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Facial recognition AI helps save multibillion dollar grape crop

Date: 20.8.2021 

A radical collaboration between a biologist and an engineer is supercharging efforts to protect grape crops. The technology they've developed, using robotics and AI to identify grape plants infected with a devastating fungus, will soon be available to researchers nationwide working on a wide array of plant and animal research.

Kredit: Allison Usavage.The biologist, Lance Cadle-Davidson, Ph.D. '03, an adjunct professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), is working to develop grape varieties that are more resistant to powdery mildew, but his lab's research was bottlenecked by the need to manually assess thousands of grape leaf samples for evidence of infection.

Powdery mildew, a fungus that attacks many plants including wine and table grapes, leaves sickly white spores across leaves and fruit and costs grape growers worldwide billions of dollars annually in lost fruit and fungicide costs.

Team developed prototypes of imaging robots that could scan grape leaf samples automatically, through the USDA-ARS funded VitisGen2 grape breeding project and in partnership with the Light and Health Research Center. This partnership led to the creation of a robotic camera they named "BlackBird."

But extracting relevant biological information from these images was still a critical need. Extracting useful information from such a large, high-resolution image was Jiang's challenge, and his team used AI to solve it. Using breakthroughs in deep neural networks developed for computer vision tasks like face recognition, Jiang applied this knowledge to the analysis of microscopic images of grape leaves.




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