Wednesday December 14, 2016

How AI Helps Farmers Combat Plant Disease

Born of research in the Amazon forest, the Plantix mobile app is helping farmers on three continents quickly identify plant diseases using artificial intelligence. For several years in the Brazilian rain forest, a team of young German researchers studied the emission and mitigation of greenhouse gases due to changing land use. The team’s analysis was yielding new knowledge, but the farmers they worked with weren’t interested in those findings. They wanted to know how to treat crops being ravaged by pathogens. "They couldn’t understand why we can estimate the carbon stock of their soil, but we couldn’t give them an idea of how to treat damaged plants in an appropriate way," said Robert Strey, one of the researchers. This realization led the team, led by Strey and his wife, Simone, to shift its attention to the more pressing problem of crop health. And so PEAT Technology came to be, with Simone as CEO and Robert as CTO. Today, farmers in Germany, Brazil and India use Plantix to upload photos of diseased crops. The images are part of a huge and growing crowdsourced database that is helping farmers to identify, treat and prevent crop diseases.