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40 innovators compete for fall armyworm technology prize

Uganda is to host the U.S government-supported Fall Armyworm Technology Prize that has attracted over 40 innovators from all over the world (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA: On Tuesday, 40 finalists gathered for a U.S government-supported Fall Armyworm Technology Prize. The contest, which includes Ugandan innovators, is supported through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to combat the spread of fall armyworm across the African continent.

The Fall Armyworm Technology Prize seeks digital tools and approaches that provide timely, context-specific information enabling smallholder farmers and those who support them to identify, treat, and track incidence of fall armyworm in Africa.

The competition attracted 228 entries, with over 80% of entries from Africa. From those entries, 20 teams were invited to attend a three-day co-creation event to learn about business development planning, prototyping, and understanding the farmer context. A marketplace displayed their initial prototypes to encourage early feedback to improve their concepts.

Addressing the finalists at Hotel Africana, the U.S. Ambassador Deborah R. Malac said, “The U.S. government strongly supports efforts to combat the threat of fall armyworm.”

The co-creation workshop will showcase the top 20 innovations and will advance our efforts in managing the impacts of this persistent and damaging pest. USAID is offering a prize of $150,000 for the winning solution, two awards of $75,000 each for second and third places, and two awards of $50,000 each for fourth and fifth place. In addition, as part of the larger investment, USAID plans to establish a regional hub in Kampala to address the complexities associated with introducing, testing, and scaling the winning digital solutions.

The finalists’ solution titles are as follows: A Mobile Layaway Solution to Combating Fall Armyworm (USA), “Boa me” (Ghana), Africa Rising (RSA), AfriFARM (USA), AGRI-POLL: A smart survey system (Uganda), AL-based Digital Monitoring System (Israel), Autonomous FAW Identification Using Deep Learning (USA), CdPAS Mobile : Crop disease prediction and advisory services on any mobile phone (Ghana), CornBot: Farmers Everyday Virtual Assistant for Sustainable Maize Production (Nigeria), Digicult (Taiwan), EzyAgric (Uganda), Fall Armyworm Identification, Verification and Mitigation through Digital Information (Kenya), FarmSmart Pest and Disease (PAD) app (Nigeria), LEA: Pests? Problem solved! (Uganda), Locsmman Pro/OFES (Ghana), Shape Up Against Armyworm (Kenya), UDefeatFAW (USA), WeFAW Alert and Expert Advisory Model (WeFAW) (USA), and Zaois-Tech (Kenya).

Ms. Liz Vossen, the representative from global innovation foundation NESTA, who is managing the contest, said, “The Co-Creation event marks the start of a period of support that will help finalists work on their initial ideas and make them even greater. We are thrilled to welcome the finalists to Kampala for the Co-Creation Event. We know that we’ll be working with a group of fantastic innovators on their journey to fight fall armyworm.”

The winners of the Fall Armyworm Technology Prize contest will be announced in September, 2018.

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