“Saying ‘oh, there are locusts in northern Kenya’ doesn’t help at all,” Mr Cressman said. “We need longitude and latitude coordinates in real time.”
Instead of trying to rewrite grasshopper-tracking software for new tablets, Mr. Cressman thought it would be more efficient to build a simple smartphone app that would allow data to be collected like an expert. They are Dr. Reached Hughes, who had already created a similar mobile device with the Food and Agriculture Organization to track the fall pest, a devastating crop pest. Plantvillage, Which he founded.
PlantVillage’s app uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help farmers in 60 countries, primarily in Africa, diagnose problems in their regions. Unhappy with this blueprint, Dr. Hughes and his colleagues complete the new app, eLocust3mIn just one month.
Unlike the previous tablet-based program, anyone with a smartphone can use eLocust3m. The app presents pictures of locusts at various stages of their life cycle, helping users to find out what they see in the area. The GPS coordinates are automatically recorded and the algorithm double-checks photos presented with each entry. Garmin International also helped with another program, which worked on satellite-communications devices.
“The application is really easy to use,” said Ms. Jeptu of PlantVillage. Last year, she recruited and trained grasshopper trackers in four hard-hit Kenyan regions. “We had scouts who were 40- to 50-year-olds, and even they were able to use it.”
In the last year, more than 240,000 locust records Plantvillage scouts are collected from East Africa collected by government-trained personnel and civilians. But that was only the first step. Next countries need to process data in a systematic way to extinguish locusts. However, in the first few months, officials were strategizing on “the back of the envelope”, Mr. Cressman said, and there were just four aircraft for spraying pesticides throughout the area.
When Batian Craig, director of 51 degrees, a security and logistics company focused on protecting wildlife, quoted Mr. Cressman in a news story about locusts, he felt they could help.