensive tools and insights for sustainable and efficient agriculture. Anton tech will also be scaling to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and outside the region.