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Bayer shows off new apps at 4-H summit

Facial recognition technology can capture and identify the faces of weeds as well as humans

A new app will bring weed identification to the field with the click of a smartphone camera.

That’s according to Bayer and its recently released Weedscout app, which compares a photo of a weed with a cumulative database and returns a list of potential matches.

“As it’s used more and more, it’s designed to learn and it’ll get more accurate and it’ll get faster in its response time,” Bayer vice-president of innovation and public affairs Paul Thiel told a session at the Global 4-H Summit.

Weedscout echoes facial recognition technology used by other apps, such as the social media platform Snapchat. The company has asked users to photograph as many weeds at early growth stages as possible in order to improve the recognition system.

Weed species, locations and times of each match are archived for future use.

Thiel said the weed data collection can be part of a process to use technology to make better cropping decisions and assure customers that crops are produced sustainably.

“There’s a lot of data being captured. The trick is turning data into a decision and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Zone Spray, another app presented in Ottawa by Bayer, is still in testing and has been released to 300 farmers in Western Canada this year. It was beta tested by 30 producers in 2016.

The app uses satellite imaging to map out the most productive areas of a field, allowing farmers to customize input use in different areas of the same field.

Bayer has signed an agreement to tap into Planet’s Dove satellite network, which hopes to eventually launch enough satellites to image the entire planet each day. Depending on this year’s results, Bayer plans to move forward with the app’s large-scale launch.

Future versions of the Weedscout app, he said, might include mitigation strategies.

“We can do that by tying into electronic herbicide label databases and those are being developed,” he said. “Concurrently, it’s about taking all of these pieces of information and eventually wrapping it up into a single application so the grower can access and understand, ‘What have I got? What can I do?’ and they make choices on how to manage it,” Thiel said.

Future versions of Zone Spray may also incorporate herbicide resistance, a growing concern when many pathogens, such as blackleg in canola, have seen increasing tolerance for chemical mitigation.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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