If their concepts are successful, the three individuals awarded this grant will have the opportunity to compete among a larger pool of applicants for a $1,000,000 prize to transform crop pest and disease surveillance globally.
Plants emit specific chemicals when attacked by insects or fungi. Dr. Hanseup Kim, associate professor at the University of Utah, received a $100,000 award to develop chemical sensors that can operate for a long period of time in a resource-limited environment. These sensors will alert farmers to the different types and stages of crop damage.
Setting up existing pest incident monitoring networks in low-income countries is expensive and logistically challenging. Dr. Ritvik Sahajpal, assistant research professor at the University of Maryland College Park, received a $99,723 award to design a low-cost early warning system that combines machine learning algorithms, earth observation (EO) data and crop pest modeling to predict various crop threats. This system will be tested on maize and sorghum crops in Tanzania. The research team is also analyzing plant properties, temperature and soil moisture to estimate pre-harvest losses and determine crop losses from pests and fungi.
Traditional crop pest and disease monitoring approaches, like drones, are costly and limited in their ability to provide accurate data across large regions. Paul Wagstaff, senior agriculture advisor at Self Help Africa in Ireland, received a $97,400 award to build an advanced algorithm that automatically analyzes satellite images for changes in leaf color and soil disruption to detect crop pests and disease. The “trained” algorithm is proposed to detect these subtle changes in satellite images, to allow pest damage to be distinguished from water and nutrient deficiencies and allow for rapid assessment of the degree of infestation across large areas, which to date has not been accomplished.
Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.
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