Iloilo school develops app to help farmers detect pests, plant diseases

An innovation that will aid farmers in detecting plant pests and diseases will soon be available through an application developed by professors and students of the Iloilo State College of Fisheries (ISCOF) in Barotac Nuevo town, Iloilo province.

Professor Mary Sol Baldevarona, dean of the ISCOF College of Information and Communication Technology (CICT) and one of the two authors of the mobile application dubbed “Plant Diagnostic Tool”, said the innovation was conceptualized when ISCOF joined the Unionbank Hackathon in 2018, a startup challenge where they developed the app in 24 hours.

The theme of the competition was on addressing agriculture issues.

“I applied an image processing, a technology, which is an algorithm that is applied in developing an application that can easily detect pests and diseases in plants,” said Baldevarona in an interview Friday.

She noted that the application, once launched, can be downloaded through Google Playstore and work even without an internet connection.

“This is of advantage to the Department of Agriculture (DA) because it contains statistics of all the diseases in specific areas here in Panay Island,” she said.

Baldevarona said they had to capture thousands of images to make sure that the findings are accurate and “reliable”. For each disease, they have captured around 1,500 images, she said.

The development of the application was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Engr. Remelyn Recoter, Executive Director of the DA Regional Field Unit 6 (DA-RFU 6), said their technical experts and entomologists are helping with the project.

The first module that was developed focused on perennial and agricultural plants which are among the major products of Western Visayas.

“Right now, we are done with the rice module and the second one, the sugarcane was done in partnership with the Central Philippines State University,” the professor said.

She noted that they are still working on the project but already had it listed with the National Library of the Philippines through the Intellectual Property Office (IPOPHL) on November 20, 2018.

The “Certificate of Copyright Recordation and Deposit” was signed by IPOPHL Director-General Josephine R. Santiago providing the protection of 50 years after the death of the author.

“Hopefully we can finish it and launch this maybe in March 2020. We are doing a lot of field works together with the DA,” Baldevarona said.

She added they will also wait for the go-signal of experts from various agencies involved before they could officially launch the app. A technical working group is helping them, she said.

Baldevarona said the total fund allocated for the project was PHP4.2 million, and the DA might give the app to the farmers for free.

Recoter said the application will help farmers to control plant pests and diseases.

“They can send right away information and the application will provide them the how to’s for its prevention. And we can dispatch our experts with already the information about the pest and diseases,” she said.

The project was co-authored by Gerard Glenn Dalisay, also a professor of ISCOF who died in an accident last January 30. After his death, Dr. Aurelo Esmediana Jr., a faculty of ISCOF- Dingle Campus who is specializing in agriculture, came in to assist in the project.

The app was also developed with the help of former ISCOF students John Mark Salapantan who served as assistant programmer, Ray John Parangan for the design, and Antonio Esconde as research assistant.PNA

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