A mobile app has been developed that helps African farmers and vets quickly and accurately diagnose problems in cattle. If the livestock are ill then it will efficiently direct the user to find the appropriate remedy or help alert qualified support.
Statistics and knowledge improve herd management. The mobile solution has been developed by a Scottish based company, Cojengo Ltd. As it works and helps diagnosis conditions in the farms of East Africa so it also accumulates data, growing in value, with an ability to store and share the data gathered on disease surveillance and monitoring. Over time the build-up of statistics and knowledge will improve herd management.
Cojengo has established links to veterinary colleges and research centres focused on improving animal husbandry in Africa. Dr Dinka Ayana, Dean of College of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture at the University of Addis Abbas says, “We are excited to utilise this technology to improve veterinary healthcare in our country and the lives of those who rely on it.”
Speaking during the trials of the VetAfrica app Dr Ayana hoped the evidence would result in the service being introduced across Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, enabling the new technology to reach the tens of millions of farmers and vets across the region. Cojengo created a partnership with Microsoft Africa and from its beginnings in Glasgow during 2008 it has gone on to develop diagnostic tools and disease surveillance data for farmers in East Africa.
The first fruits of this work has been the VetAfrica app which not only diagnoses disease but provides advice on the right drugs to treat ailing livestock. Last year the founder and former CEO of Cojengo, Craig Taylor stated, “This is a huge milestone for us, we’ve been working on ground breaking new methods of performing diagnosis on a smartphone since the inception of Cojengo. To finally have statistically credible results from the field will give us the blueprint and model to scale a proven design and product.”
Since then Cojengo has been developing further services for vets and farmers. It has extended the product range to include anonline data analysis tool to help adapt the diagnostic engine for new markets. The company has announced a new VetAfrica Suite, which it claims is the continent’s first integrated product range to aid diagnosis, collect data from the field faster, make sense of it and target resources more effectively.
The independent field trials of the VetAfrica app and its development were conducted during 2015 in Ethiopia. It set out to evaluate the effectiveness of the app, demonstrating its reliability and effectiveness as a mobile health tool designed to work in Africa.
The trial was overseen by a team from the Atlantic Veterinary College from the University of Prince Edward Island, including researchers and academics from other universities.
According to Dr Crawford Revie, from the Canadian institution, it produced impressive results with around 70% of the suggested diagnosis offered by VetAfrica matching confirmed diagnosis.
Dr Revie says the finding, “…was impressive considering that this is the first time the app had been used in Ethiopia.” These statistics underline the potential of VetAfrica as a field based tool and opens up the possibility for farmers and less experienced veterinary professionals to make good decisions based on information received from the phone.
The app also acts as a passive surveillance device, as all of the data collected is uploaded to the Cloud and can then be used in a number of ways; for example, as part of a syndromic surveillance exercise – a good use of open data for farmers and rural vets. Dr Revie explains the value of open data in this process, “The diagnostic inference engine uses a data-driven machine learning approach and as such will only improve in terms of accuracy as more cases are recorded by local users of the system.”
Cojengo’s literature points to the ethos of the company which is driven by creating solutions genuinely aimed at improving people’s lives, save money and make people more productive. Focusing on the emerging African market, the company sees a real opportunity to help drive the adoption of mobile and cloud computing to address real issues in animal and human health.