Objectives of the service
The IAP (ARTES element 20) GrapeLook Demonstration Project executed during the 2010-2011 growing season highlighted the benefits of a pre-operational service to assist the grape sector in South Africa with the management of water and inputs. The current FruitLook project is a Contract Change Notice (CCN) to the GrapeLook project aiming at delivering an enhanced version of the previous pre-operational service and for another growing season. The enhancements implemented in FruitLook reside in i) the extension of the type of monitored crops from grapes only to grapes plus deciduous fruits (apple, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries ), ii) a wider service area, iii) an improved dissemination website and iv) the collaboration with Value Adding Partners as an additional user group of the service.
The final goal of FruitLook is similar to GrapeLook: promote sustainable and optimal resource utilization, reduce input costs (water, fertilizers, pesticides, labour, and energy), protect the environment, and ultimately increase water use efficiency (WUE) the production per unit of water - using satellite technologies.
FruitLook is funded by the Integrated Applications Promotion program of the European Space Agency and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (with support of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and HortGRO).
Users and their needs
Efficient irrigation water management and optimal application of inputs concerns three main categories of end-users:
- Governmental authorities and water user organisations, that need quantified information to better manage the reservoirs and identify areas requiring action;
- Farmers, farmer organisations and their advisors, who are in interested in better understanding the spatial variations between different farms, agricultural blocks and within blocks; and
- Third parties, called Value Adding Partners (VAPs), that add value to the FruitLook data by developing applications based on the data and converting the information into a management strategy.
The FruitLook data portal targets fruit and grape farmers in the Western Cape province of South Africa and value adding partners. Many farmers use the data to better understand the physical processes on their farm, evaluate strategies and correct farm management when and where necessary. Some farmers need however additional support to use the FruitLook data to its full potential. This can be offered by Value Adding Partners (e.g. farmer advisors and farmer service providers). In the frame of the FruitLook service, Value Adding Partners (VAPs) are considered to be early adaptors of new technologies, with existing network, contacts and local expertise and are essential to bridge the gap between FruitLook data and farmers.
Service/ system concept
The FruitLook service package provides crop information on a weekly basis disseminated through the data portal www.FruitLook.co.za. It allows users to register so they only need to download information on the blocks they are interested in. Weekly updates on 8 parameters provide a comprehensive understanding of the spatial and temporal changes in a block. To create the parameter data, the system requires no inputs of the farmer.
FruitLook does not intend to replace any existing system, but provides farmers with an extra source of information. FruitLook provides regular updates (weekly) on a spatial resolution (20m) that allows identification of differences within a block.
Many farmers use soil moisture systems which show hourly changes in soil moisture, and the exact moment to irrigate. The FruitLook data helps a farmer to identify the most representative location in his block for such a system, and how to extrapolate the soil moisture information in this particular point.
A number of companies in South Africa offer airborne vegetation index mapping to identify sampling areas prior to harvest. Aerial photography has a higher spatial resolution than the FruitLook data, but the high costs do not allow weekly acquisitions. The combination with FruitLook allows a farmer to have weekly updates on the spatial changes on his farm, while maintaining a detailed understanding of the spatial variations visible in the aerial photography.
Space Added Value
There are two space assets mobilized in the FruitLook project:
- Satellite Earth Observation: to run the existing energy and water balance algorithms of eLEAF that create the parameter data; and
- Satellite Communication: to transfer the remote in-situ validation data to eLEAF processing centre of in the Netherlands.
The added value of using different space assets can be summarized as follows:
- Objective source of information;
- Improved completeness and consistency of the results;
- Quick availability of the data;
- Seamless integration with terrestrial assets;
- Deployable in remote or hardly accessible areas; and
- Improved knowledge on variability in vineyards/orchards over space and time.
The new data portal www.FruitLook.co.za was launched in January 2012.Demonstration workshops were offered in all study areas.The data portal allows a user to monitor his blocks with weeklfy updates on water stress, biomass production and nitrogen status. A dedicated team produced weekly updates for the data portal until the end of the season (April 2012). The quality of the data provided is validated using in situ measurements of soil moisture and energy fluxes.
The Mid Term Review meeting took place at 26 April 2012. In the same week a team visited Western Cape to determine the requirements of the Value Adding Partners.
Evaluation workshops were organised in June 2012 in different areas covered by the FruitLook project. The Final Review was held on 6 July 2012, in ESTEC. At this date more than 270 users have registered to the website and this number keeps on growing, showing a large interest for the pre-operational service. The evaluation of the farmers and Value Adding Partners with regards to the benefits derived from the service is very positive. A majority of the questioned users are eager to continue using the service and assessing its benefits during the coming years and, eventually, pay a yearly fee for its provision.