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Crop Diagnosing System a Game Changer for Lesotho Agriculture


Libuseng Molato

The National University of Lesotho final students, Khotso Phali and Tšepang Nkoe, developed Lesotho AI Agriculture Virtual Assistant (LAAVA) in a quest to revolutionise Lesotho’s agriculture and integrate technology into crop farming to enhance productivity and sustainability.

Driving Innovation with AI

During an interview, Phali and Nkoe shared the inspiration behind their innovative system citing they were deeply concerned about food insecurity in Southern African countries, despite having fertile land. 

“We realised that incorporating technology and agricultural intelligence into farming could address this issue,” Nkoe explained pointing to the escalating prices of maize meal and beans as other motivational factors to create a solution that would alleviate such challenges.

The duo described that LAAVA is designed to guide farmers, helping them avoid unnecessary crop damage and achieve better harvests. 

The system they said is rich with features aimed at supporting farmers at every stage of crop production.

Key Features of LAAVA

Social Integration: LAAVA boasts social media-like features, allowing farmers to share posts and images of their crop production to inspire and learn from each other. It integrates with WhatsApp, sending notifications to keep farmers updated and connected.

Language Accessibility: “LAAVA is designed for Basotho and is being trained to understand and communicate in Sesotho. This ensures farmers can use the system in their preferred language,” explained Phali.

Microprocessors and Sensors: The system employs sensors in the fields to gather data on soil humidity, fertility, and temperature conditions. This data is sent to the system, enabling farmers to monitor and regulate conditions from their phones. “LAAVA is already trained to identify and classify soil types common in Lesotho, such as alluvial soil, black soil, clay, and red soil,” Phali elaborated.

Disease Prediction and Management: Farmers can use LAAVA’s AI capabilities to upload images of their crops and receive predictions on potential diseases. The system continuously learns and improves its accuracy over time, providing early detection and targeted intervention strategies, “…For example, LAAVA can predict tomato diseases and provide causes and remedies for issues like tomato bacterial spot, early blight, late blight, and more,” explained the developers.

Dashboard and Data Analytics: Implementing sensors in the field allows the dashboard to show real-time progress, such as soil moisture levels, helping to prevent overwatering. The system also offers comprehensive data management and report analytics, essential for agribusinesses to track growth and productivity.

Community Management: LAAVA includes a community forum where farmers can share ideas and seek guidance. Expert farmers are identified with a green badge, while new farmers have a red badge, facilitating helpful exchanges and mentorship.

Market Price Integration: LAAVA provides real-time market prices for crops. The developers plan to collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture’s marketing department to ensure accurate pricing information.

Future Prospects and Vision

Phali and Nkoe have ambitious plans to engage with laboratories and soil scientists to refine LAAVA further. “We aim to gather soil samples to enhance our models, ensuring even more precise and useful insights for farmers,” they shared.

“We believe LAAVA can be a game-changer for Basotho farmers. We encourage everyone to explore the system and see how it can benefit their farms,” the developers concluded.

A Brighter Future for Lesotho’s Agriculture

The introduction of LAAVA, the developers noted marks a significant technological advancement for Lesotho’s agriculture industry. “By leveraging artificial intelligence and community-driven support, LAAVA is poised to empower farmers, boost productivity, and contribute to food security and economic growth in Lesotho.”

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