Detecting pests and plant disease with low-cost AI technology

Sivam Krish, CEO and Founder at GoMicro

From imaging pests in the field to produce in the store, Dr. Sivam Krish and GoMicro are bringing together Artificial Intelligence and agriculture.  With just a smartphone and a clip-on magnifier, Dr. Krish seeks to protect crops, reduce food waste, and ensure food quality by bringing AI technology to the mainstream. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research

Our venture is about the democratisation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), enabling anyone with a smartphone to build and deploy high accuracy diagnostics AI Engines. While much of AI research produces quality results in the lab, they fail miserably when implemented in the field due to variations in imaging conditions. We have solved this problem by building a low-cost, phone-attachable, clip-on magnifier that works on any cellular device. It creates lab quality imaging conditions, making it possible to create high accuracy diagnostic apps with a very small number of training images. We have tested this technology successfully for assessing pests, plant disease, fresh produce quality, and seafood quality.

We have solved this problem by building a low-cost, phone-attachable, clip-on magnifier that works on any cellular device.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

Building an artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostic app currently requires thousands of dollars and AI expertise. We are working on making it possible for anyone with a smartphone and our clip-on devices to create, test and use AI detection Engines. AI typically requires thousands of images for training because AI is easily confused by variations in lighting, variations in background and the shadows created by the item that is being analysed. Our technology removes all this confusion, using a small number of clean images for AI to learn from. We also give AI clean images to analyse, making it easy for the AI engine to learn quality and make accurate predictions.

Why did you choose this area of research?

We landed in this research area by accident. We were an EdTech company in the fruit-fly-free state of South Australia. Fruit flies seriously damage the export prospects of the state, and there are about 3000 traps checked manually. We thought it would be good if we could identify this pest with AI. We found fruit flies are not good at posing, so we 3D-printed a bulb that we could shake until we got a good shot, as we thought we needed 1000s of good images. To our surprise, 50 images were sufficient to get the accuracy we needed. We had unintentionally removed the background and created high quality imaging conditions, so we patented this technology.

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone? 

30% of the food we produce is wasted due to food loss (by pest and plant disease) and by food waste (by logistics and the difficulties in managing consumer expectations). GoMicro AI can address both of these issues by detecting pest and plant disease accurately in the early stages of development, significantly reducing the use of chemical remedies. GoMicro AI can also assess produce quality and ripeness, making it possible to ensure that consumer expectations are met by assessing the quality of produce.

GoMicro AI can address both of these issues by detecting pest and plant disease accurately in the early stages of development, significantly reducing the use of chemical remedies. GoMicro AI can also assess produce quality and ripeness, making it possible to ensure that consumer expectations are met by assessing the quality of produce.

We will soon launch a $1 version of this microscope for subsistence farmers so that all farmers globally can access high quality AI diagnostics, free of charge.