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]yahoo.com
Illustration courtesy: J.N. Panganiban
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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