PlantumAI: AI-Automated Crop Analytics for Less-Fortunate Areas

An app platform allowing farmers to identify crop diseases, receive pesticide advice, and optimize yields with understandable analytics.

Photo of Neil Deshmukh
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  • Environment

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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

PlantumAI solves three primary problems faced by farmers in developing areas: crop disease, overpesticide use, and misalignment of previous strategies with changing climate patterns. Crop disease is a significant problem because an infection can completely devastate the harvest. To eradicate the disease, they use many pesticides to leave nothing to chance. The pesticides can seep into the environment, poisoning drinking water and environment.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

PlantumAI is a powerful app platform that allows farmers to snap pictures of their crops' disease, and returns the specific disease, along with the unique pesticide treatment to save the harvest. It also monitors environmental data of the region, and provides AI analytics for farmers. It does all of this, and also links farmers to local agricultural centers, to get professional advice. The agricultural centers utilize the data to educate farmers, along with training plant pathologists; meanwhile, the farmers are given an analysis of their crops using low-cost technology. PlantumAI uses environmental values to provide advice for the farmers, about when to plant and when to harvest to optimize their crop yield and to save time and resources. Most importantly, it takes constraints into account, as it does not require internet access to conduct the visual analysis. PlantumAI allows farmers' harvest to flourish, while also reducing the negative impact on the environment by optimizing pesticide usage.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

During my visit to India in 2016, when I visited a farm near my grandpa's house, he made me aware of the medical and environmental problems that over-pesticide use was causing. Friends and family were falling seriously ill because farmers not only used a single pesticide, but instead, showered their crops with many in the hope to eliminate all chances for disease. The pesticide leaked everywhere, including into the water supply of many people. I was horrified that this issue was not being resolved, as many innocent people's health and safety were in grave danger. Initially, I was upset at the farmers for not regulating the pesticide use, but I realized that they too were under pressure to harvest enough food to feed their family and their region. If a pathogen destroyed their crop, then there would not be enough food to feed everyone, which was another dire scenario.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

This is the story of how PlantumAI came to be, and what I, personally, want to achieve in the future. PlantumAI utilizes Artificial Intelligence technology to augment farmers in developing areas, providing them with tools to identify/treat crop diseases, advising them on optimal planting and harvesting times in a greatly-changing environment, and linking them to local universities for communication. Overall, I want to use technology, such as through PlantumAI, to help people.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Once the connection between the farmer and the university is established, we sometimes work with the farm to individualize the app for their specific needs, and students from the university also teach the farmers to utilize the app by themselves. The farms receive a version of the app on their phones, or, if not owned, they are given one. Once a farm has joined the PlantumAI platform, they are able to access the data of the region, viewing if any diseases are spreading and any potential solutions. They also maintain a direct connection with the university, and every farm is still in, at least, monthly contact. Many farmers are actually, themselves, asking to be a part of the initial trials of PlantumAI, as it provides them with immediate value, protecting their crops from disease and optimizing their yield; all while incentivizing continued assistance from the local universities.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

The foundations of the PlantumAI app's algorithms are Artificial Technology (AI). While there are similar data science approaches being conducted by a variety of different companies, they focus on developing high-capital solutions for farms, requiring drones or sensors for monitoring. PlantumAI is the first that focuses on simple implementations, allowing for thorough crop analysis through a cell phone. Overall, the app utilizes novel technology to provide analysis of crops more efficiently and accurately than anything else out there, getting it in the hands of less-fortunate farmers.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

For the last two years that PlantumAI has been in place, more than 3000 crop disease instances have been detected and processed. These are instances that, without the app, would have required students to analyze these crops physically. It has allowed three times more farms to receive directed assistance. I'm already partnering with the younger generation within the villages and they teach their elders how to use the PlantumAI technology efficiently. This involves local youth, helping them make a change in their communities, and setting them up as future leaders, as they gain more responsibility. It's fantastic to see my app assisting 21 villages and many, many farmers within those villages, with 32 farms outside of those villages, and it is extremely gratifying that many farmers can provide crops for their areas more reliably, while also reducing their use of toxic pesticides.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

As with any venture, there is an infinite number of potential routes I can pursue to improve PlantumAI. One route that I am currently pursuing is expanding our reach. In this regard, I'm working with Penn State's PlantVillage team to test PlantumAI in other regions of the world, specifically in Africa, as we recently set up a Busia County, Kenya. I also hope to release a version of PlantumAI publically, to allow people across the world to identify their crop diseases. I do want to perform further compartmentalized analysis within a few test regions before I publically release the app, though. Another aspect I am also looking into is partnering with other philanthropic organizations, to expand crop growth knowledge, and increase exposure.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Management

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k
  • Donations over $10k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 25%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 50%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 25%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 25%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 25%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 25%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sanja Kirova

Wow! This app really takes advantage of the technological leapfrogging of the mobile phone - farmers may have access to mobile phones while they may not have access to other technology or advanced research specific for agriculture. I appreciate that your idea bridges the gap between research and farmers in developing countries, and that it is easy to use. Can certainly impact the whole globe when we take into consideration invasive species and/or invasive diseases. Best of luck - I'm a fan!

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