The cassava plant helps feed 800 million people worldwide, but crops are being wiped out by viral diseases spread by a tiny insect called the whitefly. Outbreaks have at times reached epidemic proportions in parts of Africa, posing a serious threat to food security. In this video, produced by Cray, computational biologist Laura Boykin shares how scientists are working together to help East African farmers – 80 percent of whom are women – fight the pests and save this critical food source.
Applying supercomputing is essential to solving this problem, says Boykin, a senior research fellow at the University of Western Australia. “All the whiteflies globally look identical, so the only way you can tell them apart is to look at their genetics. Time is ticking. 800 million people need us to get it right.”
Boykin and a team of East African scientists have leveraged Pawsey Supercomputing Centre’s Cray Magnus supercomputer to develop defense strategies against the invasive whiteflies and make progress in the fight for food security.
“The end goal is to open high-tech labs in East Africa that have high-performance computing with genomic capabilities completely run by East African scientists,” Boykin states. “We want farmers to have more food and we want scientists on the African continent to have an equal voice.”
Watch the inspiring video below: