This is my idea for the AI/Computer Vision E14Project.
I was gardening back in June/July when I noticed some brown leaves on one of my box plants. On closer inspection in the centre I found the culprit, a dark green caterpillar. That made me think about an article I had read previously. An online check confirmed my suspicions. This was the Box Caterpillar - a recent invasive species in the UK and one that was decimating box plants - think of the nice topiary and stately home hedges/mazes. Online advice from RHS was to start growing something else: a bit defeatist in my opinion. Other sites talked about pheromone traps, nematode worm sprays or nasty pesticides. The eco-friendly approaches were expensive and I wouldn't entertain the pesticide for risk to other insects.
They Are Crafty:
The caterpillars are hard to find. They are similar colour to the leaves. They pull the leaves in to make a bivy shelter for the night and then seem to move on. The solution for me was doing the rounds every few days with some tweezers and plucking them out. I also consolidated my work by choosing a few nice specimen plants to keep whilst digging out the remainder and burning them.
And "What Has That to Do With AI/Vision ?" I Hear Many Ask
What came first the moth or the caterpillar? Well in must have been the moth and we all know that they love a bright light at night so I cannot imagine that these are any different. I could make a trap and lure in moths using a bright LED but I'd end up collecting all different species. If I don't left the 'good' ones out they would die. But how about if I used AI to learn what the Box Caterpillar looks like? When it sees one in its vision it could automatically destroy it - perhaps via a laser or with high voltage?
Other Pests - Same Approach
The same could be applied to other garden pests - target mice but not voles? Rats but not the pet one or a Guinea pig? Locusts where they decimate farmland? Wasps but not bees? (actually wasps are very beneficial as well - just a bit of a pest if they make their home near your house). In the UK and Europe there is an insavive hornet that is killing honey bees. Flies would be a great one to eliminate when having a BBQ. Generally I try to leave nature to its own devices and welcome a nest of native butterfly lavae munching on my plants. But with no natural predators these invasive species are not kept in check - they absorb toxins from the box plant and even the birds don't eat them.
Current State of my Plants
The plague of caterpillars appears to have subsided for this year now and I have two very nicely shaped box plants still. The downside is that I'd have nothing to actually test this project against...
photo source, via external website: