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New crop scouting tool for your pocket

A new app from Bayer’s digital farming company, Xarvio, puts the smart in smartphone

Wondering which disease is damaging your crop or which weed is growing in your field? There’s an app for that.

“Xarvio is a digital farming company with the ambition to deliver a healthy field,” said Warren Bills, business development manager. Xarvio was launched and owned by Bayer. BASF recently acquired the company as one of the requirements of Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto.

Xarvio’s scouting app uses photo recognition and artificial intelligence to identify weeds and diseases. The app also assesses leaf damage by measuring the green and non-green areas of the leaf, Bills explained.

Farmers snap a photo of the weed, diseased leaf, or otherwise damaged leaf. After a farmer has finished uploading photos, Xarvio will display its results.

Xarvio first launched its scouting app at Germany’s AgriTechnica last fall. It was released in Canada during Ag in Motion in July.

But does the app ever get it wrong? Bills said it’s still early days with the technology.

“You will use the app on a certain disease or weed and it won’t get the right answer. And so you shouldn’t necessarily be making all your management decisions based on what the app’s telling you.”

The app will also display the accuracy level of its weed identification. But as more people use the app and upload photos, the app learns and improves. Bills said eventually it will start making smart product suggestions for farmers based on what it’s finding in fields.

“We are now in over 90 countries and we have thousands and thousands of users and hundreds of thousands of pictures flowing in,” said Bills. Farmers can also send alerts through the app if they’re seeing issues that might affect their neighbours as well, he added.

Bills noted this type of artificial intelligence is already being used in other industries. For example, Apple’s Siri learns from being asked the same questions multiple times.

“This is similar, just with pictures.” Bills said the future will be an app that takes farmers’ questions, pulls in weather and wind speed data along with photos, and then answers the question.

The people at Xarvio have also had conversations about data breaches and privacy, Bills said. Xarvio complies with all relevant legislation, he added.

“And in this particular app, the anonymity is there,” he added. Land locations are not shared between users. Information about diseases or weeds is kept on a regional basis, he added.

Bills said plenty of people had stopped by the Xarvio display at Ag in Motion to try the app. “I think the instant satisfaction of that identification has been really eye-opening for people — to know that you can use your phone, take a picture, and get a result back.”

The scouting app displays the accuracy level of its identification. As people upload more photos, the app learns and its identification becomes more accurate.
photo: Supplied

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.

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