CGIAR’s vision is to create a satellite-powered, globally connected network to control disease and pest outbreaks, giving farmers around the world unprecedented access to information that can revolutionize the way they practice farming, transform their lives and yield benefits for generations to come.
Across the world, almost a quarter of a billion bananas are eaten every day. Despite global demand, banana farmers are facing a crisis. Climate change is exacerbating pests and diseases which can decimate entire harvests. In 2017, CGIAR researchers at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) put the power of artificial intelligence (AI) into the hands of smallholder banana farmers with a revolutionary app called Tumaini.
Whether affected by pests, fungus or diseases, the symptoms of a sick banana plant can look strikingly similar to the human eye – making it difficult to diagnose the underlying issue and determine the correct course of action. Using Tumaini – which means “hope” in Swahili – farmers can upload pictures of the afflicted plant and the app leverages AI technology to diagnose the issue – with 90% accuracy. Once farmers have a diagnosis, the app also shares information on treatment options and prevention strategies, ensuring farmers can act quickly and confidently to save their crops.
Tumaini is already changing the lives of farmers in 50 countries across Asia, Africa and South America; to date, some 10,000 farmers are using the app in the field, with numbers climbing after a second version released in 2020 allowed for offline use. Now, CGIAR scientists are working to scale this project to rapidly scan entire fields of banana plants, and early efforts are already showing great promise. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Benin, scientists are using aerial images from drones and analyzing them for indications of pests or disease. Farmers are then alerted of any issues and can go into the fields to investigate further. While in its early phases, these drone-captured photos diagnosed ailments with at least 90% accuracy.
Analyzing the fields at scale has the potential to shed light on how these crops are being impacted by climate change and give new insights into the factors that are making plants sick, or healthy. In the future, researchers hope to expand the app’s reach to other geographies and staple crops. Ultimately, CGIAR’s vision is to create a satellite-powered, globally connected network to control disease and pest outbreaks, giving farmers around the world unprecedented access to information that can revolutionize the way they practice farming, transform their lives and yield benefits for generations to come.
Learn more about Tumaini: an AI-powered mobile app for pests and diseases.