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Researchers Develop App to Alert Farmers of Crop Diseases

Pix from IITA

By Dipo Olowookere

A grant to refine a mobile application (app) that will use artificial intelligence to detect crop diseases and the alert farmers on the diagnosis has been secured.

The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas team won $100,000 for this project expected to help millions of African smallholders.

The team won the grant during the big data conference held in Colombia on September 21, 2017 as part of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Inspire Challenges.

It is estimated that every year pests and diseases cost billions of Dollars to potential agricultural economy as they damage agricultural outputs such as crops, livestock and fish harvests.

But this new app will attempt to solve the problem of pests and diseases faced by farmers with small holder farmers hardly hit.

It is no doubt that technology plays a big role in warning the communities of possible outbreaks and also as a monitoring tool for pests and diseases.

The app, to be used against cassava brown streak disease and the cassava mosaic disease, is expected to be rolled out next year.

It accurately diagnoses diseases in the field and will combine mobile phone short message service (SMS) alerts to farmers in rural Africa.

The app uses TensorFlow, a Google programme that allows machines to train and learn.

The project will be expanded to identify more diseases in more crops – such as banana, sweet potato and yam.

The app’s conception was in 2012 but got developed in June-September 2017 through about $300,000 funding from Penn State University.

According to an Associate Professor of Entomology and Biology at US-based Penn State University, David Hughes, “We trained it (the app) to recognize plant diseases.

“What the app does in real-time is to assign a score to a video being captured…that score is the probability that the plant in the video shows symptoms of one of five diseases or pests”.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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