Transforming farmers’ lives with just a mobile phone
The cassava crop provides food for more than 500 million African people every day. Yet there are several diseases that can affect the plant, making it inedible and causing farmers to lose their precious harvest. Inspired by her passion for sustainable energy, Dr Amanda Ramcharan, part of an international team called Plant Village based in Nigeria that includes Penn State University and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, has helped create am innovative solution that uses the power of artificial intelligence through Google’s open source TensorFlow technology. The app, Nuru, can access over 5,000 images of cassava plants affected by disease to make predictions about the health of a farmer’s crop in less than one second. It acts like a doctor diagnosing symptoms, but specifically for plants. “You wave your phone over a specific leaf, and if it has a symptom a box will pop up saying: you have this problem,” says Amanda, AFRI Postdoctoral Fellow. “With TensorFlow as the foundation, we’ve designed an app that can diagnose multiple diseases.” Upon receiving a diagnosis, farmers can simply push a button to request advice on how to respond to any diseases that are present.
TensorFlow enables the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be used on a mobile device, without any Internet connection, which can be vital in areas with poor connectivity. “With AI tools and machine learning, farmers can improve yields, protect their crops and have a much more reliable source of food,” says Dr Ramcharan. Dr David Hughes, also on the Nuru team, believes AI can continue to help farmers worldwide. “AI offers the prospect to fundamentally transform the lives of hundreds of millions of farmers around the world.”