Rezatec has launched a new mobile application aimed at helping Mexican farmers improve crop productivity and stabilise their incomes to facilitate rural community economic development under the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme (IPP).
Wheat farming in the Yaqui Valley is at the forefront of new technologies for wheat compared to other parts of the developing world, however, the area was hit by a fungal disease (Karnal bunt), and export profits suffered. The effect from droughts from 1996 to 2004, also contributed to an overall fall in income from agriculture in the Valley of 40%. Average wheat yields are currently around 6.2 tonnes per hectare, with considerable variability from year to year. Annual profits from wheat production in the Valley varied by 60% per tonne from 2009 to 2017, with a steady rise in the total cost of production over time. Better management practices by smallholder farmers for nitrogen application, irrigation and weeds would help to improve yields and productivity.
The sugarcane industry currently generates more than 930,000 direct jobs and employs another 2.2 million people indirectly, contributing a total of around US$2.5 billion a year to the Mexican economy. The average yield is currently close to 70 tonnes of cane per hectare however smallholder farmers have below average productivity partly because they have not adopted modern methods of agriculture. They are also threatened by drought (especially because of under-developed irrigation infrastructure), pests, disease and weeds.
The overall challenge for both the wheat & sugarcane sectors is to transform both traditional extensive as well as modern intensive systems into sustainable systems producing more crop output with better use of resources and this requires better management of the interacting parameters controlling yield.
In response to these challenges, Rezatec has now launched a free mobile application ‘COMPASS V1.0’ (Crop Observation, Management and Production Analysis Service System) aimed at helping wheat and sugarcane smallholder farmers in Mexico, benefit from using Earth Observation (EO) satellite data with in field measurements to reduce production costs and increase crop yields. The ultimate aim is to ensure that farmer incomes become more stable, and therefore directly benefit farming families and rural communities, as well as addressing potential environmental issues.
Mexican COMPASS, is a four-year project launched in December 2016 under the UK Space Agency’s lnternational Partnership Programme (IPP), which aims to address real issues faced by emerging economies using satellite solutions whose outputs lead to a measurable and sustainable economic or societal benefit.
Ray Fielding, Head of IPP stated that “The UK Space Agency is delighted to be working with Rezatec on the Mexican Crop Observation, Management and Production Analysis Service System (COMPASS) project under our lnternational Partnership Programme. The release of this application will provide decision support tools to help Mexican farmers and smallholders to improve their crop management of wheat and sugarcane so that income stability is improved, thereby providing economic and societal benefit.”
Under the project, Rezatec has partnered in the UK with the University of Nottingham, supported by Booker Tate, and in Mexico, with CIMMYT (International Maize & Wheat Improvement Center) and MASCAÑA sugarcane research group from COLPOS (Colegio De Postgraduados).
Andrew Carrel, Chief Technical Officer, Rezatec commented, “Rezatec is excited to be part of the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme, contributing our Earth Observation and Data Science technology to enable positive social, economic and environmental change in Mexico. We look forward to building on the success of this project to help other farming communities around the world.”
The project aims to target at least 1,200 farmers in Mexico during the project, with initially 38 farmers currently engaged and providing invaluable field data via the new mobile app which will be freely available to farmers. The app will provide a portal for farmers to submit crucial information about their farming activities (such as sowing date, crop type and irrigation) and in return receive free recommendations as to when to undertake such activities in the future to maximum yield, as well as yield predictions.
Javier, one of the wheat farmers currently using the mobile app. said “The COMPASS App v1.0 is going to help me have all the management information from my fields handy and having the app. In the future advising on an optimum irrigation schedule to maximise my yield will be a huge benefit”.
Recently, the project was presented to the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture – SAGARPA, SIAP and INIFAP – and received very positive feedback, as well as offers of support from Government bodies to potentially extend the initiative for wheat and sugarcane farmers nationwide.
The services developed in the project will be sustainable after the funding from the IPP programme ceases through a fee-based subscription model whereby commercial companies, processors, government agencies and crop insurance providers will pay for enhanced datasets, aggregated data and more detailed analysis than the basic free data which is made available to smallholders.
The proven Mexican COMPASS model will be extended to other developing countries growing wheat and sugar cane to increase the viability and returns from using earth observation data to support smallholder farmers.
To find out more about the Compass project, click below.