CoCIS Researchers to Automate the Process of Monitoring Bees and Fruit flies

CoCIS Researchers to Automate the Process of Monitoring Bees and Fruit flies

Researchers from Makerere University College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS) in collaboration with other universities and institutions are going to develop technology that can automate the process of monitoring bees and fruit flies for purposes of controlling their population on farms and in the wild.

Prof. Tony Oyana, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe, Dr. Susanne Sansa Otima and other participants during the project launch

The project dubbed, “Adaptive Environment Monitoring Network AfricA (AdEMNEA)” that will deploy applications for bee protection and fruit fly control in East Africa was launched on Friday 25th February 2022 by the Vice Chancellor Makerere University represented by his Deputy in Charge of Finance and Administration Prof. Henry Alinaitwe.

Prof. Henry Alinaitwe speaking on behalf of the Vice Chancellor during the project launch

Prof. Henry Alinaitwe speaking on behalf of the Vice Chancellor during the project launch

This is a collaborative project being led by Prof. Stephen Wolthusen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Information Security and Communication Technology (NTNU).

Dr. Julianne Nsasa Otim making her remarks during the project launch

Dr. Julianne Nsasa Otim making her remarks during the project launch

At Makerere university the project is being led by Dr. Julianne Nsasa-Otim with staff from the College of Engineering Design and Art (CEDAT) and the college of Veterinary Medicine Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB). Other partnering institutions are Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (Tanzania), University of Juba (South Sudan)
and the University of Bergen (Norway), the Uganda Meteorological Authority, NaCCRI and NARO. Other partners are the Ministry of Agriculture (MAAIF), The Uganda National Apiary Development Organisation (TUNADO, Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) and Fruit / Bee farmers: (Nwoya fruit growers cooperative society and Green Zabu Farm).

The Project is funded by NORAD under the NORHED II programme supported for five years with main emphasis on Southern partners. It builds on positive experience and results from the WIMEA project funded under the NORHED I framework with several other projects currently funded with NTNU and Makerere as partners.

While officially launching the project at the CoCIS premises, Prof. Henry Alinaitwe thanked the project team and the college for the initiative.

“We thank the Norwegian government for providing the funding and the Norwegian universities plus the partnering institutions for providing support.

We would like to thank Dr. Julianne Sansa and the team for putting the proposal together and winning this grant and for bring many partners together who stand to benefit from this project”, Prof. Alinaitwe appreciated.

Prof. Tony Oyana making his remarks

Prof. Tony Oyana making his remarks

The Principal CoCIS, Prof. Tony Oyana said computer science is one discipline that is going to cross a number of disciplines noting that when scholarship is done together, a better job is done to solve societal problems.

The Principal Commended Dr. Sansa for representing the university effectively.

“When we go back to the project WIMEA, it has a rich deep history with the department and the college and you did a wonderful job when you walked five years and finished the project, the credit does not only go to you but also to the university and country and you can see some of the outcomes are being displayed here.

She has walked a fine journey and she did not exhaust herself, that is why she has brought another project. So, we want to thank you for your contribution to the university and country and our college in terms of training and research that has churned out a lot of products such as publications and applications that are working effectively in the field”, Prof. Oyana appreciated.

Prof. Stephen Wolthusen

Prof. Stephen Wolthusen

Presenting online, the Lead Investigator Prof. Stephen Wolthusen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said, the project goal is to design, develop, and deploy a flexible network of data gathering and monitoring stations for meteorological data as well as a wide variety of data including audio, image, and video data as well as field reports and telemetry data, integrating both existing sensing platforms and customized components for specific research areas.

“The application domain is to support entomologists studying ways to enhance protection of pollinators (bees) and control of pests (fruit flies) in a changing environment based on timely data and with machine learning (AI) support”. Prof. Wolthusen said.

He said the project seeks to support interdisciplinary research and capacity-building for research and supervision through funding and co-supervision of M.Sc. and Ph.D. projects, mobility and fieldwork support.

This he said, will help in educating new academics and to support the international recognition and progression of co-investigators.

The Principal Investigator Makerere University Dr. Julianne Sansa-Otim said, bees are endangered yet they are the most important pollinator responsible for most of the fruits and vegetables. Bees according to Dr. Nsansa contribute towards biodiversity as other creatures rely on them for existence (e.g. beetles, burgers and also provide products e.g honey, propolis, wax are important in medicine, food preparation, skin care and hair care).

She reported that monitoring insects has traditionally been via manual observation and count by specialists such as entomologists and extension workers yet there are few specialists in Uganda and Africa that makes this method ineffective.

“Recent technologies (audio-visual sensors, resilient networks & artificial intelligence) can be applied to automate the monitoring towards bee protection and fruit fly control.

This project is going to develop technology that can automate the process of monitoring bees and fruit flies for purposes of controlling their population on farms and in the wild”. Dr. Nsasa said.

She said fruit flies are known to be the biggest pests affecting mangoes leading to losses and likewise the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Industry and Fisheries that is responsible for monitoring and controlling pests is limited by the number of specialists.

Dr. Deborah Ruth Amulem speaking during the launch

Dr. Deborah Ruth Amulen from CoVAB said although bees constitute 70% of the worlds crop pollination, their population has declined due to pesticide application, climate change, land use change and diseases.

Amulen said there is need for an automated bee data because normal bee keeper inspection is time consuming, requires skills and knowledge, disrupts inside hive micro climate and risk of distributing bee diseases while useful variables such as temperature, humidity, gases cannot be ascertained.

“ Sensors should enable identify potential problems in colonies bee keepers can correct”

Manual way of inspecting bees

Manual way of inspecting bees

Dr. Amulen also said regular inspection of fruit fly traps is inconvenient, misses out on critical data points e.g., phenotype, density, diversity and relationships between variables such as population and weather toward prediction of infestation.

Traditional way of monitoring fruit flytraps

Traditional way of monitoring fruit flytraps

Dr. Rose Nakibule said the project plan is to have an integrated device, with multiple sensors for collecting insect specific, environmental and weather data.

Dr. Rose Nakibule speaking during the launch

“The concern is to help speed up the process of collecting and monitoring bees using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning”, she said.

Report compiled by;
Jane Anyango
Principal Communication Officer, CoCIS

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