Leveraging New Data Methods to Address an Ancient Challenge: Locusts

by Gabriel Stefanini Vicente
Tomorrow.io Agriculture and Food

Challenge: The worst locust upsurge in at least 25 years is hitting parts of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Western Asia, and over 40 million people who are already food insecure find their food supply and livelihoods threatened.

Opportunity: In collaboration with the Development Data Partnership and World Bank Agriculture Observatory, ClimaCell organized a 24-hour hackathon to see whether their team could adapt their weather intelligence platform to support efforts to manage and mitigate the spread of locusts.

Solution: ClimaCell’s team of meteorologists, data scientists and product engineers from across the world focused on three prototypes:

(1) The team explored use of ClimaCell’s historical and predictive weather technology to identify hyperlocal areas to be sprayed with pesticides, where locust eggs and populations are likely to grow quickly (thereby reducing unnecessary harmful spraying).

(2) They also developed a prototype trajectory model that shows where existing swarms of locusts are likely to migrate next, updating in real-time and with crowdsourcing SMS functions to confirm locust locations.

(3) The team also prototyped alerting features that could support early warnings to farmers and communities in advance of incoming swarms, with recommendations on what action needs to be taken and when.

Impact: Activities leading up to the event involved problem scoping and sharing of insights by experts from the World Bank, FAO, and others. Critical input was also received from the Red Cross, as well as African farmers and pastoralists. During the event, rapid product iteration took place based on real time inputs from African farming and emergency response community members, leading to a community-built solution with the goal of being complementary and additive to existing solutions.

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