CostCutting4Sugarcane - Optimizing mill revenue by improving harvest logistics and fertilizer management

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The CostCutting4Sugarcane services provide:

  • Insight into how much nutrients have been removed from the soil during harvest, and advice on the appropriate amount of fertilizer to be replenished at the start of the next season.
  • In-season field specific yield estimates as early as 4 months into the 12-14 month long growing cycle, allowing field managers to implement mitigation measurements on fields with low yield expectations.

Figure 1. Forecasting sugarcane fields for January 2020 and March 2020

Users and their needs

CostCutting4Sugarcane is targeting large commercial sugarcane producing companies. The feasibility and demonstration phases of the project are carried out in Colombia where three sugarcane mills are participating as potential customers of the services. The user segments that will benefit from these services are Mill Managers, Mill Operators, Agricultural Managers, Field Managers and Precision Agriculture Specialists working in sugarcane mills. They are in charge of mill facilities, field operations and engaged with the adoption of new technologies within the company.

Currently information on the volumes of sugarcane arriving at the mill facilities, largely depend on manual inspections that can only be done close to the end of season. Our yield forecast service estimates volumes of freshly cut sugarcane to be expected in the mill as early as 4 months into the 12-14 month season. Based on this, Mill Managers and Mill Operators can optimize mill logistics.

Agricultural Managers and Field Managers oversee field operations and guide field workers and farmers to increase sugarcane production while optimizing agricultural inputs like fertilizers.

At present, mitigation measures to increase yields can only be done early in the season, before the fields are no longer accessible due to plant density. Also, fertilizers are applied according to generic rules of thumb, not taking crop requirements into account. This results in over fertilized fields on one hand, and unutilized stock at mill level on the other, creating sub-optimal cash flow. The yield forecast service will provide continuous in-field information through the growing season, allowing managers to focus and prioritize agronomic actions. The fertilizer advice service will provide localized fertilization needs at field level based on in-field fertilization heterogeneity, resulting in targeted field-specific fertilizer applications and balanced fertilizer stocks at mill level.

Precision Agriculture Specialists are responsible for the implementation of state-of-the-art technologies for mill operations and field management. They will benefit from improved spatial and temporal information for precision agriculture practices like variable rate fertilization and field scouting.

Service/ system concept

All data processing and analysis is done using eLEAF’s processing infrastructure located at eLEAF’s Headquarters to provide quick access to the huge amounts of data (in-situ and satellite based models). The FieldLook platform supports the optimal interoperability with our user groups (24/7) through a website, Progressive Web Application (PWA) and Application Program Interface (API).

For the delivery of the information the CostCutting4Sugarcane relies on our FieldLook web-based portal. FieldLook presents the suite of services for sugarcane and allows a full interaction of the user with all the field data. The PWAs are designed to target single services to generate a fast and reliable functionality in rural areas with poor connectivity. The API provides developers the functionality to integrate FieldLook into their systems.  

The key system components are shown in the figure below.

Space Added Value

The CostCutting4Sugarcane system makes use of the following space assets:

Optical imagery from Sentinel 2A/B sensors and Landsat 8 data are used to calculate crop parameters at field level. Lower spatial resolution imagery from Sentinel 3, VIIRS and MODIS are used to calculate land surface temperature products, which are rescaled at field level.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data from Sentinel 1 A/B is used to calculate crop parameters at field level when optical information is not available.

Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) is used for meteorological inputs,

The satellite based imagery is sourced from a variety of satellite providers according with the attributes required.

Additionally the PWA for mobile devices will rely on SatNav positioning in order to facilitate access to data and field properties when visiting the fields.

Current Status

 

The project started in August 2019 and is planned to continue until May 2022. eLEAF has visited Colombia three times to discuss with end-users the convenience of the services and to understand the organizational structure of the sugarcane mills and responsibilities of the users. The user requirement analysis has been successfully completed in February 2020.

The project team concluded the prototypes for fertiliser advice and yield forecast to showcase their functionality during the completion review meeting of phase one in June 2020.  

The business relation between eLEAF and AgroAP, our potential business channel in Colombia, has resulted in positive discussions about the business strategy and their role for supporting the implementation of the services to the participating mills and promoting of services to potential new clients.

The first phase of the project has been successfully concluded.  End of June 2020 the project has started its second and final phase. During this phase the service will be complemented, piloted and assessed by the Colombian end-users and sugarcane mills. The next milestone of the project is the On-Site Acceptance Test (SAT).

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 06 July 2020 - Created: 06 February 2020