Oct 20, 2014

Real time information system enables better decision-making for agriculture

Estimated Article Reading Time: 3 min.

In an interview with Geospatial World, Patricia Ornelas Ruiz, Chief Director of the Agrifood and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP) México, shares how her organisation is using geospatial technology as part of its workflow.

Can you tell us a bit more about the work of SIAP, its goals for the next years and the role of geospatial technology?

SIAP´s structures and provides information through the Web facility for agriculture and livestock named “red Agropecuaria web” (RAW), field staff, experts and administrative databases at national, regional and municipal levels. This information system covers more than 800 crops and other (processed) agricultural products, integrates information from other sources and enables SIAP to disseminate statistical and spatial information on agriculture to stakeholders. Earth observation is used for establishing a national reference mosaic, crop monitoring and identifying and monitoring of total cultivated area and individual parcels. Geo-referencing locates strategic processing other facilities to support of market information. The framework for geo-referencing is done at the national level, for different crops and includes fisheries and aquaculture.

The RAW system contains the following elements: identification areas under cultivation, identification of crops and livestock (with earth observation and UAVs), a library with spectral signatures (to recognise crops in different growth stages and conditions), yield forecasting of maize, wheat, beans, sorghum and sugar cane and verification of real area sown. The latter is very important to monitor and control the use of government subsidies. SIAP cooperates with CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Center, with headquarters in Mexico) in a number of projects to determine optimum application of nitrogen (in three valleys of Mexico). SIAP also cooperates with INIFAP (the Mexican research Institute for Agriculture and Fisheries) in pilot projects and provision of complementary data (soil and water).

The result is a (near-)real time information system on crops and producers. Advice is given in the form of comparison of the real production with the estimated production for selected crops. The goal is to increase competitiveness by increasing productivity of agroclusters. That makes it possible to reach more people and to provide yield information at such an early stage that decisions can be taken and the effect of a good or bad harvest can be anticipated. This enables better decision-making for agriculture and improved early warning and response in the case of extreme events. Information provision in coordination with the Ministry of Economic Affairs is very important to enable balancing of demand and supply, and to advise on changing of cropping patterns for economic development.

SIAP is the central node for distribution of satellite images (and associated information) within the Mexican Government. SIAP cooperates with SAGARPA, on distributing of these images at the national, state and municipal levels and disseminating the images to public universities and research institutes.

Do you face any challenges in the implementation of geospatial technology as part of more general information systems and how did/do you overcome these challenges?

One of the main problems with the implementation was the lack of access to Internet in some parts of the country. Out technical staff could not make use of the system, but this has been addressed. Another challenge is to keep the information in the system up-to-date, because there are so many changes. Capacity building in information gathering and use of the system was also important. Quantification of crops posed another challenge, as assessment of crops that are used for own consumption (subsistence farming) is difficult.

Are there success stories where geospatial technology (partly) contributed to improve farming operations or to the provision of services or advice by SIAP?

SIAP received an award for the rapid response to help areas affected by sudden meteorological phenomena. This is really an achievement that we are proud of. Additionally, compared to a few years ago, we now reach many more persons, also quite an achievement. The signing of agreements with different organisations, such as the National Council for Agriculture and Livestock (CAN) has been instrumental in reaching this goal.

International cooperation is expanding — with FAO, OECD, AMIS (G20), UN-GGIM, and countries around the Pacific Rim. Cooperation has provided opportunities that led to opening new markets and resulted in an increase in exports of agricultural production. In particular, this applies to cases where compliance with and adaptation to specific requirements of clients is needed, such as certification for the US and pork exports to Japan. Other promising sectors are horticulture (for urban consumers and export) and organic products (for export).

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