Jesuit High student creates app to fight crop disease

A news segment on television planted the seed for one Beaverton high schooler to develop a solution to crop disease around the globe.

Jesuit High School senior Samyak Shrimali was sitting at his kitchen table doing homework during his sophomore year when he heard news anchors on television covering the issue of food insecurity.

After hearing a few facts about how crop disease can affect the livelihood of farmers — especially in developing and undeveloped countries — he began to research how he could help.

“Their whole lives depend on how much they can produce and sell,” Shrimali said.

He’d already been interested in technology and computer science, creating AI-based solutions for patient infections in the healthcare field. So Shrimali figured he could use his working knowledge of AI to innovate a new, easy-to-use way for farmers to understand and mitigate diseases in vital crops.

“I strongly believe that technology is good and can solve problems that are in society currently,” he said.

It took Shrimali a few months between researching, training the AI and designing the phone application, though he added, “The work is never really done.”

His phone application, PlantifyAI, can detect 26 diseases across top crop species like apples, strawberries, and corn and direct farmers to treatment options in their area. In testing, the app was correct in disease identification about 95% of the time.

“It can give power to the farmers with a touch of the finger,” Shrimali said.

Shrimali brought his app out into the field — to be precise, a few botanical gardens around the Portland area — with plant disease experts, who said his app could be revolutionary for farmers.

PlantifyAI is available in the Google Play store.

Shrimali plans to scale the app to reach more audiences and includes additional features like translation, speech-to-text, and even a blog feature where farmers can connect with their neighbors about sustainable practices.

After launching his app, Shrimali stumbled across the Children’s Climate Prize — a global competition to support young people’s solutions to climate change.

He said he saw the competition as a way to get funding but, more importantly, to get publicity for the application.

Shrimali was named a top-five finalist for the prize among hundreds of applications worldwide.

“It was an amazing feeling to be named a Children’s Climate Prize finalist in the amazing group of high school students looking to change the world and tackle sustainability issues,” Shrimali said.

Shrimali said most of his coding skills were self-taught after he was introduced to this engineering field at a young age.

He credits Jesuit science teacher Lara Shamieh and Portland State University professor Christof Teuscher for supporting his various research interests through high school.

Outside of PlantifyAI, Shrimali has multiple published research papers for his work to reduce hospital-acquired infections, which account for thousands of deaths each year.

He created a system to track and enforce nurse hygiene and begin early diagnosis for various infections.

Shrimali was named a Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar for this work in 2023.

Before that, he was the 2021 Microsoft Imagine Cup Junior Global Winner, a 2021 International GioGENEius Challenge finalist, and an at-large fair winner.

“I have a strong belief that youth have the power to change the world,” Shrimali said. “No one is too young to innovate.”

For his hospital-acquired infection work, as well as PlantifyAI and other pursuits, Shrimali has six independent papers published or pending publishing, has presented at over 15 national and international conferences, and has received over $10,000 in grants.

Outside his research, Shrimali is the Jesuit’s Science Olympiad team captain and holds leadership positions in the research club and the South Asian culture club. In addition, he is part of Next Generation Nations Portland, the Beaverton Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board, and traveled to New York in April to play piano with the Jesuit High School jazz band.

Shrimali will graduate in the fall and is looking to study computer science, possibly at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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