PlantVillage App Uses Data-Sharing IIoT Technology to Identify Crop Diseases and Prevent Mass Spoilage

Dan Butler
Thu, 14 Jul 2016
Email Author

The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 caused the death of 20% of Ireland’s population, which still has not recovered to this day. A similar agricultural catastrophe today, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, could be even more disastrous, according to Penn State University professor Dr. David Hughes.

But there is hope, as the Irish-born professor believes that IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology – such as smart phones and mobile apps, like PlantVillage – could help prevent such a tragedy.

Dr. Hughes, assistant professor of Entomology and Biology at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and co-creator of PlantVillage, states that his app provides access to a computerised plant diagnostic system that has an algorithm capable of identifying 26 diseases in 14 crops with 99% accuracy.

Dr. Hughes created PlantVillage with Dr. Marcel Salathé, former assistant professor of Biology at Penn State and now at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Luasanne, with the intention of reducing food spoilage by facilitating easier information sharing between knowledge providers and farmers.

According to Dr. Hughes, as much as 40% of the world’s potential food supply is spoiled by crop diseases.

Currently over 2.5 million farmers, experts and scientists around the world use the PlantVillage platform to share images, knowledge and solutions to agricultural issues.

According to Dr. Hughes, the smartphone-based diagnosis platform is only possible because of plant pathology research funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and other national organisations around the world, such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres.

“The proliferation of smartphone use and expansion of IIoT technology could allow PlantVillage to revolutionise modern agriculture,” comments Dr. Aubrey Longmore, Head of Global Agriculture. “It will not replace experts diagnosing crop diseases in the field, but it could make significant improvement to the lives of isolated farmers and communities who do not have easy access to modern agricultural expertise.”

Dr. Hughes and Dr. Salathé are continuing to expand the image database – currently made up of more than 54,000 images – as well as develop the algorithm to extend their reach to agricultural scientists all over the world.

The proliferation of smartphone use and expansion of IIoT technology could allow PlantVillage to revolutionise modern agriculture.

By integrating “crowdsourced” research-based expertise with easy to access data, PlantVillage employs the latest IIoT innovations to help tackle crop disease, prevent agricultural travesties like the Irish Potato Famine, and ultimately feed the world’s growing population.