Grant will support expanded use of artificial intelligence for crop health

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A research team developing artificial-intelligence-based solutions for diagnosing and managing threats to crop health has received a grant to expand the technology to assist more smallholder farmers around the world.

CGIAR, an international agricultural research consortium, awarded the project a $250,000 scale-up grant under its Inspire Challenge program, part of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture. The program is designed to source and foster new solutions for digital agriculture in developing economies.

In 2017, the project — led by David Hughes, associate professor of entomology and biology, Penn State, and James Legg, plant virologist at the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture — received a $100,000 Inspire Challenge pilot grant from CGIAR. The program’s scale-up grants are awarded to previous Inspire Challenge pilot projects that demonstrated exceptional results, proven viability, potential for impact and likelihood of attracting investment capital.

In collaboration with the Roots, Tubers and Banana program of CGIAR, Hughes and his colleagues developed a mobile artificial-intelligence assistant that works on a standard smartphone and is capable of accurately diagnosing cassava diseases offline, without an internet connection. The app is called Nuru, which means “light” in Swahili.

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