A set of ground-breaking innovations for the South African agricultural sector were showcased in the Western Cape yesterday, Tuesday 05 May 2015. Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, delivered the keynote address at a technology exhibition hosted by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture. The 11 projects were presented to stakeholders at the Percheron Hall in Elsenburg.
Minister Winde said innovation was a key priority for economic growth. “We are driving the technological revolution in the agricultural sector and in this financial year the Department of Agriculture is investing R108.8m into its Research and Technology Development Services programme. This is on top of the substantial sums the private sector is investing.”
Minister Winde said the new systems provided a gateway for industry and policy-makers in the Western Cape to the very latest intelligence coming from the sector, serving as an important decision making tool.
“These products create the right environment to compete internationally. The growth of the agricultural industry will be based on knowledge, innovation and technology.”
Minister Winde added that most importantly, residents across the province were able to easily access this information to grow their agri-businesses.
“The innovations created in the Western Cape have national and global application. You can see how these technologies, when used together, have completely changed the way we do business in this province’s agricultural sector. For example, the flyover data, through which we have mapped the agricultural landscape of the entire province, is changing the way we collect and analyse data.”
“Through applications such as CAMIS and AgriTouch, farmers are able to get high-tech satellite information, such as crop water levels, regarding their particular farm on their cellphones or by visiting one of the touchscreen kiosks.
“This technology presents massive potential to work smarter and increase efficiencies.”
Minister Winde said he was also pleased to launch the department’s new website, which went live during the exhibition. The previous website had been running for the past 20 years.
“The new website has been optimised for usability, includes more content and is easy to navigate. The website currently has close to 13,000 visitors each month and 30,000 page views. It will continue to be a valuable source of information and I am confident the new, upgraded version will reach an even larger audience.”
The technologies include:
Spatial intelligence project
This detailed airborne survey maps the footprint of the Western Cape’s agricultural sector. Around 250 000 fields were mapped and the land use identified, as well as thousands of infrastructure points. This project has paved the way for the introduction of several new technologies.
Western Cape AgriStats portal
This comprehensive web-based agricultural statistics portal is aimed at farmers, researchers and policy-makers. This included a census of all crops, agricultural infrastructure and agritourism ventures. In addition, the Department included its ongoing livestock census data which enables the user to now also access data on cattle, goat, sheep, horse, ostrich and pig numbers. Drawing from the airborne survey, the AgriStats portal seeks to inform decision-making. Access to the Western Cape AgriStats portal will be free and via the Department’s internet website.
Cape Farm Mapper
Cape Farm Mapper is a desktop web mapping application, which provides access to updated spatial intelligence. Through the use of open source and proprietary software, it can assist with decisions around agriculture practices, environmental management and farm planning.
It provides access to spatial databases and web services and has the following features:
- View, query, search and create spatial data
- Map navigation
- Familiar Bing, Google and OSM base maps
- SG Cadastre search (farms and erven)
- Layer view and query
- Feature drawing tools
- Data import and export (KML/GPX)
- Map printing
The following data sets can be accessed through Cape Farm Mapper:
- Erven and Farm cadastre boundaries
- Source: Surveyor-General
- Administrative demarcation boundaries
- Source: Municipal Demarcation Board
- Agricultural baseline parameters
- Dryland potential, land capability, grazing capacity, etc.
- Broad soil descriptions
- Climatic parameters (monthly temperature and rainfall)
- Atlas of Climatology and Agrohydrology (RE Schulze)
- Vegetation classification
- Water Resources
Cape Agricultural Mobile Information System (CAMIS)
The Cape Agricultural Mobile Information System (CAMIS) is a mobile app for farmers which provides access to key agricultural indicators. Developed by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s GIS unit, CAMIS is a location-based mobile web application which shares agricultural and natural resource information for the province. CAMIS represents a mini, location-based version of the CapeFarmMapper desktop web application.
The digital Smart Pen allows officials to electronically capture farm visit reports, creating paperless processes. The Department’s extension support programme offers financial advisory support to new farmers, with extension advisory officials conducting regular visits to supported projects. The introduction of the Smart Pen for these visits has dramatically improved access to information and increased productivity.
Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS)
The Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS) brings together the fly-over data and the digital pen technology. AIMS will provide an accurate and verified baseline of the current state of agriculture in the Western Cape. Combining spatial intelligence and the collection of interview data obtained at farms, the department will be able to monitor and track the effect of policy changes. It includes older data to ensure that comparisons can be made. Reports can be tailored to reflect specific requirements.
The interactive AgriTouch kiosk offers advice on market access, key sector indicators, agri-business promotion and information on departmental services. The interface is fully touch screen operated and has wireless, GPRS (3G) and LAN capabilities. Through this service, land reform beneficiaries and emerging farmers will have easy access to the information they need to take their enterprises forward. The project will be launched with a machine in each district, including Elsenburg and a couple at Thusong centres. The goal is to have kiosks in all municipal spaces.
Through Fruitlook, satellite technology is used to analyse crop growth and water use. The technology has helped farmers to improve their production, reduce costs and has raised awareness around water use.
FruitLook provides weekly updates on nine growth parameters such as actual evapotranspiration, biomass production and leaf nitrogen content which can help farmers understand the effects of farm management on their crop.
On FruitLook, wine and fruit farmers can register (delineate) their irrigation blocks and analyse crop growth and water status over time and space during the growth season.
FruitLook can help identify why yields in one field are higher than in the other and how irrigation scheduling effects crop growth.
The dataset behind FruitLook presents huge opportunities for statistical analysis of wine and fruit cultivation in the Western Cape. This includes linking crop growth and water use to soil type, slope, aspect and weather conditions.
The GreenAgri portal is an online tool outlining green agricultural practices and profiling the latest environmentally-friendly innovations. A partnership between the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and GreenCape, the portal will be officially launched next month. GreenAgri will provide a platform for collaboration and networking in the sector and monitor the latest developments in the green space.
Export certification system
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s vets have developed a comprehensive directory for exporters. This data system offers valuable information for local exporters including outlining accessibility of different markets and the requirements of trading partners. Vets issuing export certificates capture information about importing countries, this information includes template movement, export certificates and import permits.
The data system includes the contact details of all South African vet officials and export authorities. All information is classified according to species or product and is updated as market access expands.