GFAR blog

YAP proposal #61: A mobile app to identify pests (Josine Macaspac, Philippines)


Pest identification in the Philippines is somewhat haphazard. It can run the gamut from professional identification of pest species, to random guessing of pest species based on a farmer’s personal experience and the experience and opinions of other farmers around them. This type of identification can be flawed, resulting in significant losses for the farmer if the pest species is misidentified and the wrong methods of pest management is applied. This spells out a need for a quick and accurate system of pest identification for farmers.

My name is Josine A. Macaspac, a 27-year old Agriculture graduate from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños who majored in Entomology. Due to my academic background, I came to understand the economic and ecological impact that insect pests have in agricultural systems in the Philippines and how essential it is to have a pest management solution that is effective, safe for the environment, sustainable and most importantly, affordable and comprehensible for the farmers.

Currently, I am working as a freelance writer online, specializing in blogging, copywriting, and social media management. As such, I also understand the power in utilizing social media for information dissemination and increasing education and awareness to the problems encountered in local and global agriculture. It is through this unique combination of my academic background and the principles and skills, which I have learned by working online, that I hope to be able to address the aforementioned operational gap in the Filipino agricultural industry.

The project that I am proposing is the Integrated Pest Identification System Mobile Application (IPIS). It is a comprehensive, downloadable database application aimed at local farmers. The application can be used by farmers to identify common Philippine agricultural pests. The IPIS will have two versions: free and premium and will feature three methods of identifying the insect (the “funnel” method, a “photo-identifier” feature, and a direct link to a team of experts), depending on which version will be utilized.

The free version of the mobile app will make use of the “funnel” method which entails finding the correct insect through the process of elimination. The user will be directed to a series of menus that can help narrow down possible identification choices of the insect in question. The first menu will specify which crop the insect was found on. The second menu will provide options on the order of the insect (eg. Lepidoptera for butterflies and moths; if the farmer is not familiar with the orders, an archetype image of the insect will be placed beside each order). For the last menu, the user will need to select where the insect was found (on the plant or in the ground). This will effectively narrow down the insect to possible candidates. Once there is a narrow pool of possible insects, the farmer can finally choose the image of the insect that resembles the one that they are trying to identify.

Aside from the “funnel” method of identification, the premium version will also feature a “photo identifier” feature of the insect if the user is online, similar to the “search by image” feature of Google©. The user can take a picture of the insect and the app will use image searching and processing methods to find similar-looking insects that can provide options for positive identification. The premium version will also give the user the option to directly consult a team of agriculturists from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB) for proper identification through email or social media for free. This option will also be made available for free-version users for a fee per consultation.

The name of the application itself, IPIS, is a play on words that refers to the cockroach in the local dialect, making the app easier to remember and more relatable because of the humor. It is designed to be used offline however, if the user goes online, the app will automatically update to include additional information that may have been added to the database on a later date. The application will also provide sample images of the pests in all stages of their life cycles (egg, larvae/immature, pupa if applicable, and adult). Lastly, it will also provide ecological information about the insect as well as possible methods for control, including mechanical, cultural, and chemical control.

The main inspiration for the project is the understanding that there is a need for an integrated, accessible, and accurate database for identifying insect agricultural pests in the Philippines. By creating this app, promoting it, and making it available to farmers, these farmers can create a more effective and efficient pest management system within their own farms. Since Android smartphones are abundant and can now be bought at a cheap price in the Philippines, the IPIS can be accessible even to small-scale farmers. At the same time, the application can also be used by large-scale farm owners to help educate their farmers about existing pest species on their farms.

The first step in making this application a reality is to compile a comprehensive and updated database on the existing pest species in the Philippines for all Philippine agricultural crops, along with all the information on these crops. Next, all these information must be digitized for easy integration into the mobile application. Lastly, the mobile application itself must be coded, tested, and finally, be made available on the Android app market.

As a former student of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), a unit recently declared by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as a Center of Excellence in Agriculture, I have years of learned knowledge on insect pests through instruction and assistance by experts from the Department of Entomology under the College of Agriculture. I have also spoken to several professors from different departments within the university who, along with their thesis students, have agreed to aid with the compilation and digitizing of necessary information. Several experienced Android app coders were also consulted regarding the cost of coding this application and the process of making it available on the Android market.

The project’s success will rely on a final version of the mobile application that is available on the market, which is able to successfully identify an unknown insect pest either through the funnel or photo identifier method.

The $5000 grant will be used as follows:

  • $1,500: Database compilation as both professional fee for the professor/s who will participate in the project, as well as a small token fee for the students who will help compile and digitize the data. This process is very labor intensive because there are dozens of agricultural crops and hundreds of Philippine pests. This will take 5-6 months.
  • $3,000: Hiring an Android coder. Application coding and testing will take 4-5 months.
  • $500: Traveling expenses between Los Baños, Laguna (where the data base completion and testing of the app will occur), and Metro Manila, where the Android coder lives. It will be used for gas, accommodation, and other small expenses.

I believe that using the IPIS will help farmers and farm owners identify pests more easily and accurately thus, creating pest management systems in a timely manner. Ultimately, this will help the Philippine agriculture sector by providing a system of pest identification that is easy to use and understand, leading to lower yield loss and higher profits.

Blogpost and picture submitted by Josine A. Macaspac (Philippines) – josinemacaspac[at]
Illustration courtesy: J.N. Panganiban

The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.

This post is published as proposal #61 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

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38 thoughts on “YAP proposal #61: A mobile app to identify pests (Josine Macaspac, Philippines)”

  1. Pokedex for pests! Love this idea! A game-changer! Proper control measures can now be applied. No more haphazard spraying of chemicals (which don’t kill the pest anyway)

    1. Yes, it will. The most important step in pest management is always accurate and quick identification of the pest species, and I believe this app can help farmers and agriculturists do just that.

  2. A very well thought out proposal! I appreciate the fact that even small scale farmers would have access to this. Honestly my knowledge on PH agriculture is not that extensive, but I know it has to evolve with advancing technology to profit/gain just like anything else especially nowadays; this proposal is very timely. I hope farmers would take it as an advantage.

    1. Thank you Jacqueline! Yes, we had small-scale farmers in mind when we were conceptualizing this app, because we wanted to make this kind of technology affordable and accessible to anyone who needs it.

  3. IPIS has a potential in becoming an effective and efficient tool, especially for small-scale farmers in far-flung areas of the country, where technical assistance from experts may be scarce.

    I personally like the idea of incorporating the ‘funnel method’ in pest identification. This way, the farmer learns the systematic identification of any given pest, which has always been a factor when it comes to administering the proper pest management strategy. Teaming up with experts from the University of the Philippines – Los Banos will optimize the accuracy of pest detection and would also help plant protection students to further strengthen their knowledge in the said field.

    Great idea, Jax! I wish you success in this project. 🙂

  4. Nice the app is like shazam for pests.hopefully you could add plants too in your database 🙂

  5. Awesome! Such a great idea!

    My thoughts on the usability for the farmers though is that although smartphones’ prices have gone down. The infrastructure of telecommunications in the rural areas where most of the farms in the Philippines are do not support high speed mobile internet. But there are some farms/rural areas where there is also strong mobile internet.

    As a marketing-oriented person, my suggestion is that you conduct a market segmentation and narrow down your target market of farmers: who have smartphones (percentage wise), have strong mobile internet, and who are somewhat tech-savvy or at least have kids who can help them out.

    Then aside from getting Entomology professors and students involved, once this is up and running, you could also go on radio shows and try to work with Development Communications people to disseminate your app.

    All in all this great! We need more innovations like this! Looking forward to having IPIS in my pocket. 😉

    1. Hi Jim! Thank you for your fantastic feedback! I really appreciate it. 🙂

      One of the reasons why this app will be designed as a database app is that so users would be able to access all the relevant information even if they are offline. But of course, we want to look for ways to make this app more accessible for everyone.

      I hope I will be able to give everyone an IPIS in their pocket in the future!

  6. This will definitely be one for the books. 🙂 however, given the biodiversity of the country; are you looking at initially a few thousand data bank or really aiming for the almost perfect database?

    1. Hi Louise, thanks for your comment. Initially, we are looking for compile and database for economically-important pest species, then as the project grows bigger, we can include other insect species as well. 🙂

  7. This is so interesting. I learned so much about the need for this app to support healthier food and agriculture in the Philippines. I am wondering how people in the U.S. can support your proposal…besides sharing it that is.

    Awesome idea, Ate. Accessibility to resources is key!

  8. With people’s growing dependence on technology, this initiative will surely take agricultural management to the next level. This would provide more accessible means to be educated with the different types of pests and methods on how to control or manage damages that these pests might bring. Moreover, this could provide awareness to those who are not into this realm.

    afterall, not all IPIS are bad. 🙂

  9. Absolutely brilliant. I have been exposed to farming specifically in the rice sector in the province of Isabela and I agree on the need of being very specific in terms pest treatment plans. Harvesting, especially rice, is very crucial as it will affect majority of the population. Product loss is a major concern for these local farmers and this application will be definitely minimize these losses.

  10. This project will greatly benefit Filipino farmers. We would be thrilled to collaborate with you on this project because you chose open source. We hope to see you in one of our community meetups so you can share this project to the students and inspire them to innovate and create useful apps for the nation.

    1. Hi Ging, thank you for your support! I would very much love to collaborate with your students, as well as talk to them about innovation and how technology can truly help our agricultural sector. 🙂

  11. Very good concept, boss! I like how you put focus on information dissemination, and educating & raising awareness in local and global scales 🙂

  12. Well written 🙂 Although my thoughts are the same as Jim Cano. The demographics of Filipino farmers may hinder the wide use of the application, yet I can’t think of a better way to disseminate useful information other than an online database.

    I agree with Jim’s suggestion, and I think some of the funds may have to be allotted to ensure market acceptance.

    A feature that will allow farmers to interact will also be a great addition, giving it a more integrated-feel. In this way, additional information on mapping these bugs can be available based on user location, which will make this a more preventive, rather than reactive solution to pest management.

    Good luck with your efforts.

  13. cool concept Jax and a first of it’s kind! This will help farmers alot in identifyig pests and it will be easier for them. #gcard3

  14. Way to go Jax! It’s a good innovation to help our Filipino farmers in controlling and erradicating pests! #ghand3

  15. Good idea, Jax, and it certainly is one that can help our farmers. I think in the future you could also look to analyse some trends around the pests, too — for instance what months of the year or which places in the Philippines they seem to pop up more. Good luck and I’ll be supporting you.

  16. Hi jax! this is a great idea, this will help farmers a lot and hopefully will lead to greater profit. Godbless

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