The major problem with extension services is that they are often limited and underfunded. The world’s first agricultural and advisory service was developed to help Irish farmers cope with blight and other diseases. New advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can help put a virtual extension officer in the fields of every farmer. Farmers in Kenya and other countries will be able to point their smartphone at a potato plant and receive an instant disease diagnosis through the Plant Village Nuru app. The app was established to be twice as good as extension workers in East Africa in diagnosing cassava diseases and has been a major help to cassava farmers. Now this advancement can work for more than two million farmers in East Africa who depend on potato. 

This app is linked to Penn State’s online, which allows farmers to receive advice from experts at government agencies, universities and research organizations in local languages. The service is currently available in Swahili, French, Twi, Hindi and English. Features such as the in-field diagnosis of pests, diseases and the direct link to expert knowledge for advice give farmers the ability to transform their agriculture rapidly. This directly contributes to the creation of well-educated farmers and a skills revolution underpinned by science, technology and innovation for a knowledgeable society.

Inset: Potato farmers using digital devices to diagnose crop diseases.


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