Be Smart About South Africa

Researchers Embrace Artificial Intelligence to Tackle Banana Disease in Burundi

A group of scientists involved in finding solutions to minimize the impact of a devastating banana virus in Burundi have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool for monitoring the disease. United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) research shows that the Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD), caused by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), is endemic in many banana-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The virus was first reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the 1950s and has become invasive and spread into 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The disease has been reported in Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zambia. The latest findings, however, show that BBTD is currently a major threat to banana cultivation and a threat to over 100 million people for whom the banana is a staple food. This project aimed to develop an AI-based banana disease and pest detection system using a Deep Convolutional Neural Network (DCNN) to support banana farmers. While farmers struggle to defend their crops from pests, scientists from ABC have created an easy-to-use tool to detect banana pests and diseases. The tool, which has proven to provide a 90 percent success in detection in some countries, such as the DRC and Uganda, is an important step towards creating a satellite-powered, globally connected network to control disease and pest outbreaks, say the researchers.


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