Spain Tests Artificial Intelligence to Manage Fly

A predictive model using artificial intelligence has been developed to help farmers with pest management and ultimately improve production and reduce pesticide use.

Oct. 17, 2017
By Isabel Putinja

Recent News

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, Spain’s agri­cul­tural min­istry has launched a pilot exper­i­ment using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to pre­dict the evo­lu­tion of the olive fly.

The exper­i­ment uses data col­lected on the olive fly by the Andalusian Plant Protection and Information Network (RAIF), a project of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development. The data are ana­lyzed and fed into an arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence model that can pre­dict the fly’s behav­ior up to four weeks in advance by using machine learn­ing tech­niques.

This method pro­vides a valu­able tool for olive farm­ers to bet­ter man­age the pest by reveal­ing the areas and dates of the great­est risk of infes­ta­tion. This also allows for the more effi­cient plan­ning and design­ing of mea­sures to con­trol the pest. The aim of this pre­dic­tive model using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence is to ulti­mately improve pro­duc­tion and reduce the use of pes­ti­cides.

Those ben­e­fit­ing from the pilot project are Integrated Production Associations (APIs) made up of olive grow­ers work­ing in 10 munic­i­pal­i­ties in the province of Jaén and nine in the province of Cordoba in south­ern Spain. This includes 12 APIs made up of a total num­ber of 1,568 farm­ers with a total of 9,000 hectares of olive groves.


The RAIF net­work col­lects data and pro­vides infor­ma­tion on the phy­tosan­i­tary sta­tus of the main crops of the Andalusian region thanks to close to 700 field tech­ni­cians and 4,621 con­trol sta­tions located in each province. There are also 150 weather sta­tions record­ing infor­ma­tion on the cli­matic sit­u­a­tion in each crop area. Meanwhile, tech­ni­cians posted at each con­trol sta­tion take note of poten­tial pests or dis­eases.

Each week, the asso­ci­a­tions of grow­ers will receive infor­ma­tion pre­dict­ing the per­cent­age of their crop sus­cep­ti­ble to the olive fly so that they can bet­ter plan pest man­age­ment for that week. In return, the APIs are expected to report back with their obser­va­tions so that the pre­dic­tive model can be fur­ther improved.

The olive fly is a species of fruit fly and a dreaded pest for olive grow­ers across the Mediterranean region because of the severe dam­age it can cause to their crops. The pest was partly to blame for poor yields dur­ing the 2014 – 2015 har­vest sea­son which saw pro­duc­tion decrease by more than 50 per­cent in Spain and Italy, the world’s biggest olive pro­duc­ers.

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