Data from Fruitlook online platform is helping Western Cape farmers to increase water use efficiency in agriculture.
Drought stricken Cape farmers have managed to improve their water usage by 10% with the help of Fruitlook online service, says the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.
Fruitlook is an online platform that allows a producer to determine how much water is needed for a specified amount of growth as well as whether too much water was perhaps used to bring forth a certain amount of growth.
The service – which is the brainchild of Dutch company eLEAF – is provided free of charge to farmers in the region by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. It was first introduced in 2011 by former director of sustainable resources at the provincial Department of Agriculture Andr’e Roux.
“GrapeLook was the predecessor to FruitLook, running during the 2010/11 production season,” explains Ruben Goudriaan, project manager of FruitLook at eLEAF, “It was a first attempt at providing satellite monitoring to farmers and only focused on wine and table grapes.
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From 2011/12 onward, fruit areas were included in the monitoring system, which was subsequently called FruitLook. This is now the seventh season in a row that the service is available to the agricultural community meaning six years of data is available, rendering the tool increasingly useful as time goes by.”
“To date we have mapped 5.7 million hectares of farmland, including the entire fruit producing area of 220 000 ha from Vredendal in the West to Montagu/Bonnievale in the East and De Doorns in the North,” says Ruben Goudriaan, “According to a survey a few seasons back, over 10% of the users indicated an improvement in water use of up to 30% while more than 60% of the respondents indicated increases in efficiency exceeding 10%.”
The Western Cape is currently experiencing its worst drought in more than a hundred years, with the last three years becoming more intensive, “In response to the third year of drought, demand for the service has grown and we recently appointed three technical coaches to aid users in interpreting the satellite data and using it in farm management. We now have 500 different users throughout the Western Cape,” says Goudriaan.
Premier Helen Zille, in her 2017 state of the province address, said the province is looking at innovative farming method to beat the drought, “The industry is being totally revolutionised, farmers no longer have to estimate how much water their crops need.
They can access accurate information on the water needs of their crops, field by field, at any given time through the app. Using only satellite and weather data, we are able to tell farmers how much water their crop used in the previous week, whether the crops experienced any water deficiencies and the actual biomass produced,” she noted.