A Kenyan-based firm has invented a device that can detect crop diseases and pests at early stages. The solution promises to save farmers millions of shillings they spend in diagnosis and late treatment.

The device uses artificial intelligence, data analytics and machine learning and has multiple small camera modules interfaced to a computer system.

Esther Kimani of Farmer-Life-Line Technologies Ltd, Kenya, said the innovation was inspired by the need to find a solution to the prevalent destruction of crops by either pests, pathogens or delayed treatment of diseases in the region.

“The camera system is programmed to capture images of the crops in the field periodically and process the images using advanced computer vision algorithms to determine the nature of the infection or infestation, any pests or pathogens,” she said.

The device is among three other technologies that have been presented for consideration at the Comesa Innovation Awards in the just concluded 8th Comesa Annual Research Forum conducted held this month.

The device comes with a camera that is solar powered and can operate even in very rainy seasons. It has a power retention capacity of 48 hours and can effectively detect crop diseases and pests over a 730 meters radius.

The camera has a long footing usually put into the soil with the camera-ball interface over-looking the plants/farm to detect and predict crop diseases, pathogens and pests infections and sends an SMS alert to the farmers’ phone.

Among the problems that this technology seeks to address are delayed identification of crop diseases and pests’ infestation, use of wrong chemicals and pesticides due to inaccurate identification of crop disease and pests and application of wrong fertilisers due to incorrect predictions of diseases.

The company plans to commercialise the data generated by the devices to governments and non-governmental organisations to support in policy making. It will also sell or lease the devices to farmers and farmers groups.

So far, the innovator has acquired patents for the technology and intends to partner with the ministries of agriculture in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, and Egypt by 2022.

The winning technology receives a financial award to support its further development and commercialisation.  The award is presented during the Comesa Heads of State Summit.

The COMESA Innovation Award scheme was launched in 2013 to recognise and celebrate individuals and institutions that have used science technology and innovation to advance regional integration agenda.

The awards are targeted at small and medium enterprises, youth, women, groups, and institutions in Comesa member states.

The other innovation presented at the forum was a medicine dispensing machine developed by by a Zambian. The innovation known as BRIISP Medicine Dispenser seeks to enhance access to health services especially in developing countries, where medical facilities are far apart.

Another innovation was by Kanhye Health Foods Company, the pioneer commercial grower and producer of Moringa plant products in Mauritius. The company produces assorted products including nutraceuticals, foods supplements and infusion tea.