Objectives of the service
The main objective of the project was to have a mature commercial service for sugarcane mills, that can be implemented operationally around the world, including in areas with substantial cloud cover. eLEAF has proposed two services to generate insight operationally into yield estimates early in the growing season and agricultural input requirements.
Users and their needs
CostCutting4Sugarcane is targeting large commercial sugarcane producing companies. The feasibility and demonstration phases of the project were carried out in Colombia where three sugarcane mills participated as potential customers. 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 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 thus sub-optimal cash flow. The yield forecast service provide scontinuous field information through the growing season, allowing managers to focus and prioritize agronomic actions. The fertilizer advice service provides localized fertilization needs at field level based on in-field fertilization heterogeneity, resulting in targeted field-specific fertilizer applications. This reduces 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 benefit from improved spatial and temporal information for precision agriculture practices like variable rate fertilization and in-field heterogeneity.
Service/ system concept
All data processing and analysis are done using eLEAF’s processing infrastructure located at eLEAF’s Headquarters. This provides quick access to the huge amounts of data (in-situ and satellite based models). The FieldLook platform supports the optimal interoperability for our user groups (24/7) through a Progressive Web Application (PWA) https://fieldlook.com/index.php/en/.
FieldLook presents a suite of services for sugarcane and allows a full interaction of the user with all the field data. The platform is designed to target single services to generate a fast and reliable functionality in rural areas with poor connectivity.
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 1A is used to calculate crop parameters açt 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.
The project started in August 2019 and ended in December 2022.
The user requirement analysis were successfully completed in February 2020. The project team finalized the prototypes for fertilizer advice and yield forecast to showcase their functionality during the completion review meeting of phase one in June 2020.
The second phase started with setting-up the data processing, platform and test of the operational environment. Readiness of the service was assessed on the On-Site Acceptance Test (SAT) meeting in March 2021. The duration of the pilot demonstration was from April 2021 until December 2022.
During the pilot demonstration a mature commercial service for sugarcane mills was achieved after verifying the technical viability of the service and demonstrating its value proposition for commercial sugarcane fields. During the pilot-demonstration, the activities of eLEAF were supported by AgroAP. AgroAP is eLEAF’s business channel in Colombia. AgroAP was also involved in the demonstration and development of the business strategy plan. This entailed capacity building for end-users on the interpretation of data produced from the services and establishment of a commercial relation with the participating mills for the roll-out of the services in the region.
The exploitation plan is to enter the market immediately after the pilot demonstration. Our entry pint is the participating mills and increase gradually to neighbor mills. From there we plan to expand CC4SC services to other sugarcane growing hubs.
The support of the European Space Agency and Netherlands Space Office was of paramount importance to demonstrate the benefits of EO services for the sugarcane industry in Latin America.