As Locusts Swarmed East Africa, This Tech Helped Squash Them


“Saying ‘Oh, there’s locusts in northern Kenya’ doesn’t help at all,” Mr. Cressman mentioned. “We need longitude and latitude coordinates in real time.”

Rather than attempt to rewrite the locust-tracking software for newer tablets, Mr. Cressman thought it will be extra environment friendly to create a easy smartphone app that may enable anybody to gather information like an knowledgeable. He reached out to Dr. Hughes, who had already created an identical cellular software with the Food and Agriculture Organization to trace a devastating crop pest, the autumn armyworm, by way of PlantVillage, which he based.

PlantVillage’s app makes use of synthetic intelligence and machine studying to assist farmers in 60 nations, primarily in Africa, diagnose issues of their fields. Borrowing from this blueprint, Dr. Hughes and his colleagues accomplished the brand new app, eLocust3m, in only a month.

Unlike the earlier tablet-based program, anybody with a smartphone can use eLocust3m. The app presents images of locusts at completely different levels of their life cycles, which helps customers diagnose what they see within the discipline. GPS coordinates are mechanically recorded and algorithms double examine images submitted with every entry. Garmin International additionally helped with one other program that labored on satellite-transmitting units.

“The app is really easy to use,” mentioned Ms. Jeptoo of PlantVillage. Last year, she recruited and educated locust trackers in 4 hard-hit Kenyan areas. “We had scouts who were 40- to 50-year-old elders, and even they were able to use it.”

In the final year, greater than 240,000 locust records have poured in from East Africa, collected by PlantVillage scouts, government-trained personnel and residents. But that was solely step one. Countries subsequent wanted to behave on the information in a scientific technique to quash locusts. In the primary few months, nevertheless, officers had been strategizing “on the back of envelopes,” Mr. Cressman mentioned, and your entire area had simply 4 planes for spraying pesticides.

When Batian Craig, director of 51 Degrees, a safety and logistics company centered on defending wildlife, noticed Mr. Cressman quoted in a information story about locusts, he realized he may assist.


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