More often than not, farmers battle low yields, inconsistent production pattern and insufficient mechanization caused by pest and crop diseases.
As a result of these impediments, cash crops do not yield anticipated results as this invariably affects the quantity and quality of the crops. Also, due to this, most cultivated crops do not meet the standards for exportation, putting the farmers at a disadvantage.
Ayomide Odumakinde an undergraduate of Mechanical Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University, visits his father’s farm on a regular basis, and when he went on one of such visits, he went with friends to examine the impact of pest infestation on the crops. Shortly after, he met Faith Atoyebi a graduate of Mycology and Fungal Biotechnology, who could detect the disease affecting the crop. After discussing the impacts of pest infestation, they were inspired to develop a product that’ll automate the process of detecting crop diseases.
In 2017, They founded Plantheus a mobile app that could easily detect diseases using artificial intelligence. Plantheus uses artificial intelligence and image recognition to help farmers with diagnosis and best practice recommendations for almost all kinds of diseases on their farm. They were later joined by Stephen Odebiyi, a software developer and Victor Oladutemu, a content developer.
Shortly after, they applied for FB Start and were selected for a cohort program. In 2018, they started work on the project after receiving a FB Start grant.
“Basically, the community is on our app and you have to download it to access the community. Take, for example, a scenario where there is a new outbreak of disease that is not on our database. The farmer can just go to the farm, take the picture of the new disease he noticed on the farm and then upload it online. If the experts are familiar with the disease, they will give advice on the type of treatment the farmer should employ. Also, the farmers can communicate with each other on best practices they can go about while growing cocoa”, Faith said.
Presently, they focus on Cocoa, which happens to be one of the top export products in Nigeria. It is mostly cultivated in Ondo, Cross River, Ogun, Akwa-Ibom, Edu, Ekiti, Osun, Delta and Oyo States.
According to the 2018 World Top Exports report, cocoa ranks number 3 in Nigeria’s export and contributes $317.5 million to the total export revenue. In 2017, Nigeria exported over 300,000 tons of cocoa and by 2016, production had increased by over 20%. The potential in cocoa is evident however, the challenges are present as well.
Although they hope to widen their scope across various species of greenery, they currently work with the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, collecting data to identify cocoa-related diseases.
They hope to venture into other crops and are presently working on partnering with research institutes for other crops like maize, tomato, and cassava as they look to extend their solution.