New App Empowers Bangladeshi Farmers in Pest Management

DAA vibrant agricultural scene in southern Bangladesh with a farmer using a smartphone app to identify pests on his groundnut crop. The background include

In southern Bangladesh, Alamgir cultivates groundnut, facing new pests and diseases each season. A new app developed by Virginia Tech researchers and Medina Tech Ltd. aims to help farmers like him identify and address these threats more effectively. The Integrated Pest Management Activity (IPMA), funded by USAID Bangladesh and housed at Virginia Tech’s Center for International Research, Education, and Development (CIRED), has introduced the Groundnut IPM app to provide crucial pest management information at farmers’ fingertips.

Groundnut, also known as peanut, is a vital crop in Bangladesh, providing both income and sustenance. Tens of thousands of tons are produced annually. However, following IPMA’s trainings on integrated pest management (IPM) practices, farmers often sought more information and frequent trainings. The Groundnut IPM app bridges this gap, offering farmers easy access to IPM strategies.

Muni Muniappan, director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for IPM, emphasized the importance of accessible technology for farmers: “The first step is ensuring the information is there.”

The Groundnut IPM app supports farmers with agricultural information, such as pest and disease identification and IPM technology application. IPM combines biological, chemical, physical, and crop-specific management practices to grow healthy crops while minimizing reliance on chemical pesticides. In Bangladesh, excessive pesticide residues can hinder international exports, and farmers often lack access to necessary protective equipment.

The app features an IPMA-developed IPM package, including information on pheromone traps and biopesticides. It also integrates GPS for location-based agricultural recommendations and weather forecasts. A key feature utilizes AI for real-time pest and disease detection, allowing farmers to upload crop images for instant analysis and treatment recommendations. The app lists Bangladeshi vendors supplying the necessary IPM products.

Medina Ali, founder of Medina Tech, highlighted the app’s convenience: “With this AI feature, users can seamlessly navigate from detection to product purchase.”

The app also offers videos on essential IPM techniques, with an audio version for illiterate farmers. A direct calling and text option connects users to local agriculturalists for specific questions. The app, available in Bengali, is free for all farmers.

In Bangladesh, where two-thirds of rural workers are in agriculture, pests and diseases devastate small-scale farms, causing significant crop losses. Improved access to agricultural solutions is crucial for sustainability.

IPMA plans to pilot the app in Barisal and Faridpur, reaching 1,000 farmers between November 2024 and May 2025. A promotion plan aims to ensure the app reaches as many farmers as possible, including youth and women.

Tom Archibald, executive director of CIRED, praised the app’s potential impact: “This app innovation is a testament to Virginia Tech’s history in agricultural education. It exemplifies our commitment to act as a force for positive change.”

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