Frost damage has been a frequent hazard for fruit growers in the Netherlands, getting worse with shifts in the growing season due to climate change. Wind machines can be a more sustainable alternative than sprinkling freshwater for frost protection, especially in regions where freshwater is limited or too brackish.

Last spring, FutureWater and HiView conducted flying sensor flights equipped with a thermal camera to map the temperature effects of wind machines for protecting fruit orchards against frost damage. The work was done in a larger research project with TUDelft aiming at capturing the effect of the wind machines on fruit frost protection at a fruit grower in Krabbedijke, the Netherlands. Read more about this project here.

A video was made to give an impression of the flying sensor activities, watch it here:

FutureWater, with TWIGA project partners HiView, Hydrologic and UFZ Helmholtz, have developed the farm extension service ‘MapYourCrop’. The MapYourCrop service uses drones, or flying sensors, to collect crop information with an unprecedented level of detail. What makes MapYourCrop unique is that flying sensor data is enriched with detailed crop status information collected by the smartphone app called ‘VegMon’.

After making the flying sensor crop stress maps, the VegMon app is used to zoom in to problem areas. Based on measurements, visual inspection, photographic evidence, and expert knowledge, the crop stress is identified and recorded with the app and a farm management advice is developed. The final advice is provided using the TWIGA platform. The farmer can choose to receive the advice in-person or electronically. MapYourCrop is currently tested by Mozambican drone and extension company. The company has a team of farm extension officers that are professionally trained as drone operators and have all the tools and knowledge to give advice to improve farming practices.

A video was made to highlight how MapYourCrop has been implemented, watch it here:

FutureWater has undertaken a Climate Risk and Adaptation assessment (CRA), commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), for two solar power plant and one wind farm projects in Bhutan. The goal of the ADB project ‘Renewable Energy for Climate Resilience’ in Bhutan is to diversify Bhutan’s energy portfolio. The expectation is that climate change impacts on the cryosphere and hydrology in Bhutan will lead to less reliable flows, particularly outside the monsoon season. This will make hydropower a less reliable source of energy, which may not be sufficient during the dry season.

Results from the CRA indicate that these assumptions are likely correct: future scenarios of climate change and hydrological changes project more erratic flows, meaning on one hand more extremes on the high end (floods), posing risks for hydropower infrastructure, but also through increasing sediment loads and risks of exposure to landslides and glacier lake outburst floods. On the other hand, a small increase in frequency and length of hydrological droughts is projected. Furthermore, projections of wind speed and incoming solar radiation indicate stable conditions compared to the present-day climate, further substantiating the rationale for portfolio diversification.

Read more about the project here.

Next week the Nuffic TMT training will start on ‘Climate smart irrigation strategies to improve salinity control and enhance agricultural production in Iraq’, provided by FutureWater and Wageningen University, in collaboration with Basra University. The training, using the FutureWater Moodle School, is aimed at building capacity of participants in accessing and using innovative public-domain data, tools, and models to analyse water resources to support climate-smart irrigation strategies. The training is structured around 3 training modules tailored around different tools for gaining insight into salinity issues, improving salinity control, and enhancing agricultural production in Iraq:

  1. Google Earth Engine: Geospatial mapping for water resources and agricultural applications using remote sensing and cloud computing
  2. SWAP modeling: Soil-water-plant modeling to determine optimal irrigation water allocations to control water tables and soil salinity
  3. ReWas toolbox: Crop water productivity options to achieve real water savings in irrigated agriculture.

We are looking forward to starting this training and hope to strengthen the collaboration and vibrant partnerships between Dutch and Iraqi institutions in the fields of water management, agriculture, and education!

This MIT feasibility project investigates the opportunities of an innovation project for determining the biomass potential from local nature management and green maintenance using the publicly available Lidar point cloud of the Netherlands.

The results of this feasibility project may lead to an innovative logistics support service where producers and consumers who play a role in the local biomass chain (e.g. nature management organizations, regional governments, energy producers) are provided advice and insight in the stock and availability of local woody biomass suitable for district heating projects or other local energy projects and biobased applications.

In the planned development path, a prototype of this service will be developed, demonstrated, tested, and validated for a pilot area. Using segmentation and classification algorithms, individual trees will be identified and tree-specific parameters relevant to biomass determination will be extracted. The economic perspective and market potential will also be investigated and relevant literature will be reviewed.

With a total annual turnover of approximately 500 million euros, the Netherlands is a major player in the production, import and export of fruits. In spring, when the night temperature drops below freezing point and fruit trees are flowering, fruit growers must protect their crops. If the flower buds were to freeze then no fruit is formed, resulting in enormous economic losses. Protecting the buds is usually done with the help of water, which requires an average of 30 m3 of water per hectare per hour. If several nights of frost occur the limit on water availability can be reached quickly. Moreover, if the quality of the water is not sufficient (e.g. due to salinity), the water can also cause damage to the crops. As a result, about 30% of the fruit companies in the Netherlands cannot use water for frost protection.

As an alternative to using water, wind machines to protect fruit trees against frost is emerging as a promising new and innovative technique. The propeller of the wind machine mixes the cold air with the higher, warmer air and can thus raise the temperature on the ground by several degrees. This feasibility project explores the opportunities of an innovation project for monitoring the effectiveness of wind machines for frost protection in fruit cultivation using flying sensors (drones) equipped with a thermal thermal imager. The results of this feasibility project may lead to an innovative information service intended for fruit growers to:

  1. Provide insight into the effectiveness of wind machines for frost protection as a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to spraying water. This service can target growers who already use wind machines and want to know how effective wind machines provide protection against night frost, but also growers who are considering wind machines and want to know to what extent the application can be suitable for their field.
  2. Advise how the application of wind machines can be optimized in the business operations of fruit companies. This includes optimal placement of the wind machine in the orchard and whether the wind machine is properly adjusted for the type of fruit being grown. This relies on what rotational speeds are needed for a given temperature increase, at what angle the propeller should be aimed, etc.)

A prototype of this service will be developed and demonstrated for a pilot area through a development process. An important part of the development trajectory is research into and development of a:

  1. State-of-art interactive visualization tool to visualize spatial information within a
  2. (beta) web application such as a dashboard to offer the innovative information service to the end user (fruit grower).

The power of flying sensors with thermal imaging cameras is that the temperature-increasing effect of wind machines can be measured very precisely and can also be mapped spatially. This visual information can provide the fruit grower with insight and confidence that wind machines are effective for frost protection.

This tailor-made training aims to build capacity in using tools to support climate-smart irrigation strategies to improve salinity control and enhance agricultural production. The training provides participants with relevant hands-on experience and cutting-edge knowledge on innovative solutions in earth observation technologies and apply this to assess measures for increasing water efficiency in agriculture, increase production and achieve water and climate-smart agriculture.

The training programme will consist of two e-learning training periods, that are separated by a 3-week period of regular on-distance support. The main e-learning training will take place over a 6-week period and is structured around 3 training modules that are divided into several training sessions. These training sessions are comprised of plenary video conferences and include assignments that can be worked on pairwise of individually. Attendance and progress are monitored through the FutureWater Moodle School. Each training module is tailored around different tools for gaining insight into salinity issues, improving salinity control, and enhancing agricultural production in Iraq:

  1. Geospatial mapping of climatic variables, soil salinity and irrigated areas using remote sensing and cloud computing.
  2. Soil-water-plant modeling to determine optimal irrigation water allocations to control water tables and soil salinity.
  3. Crop water productivity options to achieve real water savings in irrigated agriculture.

It is expected that the obtained knowledge and capacity in better mitigating soil and water salinization problems will be embedded into the organization(s) of the participants. This will contribute to a further increase in the agricultural productivity and food security in Iraq.

The goal of the Asian Development Bank project ‘Renewable Energy for Climate Resilience’ in Bhutan is to diversify Bhutan’s energy portfolio. Bhutan’s power sector almost exclusively relies on hydropower generation. Hydropower, however, is vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters caused by climate change. The first deployment of non-hydro renewables at utility scale in Bhutan will be the first step to diversify the power generation portfolio, increase the resilience against severe weather events such as droughts, and complement the hydropower generation profile during the dry season. Other renewable energy resources such as solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind can complement hydropower in forming a more diversified electricity generation portfolio, which is, in healthy mix, resilient to changes in seasonal weather patterns and weather extremes that can adversely affect power supply.

Within this project ADB develops two solar and one wind plant. FutureWater has undertaken a Climate Risk and Adaptation assessment (CRA) for these power plants, with a two-fold objective:

  1. Validate the underlying rationale for diversification of Bhutan’s energy generation portfolio. The rationale is that more unreliable flows under climate change adversely affect the hydropower generation, in particular in the low flow season outside the monsoon season. This are the seasons with high potential for solar and wind energy, under the current climate conditions. The diversification of Bhutan’s energy generation portfolio is considered as type 2 adaptation, related to system change and resilience building in the climate change context.
  2. Assess the vulnerability of the project components to future climate change and recommend adaptation options for climate-proofing of the design. This is considered as type 1 adaptation, related to climate proofing.

The rationale for diversification is related to the expectation that climate change impacts on the cryosphere and hydrology in Bhutan will lead to less reliable flows, in particular outside the monsoon season. This will make hydropower a less reliable source of energy, which may not be sufficient during the dry season. During these periods outside the monsoon season, the climate in Bhutan is characterized by clear skies and daily patterns of wind. This intuitively makes solar and wind suitable energy sources to complement hydropower.

The CRA concludes that this rationale holds when validated with future scenarios of climate change and hydrological changes. These project more erratic flows, meaning on one hand more extremes on the high end (floods), in itself posing risks for hydropower infrastructure, but also through increasing sediment loads and risks of exposure to landslides and glacier lake outburst floods. On the other hand, a small increase in frequency and length of hydrological droughts is projected. Furthermore, projections of wind speed and incoming solar radiation indicate more or less stable conditions compared to the present day climate, further substantiating the rationale for portfolio diversification.

For adaptation and climate proofing the main recommendation is to verify that the proposed drainage systems at the sites are sized for extreme flows that are 20-30% larger in magnitude than current extremes. This is valid across return periods. The second high priority recommendation is to design foundations of solar, wind, and transmission infrastructure to withstand increased erosion rates and substantially increased risk of landslides in landslide prone areas. A third recommendation is to take into account lower production for solar panels at increased frequency of heat stress, as well as in the sizing of capacity of transmission infrastructure, which may have reduced capacity during periods of high heat stress.

In 2017, AFD approved to finance the Water Resources Management and Agro-ecological Transition for Cambodia “WAT4CAM” Program Phase 1. This program will contribute to reduce poverty, develop the economy and reduce the vulnerability of rural populations to climate change by implementing a hydro-agricultural infrastructures rehabilitation program through an integrated approach, targeting the whole chain of water resources management, water services and agricultural production.

The strategy is to achieve intensification of cropping, modernization and climate smart practices to provide farmers with secure access to water. This is a challenging objective and a good understanding of the hydraulics of water flows in dry and wet season is needed. A consortium led by FutureWater was hired to perform WAT4CAM subcomponent 3.1, which concentrates on providing this understanding of both flood and dry season flows, demands and balance in the Preks intended for rehabilitation.

The initial stages of the project include the identification of current data, models and previous work, as well as a field survey with stakeholders. This information will be used to create an accurate and reliable modelling ensemble that makes maximum use of existing capacity in Cambodia. In addition, the consortium will use satellite-derived data products to (i) provide input to the simulation models, and (ii) calibrate and validate model results. Various sources of satellite imagery will be explored to map floods and irrigation practices, to implement an integrated “space hydrology” approach.

The modelling and knowledge generation from this study must support the other WAT4CAM components for the successful implementation of the Prek irrigation system improvements. The modelling itself is thus not the ultimate purpose, but rather the understanding and knowledge imparted to MoWRAM and the other components of the WAT4CAM program.

FutureWater’s role in the project is the overall project coordination and administration, as well as the implementation of satellite remote sensing and climate change analyses in support of the modelling components.

FutureWater, in collaboration with TUDelft and the TWIGA project, has participated in the Precipitation and Urban Hydrology session of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) conference which is held from 4-8 May. In response the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the EGU has gone completely virtual and hosted the EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online. This event will offer all geoscientists opportunities to share their research and stimulate scientific discourse during these unprecedented times.  During the session the added value of flying sensors (drones or UAVs) for urban hydrology and flood mapping was highlighted: it is a very effective means to map riverbeds and flood extent accurately across a wide area, even while the flood is happening or shortly thereafter. Flood mapping information is also very valuable in a long-term context, for drainage infrastructure planning and management.

The promises and challenges of deploying flying sensors for the purpose of urban hydrological modelling and flood mapping were discussed. This was illustrated a case-study in Kumasi, the second biggest and fastest growing city in Ghana, where urban flooding has become more frequent due to changes in the climate and have a more negative impact due to rapid urbanization and population growth. Not only are the natural flood plains increasingly being used for anthropogenic purposes, the increased population growth also brings along more solid (plastic) waste on the streets and into the riverbeds and riverways. This creates blockages in drains and riverways, which reduces its drainage capacity and adds to the flooding problems. Flying sensors were used to collect elevation information (DEM), riverbed dimensions and land-use. This information was used to construct a hydrological model to predict river flows and flooding.

Example applications of UAV imagery for flood mapping
Example applications of UAV imagery for flood mapping presented at the EGU.