Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, introduced a new AI-powered mobile application for identifying crop illnesses today during a ceremony at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture’s headquarters (ICBA).
Called Dr Nabat, the application is a result of collaboration between ICBA and the University of Barcelona, Spain, under a project titled “Developing a user-friendly mobile application for smallholder farmers to detect plant disorders”.
Made with the help of local partners in Egypt, Tunisia, and the UAE, the application outlines help smallholder farmers and extension specialists identify crop abnormalities early on, minimising output losses and raising revenues. The application can recognise 18 different prevalent diseases that harm cucumber, tomato, and capsicum. These crops are considered protected by smallholder farmers who practice agriculture.
Almheiri said “This app is a prime example of how we can harness the power of technology to address pressing concerns. In the face of ever-rising challenges, with climate change at the forefront, we believe that technological interventions will optimise agricultural practices, enhance harvest quality and quantity, and notably improve the lives of farmers. We are confident the app will prove to be a game changer for smallholder farmers, providing them with early diagnosis at the click of a button and helping them save their crops.”
Dr Tarifa Alzaabi, Director General of ICBA said “Smallholder farmers are on the frontlines of food security. They are the backbone of many agricultural economies, yet they often lack access to information about pests and diseases. We have developed this mobile application to help bridge this gap and put knowledge in their hands.”
As part of the research, ICBA gathered unprocessed data from the three nations to train an AI model created by the University of Barcelona. 414 smallholder farmers and extension specialists were trained to test the application in the field, and between 2020 and 2022, they offered their input on the beta version while also receiving training.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the annual loss in crop production due to pests and diseases ranges between 20 and 40 percent globally. Each year plant diseases cost the world’s economy around US$220 billion, and invasive insects around US$70 billion.
As of now, the application is custom-built for the nation for Egypt, Tunisia, and the UAE, however, there are plans to bring the application to other countries.