Malawian potato disease challenge motivates students

7 October 2014

A group of fourth-year students in the School of Computing (SoC) is celebrating after designing a prize-winning app to spot potato disease.

The students were set a brief by agricultural research specialists The James Hutton Institute (JHI) to help farmers in Malawi spot diseases which could devastate their crops.

The students had only three weeks to design a mobile application that could allow farmers to share information, swap photos of their potatoes, contained a database of information, as well as other layers of functionality.

Professor Lesley Torrance, from the James Hutton Institute, said she was impressed by all the students’ work.

She said: “They all created an app that a farmer could take out into the field and use. They were very good at following the brief and presenting their ideas.”

The winning team consisted of three computing science students: Alexander Grant, Ruaridh Murray and Jekabs Stikans; Victor Chow, who studies applied computing, and John Toma, who specialises in human computer interaction.

The team worked solidly over the three weeks, giving up evenings and weekends to make their application as good it could possibly be.

Victor said: “I think we succeeded because we had the right team. We were lucky that everyone in the group knew their field: programming, the interface, back end development and the database.

“We ended our presentation with a live demo, showing just how our application operates.”

Professor John Arnott, School of Computing, said the overall quality of the students’ work was very high.

He said: “It was a difficult task sorting out the good from the excellent and the great from the superb.”

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