Artificial intelligence could make for healthier crops

Artificial intelligence could ...
Crops such as cassava could benefit from the technology
Crops such as cassava could benefit from the technology
View 1 Image
Crops such as cassava could benefit from the technology
Crops such as cassava could benefit from the technology

When commercial-scale crops in First World countries get diseases, lab-equipped experts are typically called in to identify the affliction and advise treatment. Such resources aren't always available to smallhold farmers in developing nations, however, who may lose entire crops without ever knowing what was wrong with them. That's why scientists are now creating software that could be incorporated into an app that identifies crop diseases, based on user-supplied smartphone photos.

The system is being developed by researchers at Penn State University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL).

To start, the scientists built a model of the system by linking a cluster of computers together to form a neural network. They then fed that model a database of over 53,000 photos of diseased and healthy plants – 14 crop types and 26 diseases were represented.

Utilizing a deep learning approach, they trained the model to look for patterns in all that visual data. Ultimately, the system was able to identify both crops and diseases – from photos – with an accuracy rate of up to 99.35 percent.

Although the algorithms required to initially run the model required significant processing power, the same functions could reportedly now be programmed into an app using just a few lines of code. It's been likened to the manner in which smartphone cameras are currently able to identify faces.

"Given the expectation that more than 5 billion smartphones will be in use around the world by 2020 – almost a billion of them in Africa – we do believe that the approach represents a viable additional method to help prevent yield loss," says Penn State's Prof. David Hughes, co-author of the study. "With the ever-improving number and quality of sensors on mobile devices, we consider it likely that highly accurate diagnoses via the smartphone are only a question of time."

Source: Penn State

Another first world solution to a third world problem. How many developing nation farmers do you think will have smart phones. Or are they planning to provide them with one and pay for the hookup and on going charges.
I have lived most of my life in Indonesia, now in BOrneo. For a major US bank I developed an ag lending department. Now retired I am doing soils research and farming a.o. Yes all farmers I know (and their children) have smart phones, mostly in place of land lines which are too expensive.
I wonder if this work can be combined with a drone based scanning sensor base in development which can detect diseased areas of the crop. Adding mineral and water remote sensors would make this a complete system for the farmer to maintain his crops at an optimal level.
This is fantastic. There are unlimited opportunities like this in the world. There is so much we can improve by more networking. I hope that Google and Facebook will be successful with their aims of providing blanket internet access across the globe to bring internet access prices down and increase availability. This will drive solutions like the above.