The Uk’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) have awarded a three-year grant to a group comprising of Certis Europe BV, Rail Vision Ltd., Rothamsted Research in the UK, and Positive Agro, an agricultural distributor in Ghana. The grant will fund research on finding ways to curb the losses incurred from the devastating effects of Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV), and offer lasting solution to the endemic ravaging cocoa farms in West and Central Africa.
According to the World Cocoa Foundation, Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) has devastating consequences on crop yield and the economy as farmers often resort to trees cutting to contain the spread of the virus. In Ghana, 16.5 per cent of cocoa areas (more than 300,000 ha) has been infected, with the government on track to fund a two-year replacement project of 22,850 ha of infected cocoa farms at the cost of USD 33 million.
Over 10 million people depend on cocoa as a source of livelihood; as such, the project funded by the grant will not only offer solutions to the menace but help secure the future of a dilapidating agro segment.
With the grants, the consortium aims to mitigate the disease in Ghana by employing satellite tools and drone imagery data analytics. Rail Vision’s platform technology (ARIES), based on mathematical models and software tools for satellite and drone imagery data analytics will be used to identify areas with CSSV prevalence, and regions susceptible to future occurrences. Also, the group will develop and commercialise a program which incorporates factors such as canopy cover, plant diversity, tree height, chlorophyll level and tree density, and accurately prognosticate the exact location, prevailing infectious status, future risk of the cocoa trees being affected by CSSV, and data on plantation condition to mitigate the risks.
Furthermore, the group will combine the use of satellite data and imageries with other approaches proven to be effective in containing the disease, including the use of a biopesticide, Eradicoat, from Certis Europe, in the project.