Innovation That Matters

Both the eLocust3M app and the original PlantVillage app are based on crowdsourcing data and images submitted by users to track pests and plant disease. | Photo source PlantVillage

App uses AI and crowdsourcing data to help farmers fight crop disease

Computing & Tech

From West Africa to Australia, this UN-backed project is providing solutions to farmers by leveraging advances in AI and smartphone technology


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Spotted: United Nations-endorsed PlantVillage is an app leveraging artificial intelligence to help small farmers around the world adapt to climate change.  

The initiative, which was initially used to track and assist with plant diseases, was rapidly focussed in 2020 to help with the huge locust outbreak that hit dozens of countries in West Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.  

Both the eLocust3M app and the original PlantVillage app are based on crowdsourcing data and images submitted by users to track pests and plant disease. According to the company, the algorithms come from an integration of AI, satellite technology and their unique “dream team” field force. 

The company says they are also developing specialised AI assistants such as Nuru, meaning “light” in Swahili, which “has learned to diagnose multiple diseases in Cassava, fall armyworm infections in African Maize, potato disease and wheat disease.”

PlantVillage works by allowing farmers to photograph their ailing crops, then upload the images to the app. AI is used to analyse the images and diagnose the problem, after which it is able to generate detailed instructions for treatment. In addition, farmers in the local village nearby are warned about the issue and informed about how to prevent it. 

The eLocust3M app uses a team of hired individuals to inspect the infected region and photographed swarms. GPS locations are also marked. Like PlantVillage, the app uses algorithms to predict where locusts will travel next, informing governments to put into motion targeted pesticide sprays. 

Supported by their collaboration with the United Nations, PlantVillage is now available in 60 countries across the globe and is available in 30 different languages, according to Fast Company. PlantVillage’s goal is to reach hundreds of millions of farmers aided by the parternship. 

Written By: Katrina Lane

Explore more: Agriculture and Energy | Sustainability



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