The Optimist Citizen

17-year-old builds an app for farmers that can help them diagnose and treat plant-based diseases on the go

The app called The Plant Doctor’ is a cloud-based AI algorithms accessible app over a cellular network that helps farmers diagnose and treat plant diseases from wherever they are.

“Age is just a number. A person’s course of actions and achievements are the real parameters to judge his/her growth”, this has been proved by the 17-year-old Bangalore boy Kaushik Kunal Singh, who founded the award-winning ‘The Plant Doctor’ app. Born in the U.S, Kaushik was a science geek since his childhood. His family moved back to Bangalore when Kaushik was just 8 years old and Kaushik being the science nerd he was, was amazed to see the Indian culture and landscape. 

Kaushik Kunal - Founder, Plant Doctor

He was visiting his parent’s hometown in Patna, Bihar where he saw that the papaya tree in his backyard got infected by a strange disease. When he inquired about this to his family, he found that a lot of farmers in the village are struggling to keep their trees and plants infection-free and they were unable to diagnose the cause of the infection. When he started researching further he found that in India alone, 35%-50% of field crops are lost to pathogens and pests causing losses to farmers. Indiscriminate use of pesticides is also a serious health concern as many are toxic and biomagnified. Most crop diseases can be diagnosed by experts using visual foliar symptoms. However, farmers have limited access to experts. 

Kaushik was disturbed by the findings and wanted to apply science to solve this problem for farmers. Consequently, he decided to develop an app that could diagnose plant diseases for farmers through images that are analyzed by Cloud-based AI algorithms accessible over a cellular network. Kaushik Kunal’s passion for applying science in practical life and his zest to save the farmers from the plight of crop diseases led him to create ‘The Plant Doctor: An AI-based Collaborative Platform for Plant Disease Diagnosis and Tracking for Farmers”, for which he won the grand award at IRIS (Initiative for Research and Innovation in Science) National Science Fair. 

Kaushik Kunal developed Plant Doctor

Through The Plant Doctor, farmers can instantly and accurately identify diseases and get solutions with a mobile app by photographing affected plant parts. The Plant Doctor is the result of months of Kaushik’s research into AI and farming. Kaushik got his first eureka moment when he tested his first prototype of The Plant Doctor model. He along with his maternal grandfather Dr Prasanna Kumar, a professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, conducted the first real field tests of the prototype of his app model. But, the major drawback of Kaushik’s first prototype of the model was the requirement of an internet connection for using the app. He had overlooked the fact that around half of India’s population is still deprived of the internet facility. His next step was to overcome this drawback by converting his app into a real-time AI, Cloud-based app. 

His second prototype which is based on the AI model continuously learns from user-uploaded images and expert suggestions to enhance its accuracy. This platform enables farmers to interact with local experts and for preventive measures. Disease density maps with spread forecasting are rendered from a Cloud-based repository of geo-tagged images and micro-climatic factors. A web interface allows experts to perform disease analytics with geographical visualizations. In his experiments, the AI model was trained with large disease datasets, created with plant images self-collected from many farms over 7 months. Test images were diagnosed using the automated convolutional neural network (known as the CNN model)  and the results were validated by plant pathologists. Over 95% of disease identification accuracy was achieved. 

The Plant Doctor app is available to the farmers for use but is still under development. Kaushik’s team is making constant efforts to bring out the best version of the app with more helpful features for the farmers like ease to access the app in their own local or native language and many more. His solution is a novel, scalable and accessible tool for disease management of diverse agricultural crop plants and can be deployed as a Cloud-based service for farmers and experts for ecologically sustainable crop production. He aims to expand his solution to alleviate the plight of rural farmers who lose significant yield of crops to diseases without proper access to agricultural expertise. He hopes to continue innovating new technologies in agriculture and healthcare to improve the lives of the growing population.

Kaushik is a real prodigy who inspires his whole generation. He believes in the notion that persistence is the gate to success and one should always keep on persisting.

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