TANZANIA – The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has praised the success of using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform to detect cassava pests and prone diseases as the country bets on increasing production.

Dubbed the ‘NuruAI’, the software can recognize diseases like cassava mosaic, cassava brown streak, and any damage by red and green mites, as well as provide education on how to recognize and control them.

The country, the sixth largest producer of cassava in Africa and twelfth globally has been in a robust move to achieve a 50% increase in hectarage of improved cassava seed variety by 2030 hence the success will help production remain afloat.  

Nuru, which means light in Swahili, uses AI to support farmers to correctly diagnose major pests and diseases affecting their crops using their smartphones to capture images of diseased leaves.

According to Daily News, the technology has already benefited some 2000 farmers countrywide in detecting and identifying some cassava leaves’ viral diseases, where so far the software provides treatment solutions.

Making the revelation, IITA Researcher Ms Neema Mbilinyi said farmers and Extension Officers are using the NuruAI through mobile phone technology that they developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania (Penn) State University in the US and Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Nuru uses AI to diagnose viruses and pests that attack cassava through leaves,” Ms Mbilinyi said during the African Food System exhibition organized by IITA recently.

She added that the technology, Nuru also works offline, which is important where connection to the internet is not available.

“Once the technology detects diseases, it provides advice on how to control the identified disease(s),” the researcher said.

Additionally, the AI directs the farmers to where they can get the best, clean, and safe seeds certified by The Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI).

The Nuru also provides valuable information for researchers to understand the details of the plant in Swahili, English, and French and how to control the diseases.

According to the researcher, the software works better early in the morning or in the evening to avoid direct and bright sunlight. Also one should be stable when scanning the leave to get a better diagnosed result.

The technology reveal follows a recent persuasion by the IITA, urging bakers to start using cassava and wheat flour in making bread to reduce the dependence on the latter and reduce costs.

Researchers had done a study whose findings found that cassava flour could replace between 20 percent and 30 percent of the wheat flour typically used to make bread without significantly impairing the leavening process that causes the dough to rise.

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