If agriculture is to be safe, healthy and sustainable, it is essential to have healthy crops; they play a role in producing sufficient quantities of healthy foods and contribute to the quality of life. Knowledge of interaction between crops and the disease that affect them enable successful and sustainable integrated crop protection.
One key idea of new practices in agriculture is the use of Smartphone applications which takes as input the images from built-in cameras, then uses its computation power to perform computer vision algorithms, and produces useful data from the input images which can be used to monitor field and crop conditions such as identification of crop diseases, the diseases’ exhibition locations on crops, and their prevention and cure. This saves crop farmers’ time and costs and helps them make informed decisions.
My idea for sustainable crop protection
Giko is a GPS-enabled mobile platform which aids crop disease outbreak notification, identification, control and monitoring in a sustainable way.
Step 1: Crop farmers use the Giko app to capture images of crops suspected to be diseased and submit same to the app via the farmers’ login. A notification is received by the Giko team.
Step 2: Having received the submission, the leaf images are preprocessed and segmented by a clustering algorithm into diseased and non-diseased portion of the leaf, cropped only to the location of the largest diseased patch on the leaf and transmitted over the internet by the team, via the admin login in the app, to crop pathologists at the department of Crop Science, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Nigeria, where I am currently a PhD candidate, for disease identification. The image preprocessing step is necessary for saving transmission cost of sending diseased leaf images for diagnosis.
Step 3: As soon as the disease is identified by the pathologists, they send information regarding the disease, its control and preventive methods via the pathologists login in the app.
Step 4: The Giko team publishes the information as received from the pathologists, on the app and notifies crop farmers on measures to be taken to sustainably mitigate the disease.
The cycle (step 1 through step 4) takes 8 hours max to complete.
Yes, our idea for crop protection is also sustainable!
Tips on sustainable crop protection practices in order to avoid or suppress diseases are proffered on the app and these include – planning cultivation methods and choosing crops involving preventive measures such as using disease-free seed, selecting resilient varieties and deploying resilient systems; careful monitoring of crops during growth period, and biological method of disease control, together with mechanical and non-chemical methods.
The app also
- Provides information on preventing the disease in the next cropping season as well as generates alerts for outbreaks in nearby areas or anywhere around the world on the mobile app using GPS.
- Features a special library of diseases which farmers can refer to. The library is a collection of photographs and disease prescriptions of 200+ diseases of crops grown in Nigeria, the African continent and worldwide. The app can be downloaded on any Android-based mobile device.
In case of no connectivity, photographs can be taken and later uploaded when internet connectivity is available. For farmers without a smart phone, a progressive farmer equipped with a tablet or smart phone can be the mediator. Every time a farmer uploads a photograph for diagnosis, it is automatically time-marked and saved in the app for future reference.
Yes, the app is Giko’s!
In collaboration with the Giko team and crop pathologists at the Department of Crop Science, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, the mobile app will be developed exclusively for the Giko team by Snow White Technologies Limited, a Nigerian tech Company.
Why I am passionate about this idea – the gains and my motivation
Given the rampant overuse of chemical method of disease control in Nigeria, the app will help disseminate best practice methods to mitigate crop diseases – with no harm to the environment.
This innovative digital solution will control disease outbreak more effectively, leading reduction in losses associated with diseases, thereby sustainably increasing food production, crop farmers’ income and improve their livelihoods.
I believe that the use of photos and maps in the app will lead to higher adoption rates and motivate farmers in disease control in their farms effectively.
Finally, as a PhD candidate conducting studies on how sustainable agricultural practices can reduce poverty (a key objective of my doctoral research), this idea will help me progress both in my scientific career and personal development.
Morgan Obinna Okpara, Nigeria