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Globally, nearly 100 million people rely on cotton farming for their livelihood, but pest infestations can threaten entire crops. Existing methods to counter pest attacks are very manual – they require human labor-intensive approaches to identify and count the pests and analyze the infestation. Deciding when to spray pesticides can be a difficult decision for smallholder farmers. Spraying too early or too often is expensive and potentially toxic, and spraying too late can have no impact on a heavily-infested field.
Wadhwani AI created an AI-powered early warning system available through an app on Android smartphones. It helps farmers protect their crops by determining the right time to spray pesticides through immediate, localized advice. Farmers can upload photos of pests, and the AI algorithm identifies and counts the pests in the photo and determines the level of infestation. Then, the app generates actionable advice for the farmer. This information is shared with neighboring farmers even in places with low network coverage.
The solution has been deployed in 10 states in India. According to an independent assessment, smallholder farmers who followed the suggested guidance experienced increases in profit margins of up to 26.5%, along with up to 38% decrease in costs of pesticides. Additionally, Wadhwani AI is working on expanding their AI solution to address more pest and crop management interventions beyond cotton.