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AgriSatwebGIS®: a tool for efficient water management

  • AgriSatwebGIS®: tool for efficient water management
  • Authors: Andrés Cuesta, Alfonso Calera, Vicente Bodas, Anna Osann, Javier Sánchez, Raúl Moreno and David Cifuentes

Knowing the water needs of an agricultural parcel ahead of time means a competitive advantage; a new technology development by the University of Castile-La Mancha and the company Agrisat Iberia S.L. meets that need through the use of satellite images.

On-the-fly multilingual support offers translations into almost ten languages, and can be expanded by adding new language dictionaries

Thorough water management in agriculture should be contemplated from the point of view of all stakeholders, meeting the information and knowledge needs of each one of them: from farmer support regarding parcel-level irrigation decisions, to collection and handling objective information at the basin level, and planning and control by user associations. Nowadays we cannot conceive this massive task without using available technology tools, but talking about complex technologies means talking about a high degree of specialisation, which often is beyond individual capacities. In this context, successful solutions arise from collaboration among very different entities. An example of this is the collaboration between the Division of Remote Sensing and GIS of the University of Castile-La Mancha and the company AgriSat Iberia S.L., who work towards continuous innovation to, first, transfer complex knowledge to the farmer in the format of simple services that can be directly applied.  Then, the information generated at the parcel level can be scaled up to the level required by the entities or authorities involved in water governance; finally, efforts and resources are used in research, development and innovation based on user perceptions, the extent of adoption, and suggestions for improvement.

The latest outcome of this fruitful collaboration has been an application that integrates information about the crop condition from satellite images, to predict reliably at the parcel scale (with a 100 m2 resolution) the water needs for the following week. This allows quantifying, at any point of the crop cycle, the accumulated water demand, and aggregate it to the farm level, the level of the irrigation association, or the basin level. Based on the estimation of the relative photosynthetic activity obtained from the images, it is possible to know the evolution of crops throughout their development cycle, as well as the spatial variability, in a simple and user-friendly manner.

AgriSatwebGIS® offers, thanks to its internal architecture, the possibility of making queries about specific locations and time periods

There are three technologies which jointly facilitate this important leap in water management: remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and information and communication technologies (ICT). AgriSatwebGIS®, as this new platform is known, is conceived as an online GIS (webGIS) that integrates Earth observation technologies. This type of platforms are traditionally used to show large land surface areas efficiently, using, for example, orthophotos, as in the case of the Spanish agricultural land GIS viewer, SIGPAC. Therefore, it has a map viewer that allows viewing and analysing different sources of Earth observation data (raster data), as well as georeferenced vector layers. It includes, as a novel thing, tools to manage and do a time-based analysis of raster information, mostly satellite images, through the tile layers containing time information; handling this type of data is its main advantage versus a traditional map viewer. For that, it uses as a main source of information dense time series of free images from the main Earth observation satellites operated by NASA and the European Space Agency. The structure of this type of layers (time-based tile layers) enables having sets of images from any global map reference system, organised in time and space, managing swiftly, in the same layer, information on large surfaces through satellite images. It also enables handling different sources of raster information (images from different satellites and/or flights) with different resolutions, creating a map view that can represent time-based information with different configurations.

AgriSatwebGIS® offers, thanks to its internal architecture, the possibility of making queries about locations and specific time periods in order to view and analyse the evolution over time of parameters related to the crop condition. Taking into account the pixel size of images (10 X 10 square metres), being able to make this type of queries is equivalent to having a virtual sensor network or grid in the agricultural parcel with 100 m2 quadrants, with data that can be consulted independently for each one and compared.

It offers tools to manage independently spatial data sets, and process and show analyses of the information contained in them. It is a powerful tool to analyse data generated by external models and take advantage of viewing large size and complex data bases, as well as analyse how the information they contain evolves over time.

This new tool has evolved from the SPIDERwebGIS® platform, one of the best known webGIS platforms nationally and internationally

This new tool has evolved from the SPIDERwebGIS®platform, one of the best known webGIS platforms nationally and internationally to query and use data from time series of satellite images. The development of this new application is based on a technological leap and a modular design that allows it to grow and expand in a swift, flexible and organised way. This new development philosophy is, as a result, more practical and has greater potential and interoperability, in line with the current standards of the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), which define open and interoperability standards for GIS. In addition, you can view and query data from the external services of other public or private SDIs (Spatial Data Infrastructure) that provide their data according to those standards.

The user friendliness and graphical design is noteworthy, thanks to the collaboration of experts in the design of this type of online services. It can be used with any kind of devices, including touch-sensitive ones like tablets and smartphones.

We may also highlight its versatility and flexibility: it can be adapted to the needs of a broad range of user profiles, including agricultural sector multinational companies, agri-food producers, distributors, technicians, cooperatives, irrigation associations, researchers and of course, farmers. It allows customising information access and management, from editing records, to uploading and downloading raster and vector geographic information. This software can be customised for each user and project; it is possible to create working groups with a local and/or global geographical scope; this includes the customisation of the viewer and setting up custom styles to present the geographical information for each user or working group, following the style of the most commonly used Content Management Systems. You can configure selective access to information and management of system layers based on spatial, time-based or alphanumeric criteria for each group, as well as a series of useful combinations of permits and restrictions.

We may highlight its versatility and flexibility: it can be adapted to the needs of a broad range of user profiles

On-the-fly multilingual support offers translations into almost ten languages, and can be expanded just by adding new language dictionaries.

Also to note is the capacity to make multicriteria spatial queries with a powerful advanced filter, with results than can be presented both as a data base and in a map.

All these new features make it much more attractive to users with a more advanced profile, who manage large areas with many and diverse land parcels, such as cooperatives, technical consultants, irrigation associations or river basin authorities.

It can also be connected to the well-known AgriSat® app for mobile devices; both applications are part of the new AgriSat® system to process, manage and use information. As an online tool, it can be accessed from anywhere through an internet connection, and it is a 'live' system which can be expanded in terms of features, but also in terms of the quantity and quality of the information sources, allowing access to each new improvement immediately.

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