Objectives of the service
HiVaCroM has two major objectives:
- Demonstrate the feasibility of using cloud-independent, satellite SAR observations for routine, operational monitoring of potato crop development
- Demonstrate that the SAR-derived canopy cover observations can be effectively integrated into existing potato yield models, enabling greater uptake and application of potato yield models to manage crop-related risk
Potato growers already have the opportunity to use existing yield models to access commercially important information about their crops, such as estimates of yield volume and estimates of optimum harvest date to maximise volume and tuber size distribution. Some yield models require observations of canopy cover development as one input for deriving the required metrics. The task of gathering these inputs requires travelling to fields to make observations, which can be labour intensive.
The remote monitoring capability provided by HiVaCroM has the potential to make it easier to derive canopy cover observations for potato yield forecasting. HiVaCroM canopy cover estimates are reliable and frequent (benefitting from the resilience of the SAR observations) as well as being automated and systematic. The service offers the potential to remove the requirement for growers to visit potato fields weekly to capture the canopy cover observations.
Removal of this barrier has the potential to enable the effective scaling of the use of existing potato yield models, increasing their uptake and improving the utility of these models at national scales.
Users and their needs
The end users of the HiVaCroM service are those organisations and individuals who are interested in potato yield forecasts and related crop performance metrics. The end user group includes:
- Farmers growing potatoes.
- Service providers to the farmers such as agronomists and precision farming experts.
- Packers, processors and wholesalers (PPW) who contract potatoes from growers and aggregate the crops to either package for consumers, process into other products such as frozen foods, or store until needed.
The needs of these end users are to obtain more reliable and earlier yield forecasts, in terms of both volume and tuber size distribution. Such forecasts should be available as early as possible during the growing season, and also be updated frequently as the growing season develops. Obtaining forecasts also has value to growers as a way to manage the crop during the season, and objectively evaluate field performance. Yield forecasting relies on inputting measures of the crop through the season, which can be time consuming. HiVaCroM has the potential to make this task easier by providing automatic measures of canopy development through the season.
The end users are not the clients of HiVaCroM. End users do not directly access the HiVaCroM products. HiVaCroM products are provided as inputs to the yield model operators, with the subsequent yield and crop performance insights then provided to the end users through third party software interfaces.
Eventually global but with an initial focus on UK, Europe and North America.
Service/ system concept
HiVaCroM delivers a primary product as input to existing potato yield models. The primary product is:
Canopy cover: canopy cover observations are generated systematically, every week throughout the growing season and are derived from Sentinel-1 SAR acquisitions. The workflow for generating the canopy cover products is highly automated and illustrated in the following diagram
HiVaCroM canopy cover products are being developed for integration with the NIAB’s best-in-class potato yield model
Space Added Value
The HiVaCroM service is enabled by the use of satellite Earth Observation data, specifically the SAR observations acquired by Sentinel-1A and Sentinel-1B.
The longer wavelength SAR signals are crucial since they are able to penetrate cloud and thus provide a reliable source of observations, with the required frequency, throughout the growing season.
Sentinel-1 acquisitions are routine and systematic at national scales, enabling the development of operational monitoring at scale, and thus unlocking the potential for commercially viable monitoring of potato canopy cover from space.
Cost effective remote monitoring is the key to removing the requirement for the current manual capture of the mandatory canopy cover information.
The HiVaCroM project is now completed. The project’s initial Proof of Concept study successfully assessed the technical feasibility of a SAR-derived % canopy cover product as an input into a potato yield model. Within Phase 2, an expansion of these Proof of Concept activities, using data from multiple years’ growing seasons identified some inter-seasons variabilities that limit the viability of the HiVaCroM services.
Also within Phase 2, the prospective key customer, NIAB, joined the consortium and have been involved in project activities to validate the technical feasibility, economic viability and to enable effective end user / grower engagement. This included informing their existing yield model clients of the potential of the HiVaCroM service.
The HiVaCroM system has been developed and deployed to demonstrate its ability to automatically ingest Sentinel-1 data to generate per-crop measurements and provide these to users. This has been demonstrated with NIAB acting as a proxy end user. The overall Pilot Demonstration Service has been limited to engagement with NIAB due to the identified limitations with HiVaCroM.
Additional Proof of Concept activities within Phase 2 have identified a number of alternative approaches to resolve these quality issues. It is envisaged that such future activities will enable HiVaCroM to become a viable service.