To facilitate the needs of ZIPAK, this training aims to build data-driven capacities relevant to sustainable nature conservation practices and ecosystem-based natural resources management in Iran:

  • Leveraging the Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP) for performing climate risk and vulnerability assessments
  • Leveraging the online dashboard Earth Map for environmental hazard mapping and socio-economic risk assessments
  • Applying the InVest model (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) for assessing ecosystem service provision

The training focuses on knowledge and skills development and how how to meaningfully integrate these capabilities into ZIPAK’s objectives on sustainable management of the environment and natural resources.

Last week, Martijn de Klerk, Corjan Nolet, and Tijmen Schults provided an in-person training on Climate Smart Agriculture and geodata and modeling tools for participants representing SMEs from the Egyptian agricultural sector. The training was part of the SASPEN (Sustainable Agriculture Service provision Enterprise Network in Egypt) project, implemented by Care Egypt

The training took place at Care Netherlands in The Hague and was initiated by Care Egypt Foundation (CEF) and funded by the Dutch Embassy in Egypt. The aim of the SAPSEN project is to connect Egyptian agribusiness professionals from small and medium enterprises to Dutch projects, companies, and other partners in the agricultural sector to strengthen collaboration and stimulate the exchange of knowledge.

During the training FutureWater provided, 11 enthusiastic participants from various agricultural companies listened to a variety of topics surrounding Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). The participants acquired hands-on experience in the use of online portals for the retrieval of geodata for agriculture and were handed several tools to perform data analysis. The agribusiness professionals indulged in discussions and participated in interactive quizzes related to CSA, geodata tools, drones, and crop modeling. The day was successful in bringing ideas and businesses together.

The in-person training will be followed up by two online training sessions covering advanced topics such as an introduction to ‘Real Water Savings’ (REWAS), water productivity interventions, open data portals for climate change information, and open access data solutions for the agricultural sector.

 

Presentation provided by FutureWater colleague Tijmen Schults
Presentation provided by FutureWater colleague Corjan Nolet

Early July, Martijn de Klerk, flying sensor expert at FutureWater and Jan van Til, operational manager at HiView, gave a one-week training at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya on the use of drones for agriculture. The course was part of the farm extension service ‘MapYourCrop’ developed by FutureWater, as part of the TWIGA project, with  partners HiView, Hydrologic and UFZ Helmholtz.  

The MapYourCrop service uses drones, or flying sensors, to collect crop information with an unprecedented level of detail and provide it to final users through an interactive portal. 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.  

To ensure the sustainability of the ‘MapYourCrop’ service FutureWater and HiView organized a training week to transfer knowledge on using flying sensors in an agricultural context, to one of the African TWIGA partners: Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya. The interactive, physical training took place with a group of around 16 enthusiastic participants, from 4 to 8 July 2022 at the premises of Strathmore University..  

The training focussed on the following aspects: 

  • Piloting skills: Safety management and controlling the drone in manual and automatic modes 
  • Image processing skills: Producing orthomosaics and crop stress maps and georeferencing 
  • Skills regarding tools for imagery viewing and reporting 
  • Knowledge about interpretation of the flying sensor imagery 

The TWIGA project, which is funded by the European Commission, aims to provide actionable geo-information on weather, water, and climate in Africa through innovative combinations of new in situ sensors and satellite-based geo-da ta. With the foreseen new services, TWIGA expects to reach twelve million people within the four years of the project, based on sustainable business models.  

Field demonstration
Flying sensor demonstration in the field
Processing skills training at office
Participants
Trainers and participants

 

On 17 June associate Jan van Til from HiView accompanied his colleagues from ThirdEye at a presentation day for potential clients. ThirdEye is a Mozambican drone service company that was established in 2015 by FutureWater and HiView. At this day, that was partly held in a venue in Chimoio and partly in a field near Chibata, 12 participants had the chance to meet with the team and get informed about all applications that are possible with Flying Sensors (drones), specifically in the agriculture sector. All participants were very enthusiastic, as the evaluation forms stated. The outcome is real perspectives on assignments in the region of Chimoio.

On 21 June the same team was present in Tete at the headquarters of the Agençia de Desenvolvimento do Vale do Zambeze, the lead partner in our common APSAN-Vale project that is supported by the Dutch government. This day we organized a short course on the use of Flying Sensors for agriculture, focusing on practices in field and on processing skills at the office. During the day we built up a good relationship with the agronomists of the Agençia. One day proved to be too short, which was the only comment from the very enthusiastic group. Both HiView-ThirdEye and the Agençia will do their best to have a follow up training in the future lasting at least a week.

Jan van Til’s visit was part of the APSAN-Vale project that FutureWater and HiView are undertaking in Mozambique. The project has as its overall aim to increase climate resilient agricultural productivity and food security, with a specific objective to increase the water productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in Mozambique, prioritizing small (family sector) farmers to increase food and nutritional security. This project will demonstrate what the best combinations are of adoption strategies and technological packages, with the largest overall impact in terms of Water Productivity, both at the plot-level, sub-basin as well as basin-level. The main role of FutureWater is monitoring water productivity in target areas (both spatial and seasonal/annual variation) using flying sensors in combination with a water productivity simulation model and field observations.

Processing skills training at office
Flying sensor demonstration in the field
Short course on the use of Flying Sensors for agriculture

FutureWater’s partner HiView has completed the prototype of their latest innovation, the Rapid Eye XS. This ultra light drone is designed in the first place for the use in small scale agriculture, but has many other potential applications. It can process NDVI imagery on-board, and is very easy to use. FutureWater played a prominent role in the development of this revolutionary system, partly thanks to the TWIGA project, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme. 

Features

The prototype of the Rapid Eye XS is equipped with a Raspberry Pi near-infrared camera that can be used to monitor crop performance. It can be launched very quickly using a single button on the remote control. It has a return-to-home function to make sure the drone will always find its way back.

Once airborne the camera can be triggered through a radio connection, with a range up to 400 meters. Right after capturing the image at a typical height of 120 meters, an NDVI map is produced on the fly in as little as 12 seconds.

A global premiere: NDVI processing on board

Shortly after landing, the NDVI map can be downloaded in-field on any mobile phone or tablet through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can be viewed instantly in the field, without needing complex time-demanding processing skills that are usually required.

Easy-to-understand colors on the map indicate healthy and problematic zones, which the agronomic pilot assesses in the field right away, together with the farmer. In this way the map is used to provide real time advisory to farmers on how to improve their crop growth.

Real time in- field advisory

As these farmers usually have limited access to resources and are often hindered in their access to information, this real time advisory will help improve their farming practices and increase their yield and water productivity.

Agronomists and farmers from all over the world are already responding very positively to the first prototype of this innovative small scale drone. By downgrading the performance requirements and with a cost price of just a few hundred euros, the Rapid Eye XS is going to be a real game-changer for smallholder farmers in developing countries.

Field demonstration with farmers in Mozambique.
Inspection of the new drone in Mozambique.

Agriculture is a key sector of the Rwandan economy; it contributes approximately 33% to the gross domestic product and employs more than 70% of the entire labour force. Although some farmers are already using water-efficient irrigation infrastructure, too much of the available water is still lost due to unsustainable use of existing irrigation systems, and/or maximum crop yields are not achieved due to under-irrigation.

Hence, small to medium-sized food producers in Rwanda do not have sufficient access to information regarding optimal irrigation practices. To close this information gap, FutureWater has devised an innovation that can calculate a location-specific irrigation advice based on Virtual Weather Stations, expressed in an irrigation duration (“SOSIA”). The use of the outdated CROPWAT 8.0 method, and the lack of good coverage of real-time weather stations in Rwanda, means that current advice falls short. In addition, existing advisory services are often too expensive for the scale on which small to medium-sized farmers produce. There is a potential to increase the productivity of the irrigation water by up to 25%. Initially, the innovation will be disseminated via the Holland Greentech network, with a pilot in Rwanda consisting of 40 customers.

FutureWater has found with Holland Greentech an ideal partner to roll-out this innovation due to their presence in and outside of Rwanda, where they provide irrigation kits and advice. This offers the opportunity to quickly scale-up the proposed innovation. With their expertise in agro-hydrological modeling and the African agricultural sector, FutureWater and Holland Greentech respectively have acquired ample experience to make this innovation project and its knowledge development to a success.

The tools can be accessed through online URLs for the Virtual Weather Stations and for the Irrigation Advisory Tool.

In April, Vera Hollander, Water Management Expert at FutureWater, visited Mozambique for the APSAN-Vale project. This project will demonstrate what the best combinations are of adoption strategies and technological packages, with the largest overall impact in terms of Water Productivity, both at the plot-level, sub-basin as well as basin-level.

The project has as its overall aim to increase climate resilient agricultural productivity and food security, with a specific objective to increase the water productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in Mozambique, prioritizing small (family sector) farmers to increase food and nutritional security. The main role of FutureWater is monitoring water productivity in target areas (both spatial and seasonal/annual variation) using Flying Sensors in combination with a water productivity simulation model and field observations.

The visit consisted of various activities around the project. In Chimoio, FutureWater worked together with the three operators that are responsible for the Flying Sensor flights, and met with the local consortium team that implements the project. In addition, the team travelled to the three project locations: Barue, Nhamatanda and Moatize.

During these visits, several appointments took place with the project team on the ground in each district and with the farmers that participate in the project, to see their fields and hear about their experiences. It was a very nice and fruitful trip and we look forward to continue our work on the project!

Farmers in the fields
Project team
Farmers advisory in the field

InfoSequia is the Drought Early Warning and Forecasting System developed by FutureWater to support the decision-making and risk management of drought impacts. InfoSequia rests on an advanced cloud computing and geoprocessing architecture able to effectively integrate large volume of data from satellite, reanalysis and ground-observation networks, with machine learning techniques to generate local-tailored seasonal outlooks of drought risk failures at the river basin and agricultural district levels.

InfoSequia has been recently and effectively integrated into the TWIGA geoportal, a platform that offers to African users the possibility for accessing data from ground-observation networks, and climate or agro- services with monitoring and forecasting capabilities.

The new and enhanced InfoSequia indices and products are operationally delivered for the Inkomati River Basin, a transboundary basin which extends through South Africa, Eswatini and Mozambique.

This lite service includes a full suite of 3 dekad-based (10-days) meteorological drought indices and 3 dekad-based vegetative health indices, all of them timescale aggregated at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months, and updated every month. The service is easily scalable and user-tailored to other regions of Africa upon request and agreement with FutureWater. Thanks to the advanced front-end capabilities of the TWIGA portal, users can easily access InfoSequia data and incorporate them into dashboards specifically set up according to their information needs.

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

More information about the FutureWater’s approach on Water Scarcity and Drought can be found here.

 

One-pager brochure of InfoSequia-TWIGA for Africa. Downloadable as PDF here.

 

The NARC (National Agricultural Research Centre) is the governmental agricultural research institution at the national level in Jordan, and is the national umbrella for the applied scientific research and agricultural consultation.

Training courses, conferences, and specialized workshops are organized by NARC at their research centers throughout the country. This extension service can be improved with information on spatial data and near-real time observations, as can be generated through remote sensing technology. In particular, flying sensor (drone) technology provides added value to agricultural extension services. Flying sensor technology has observed a growing interest and demand in the agricultural sector of Jordan. To meet these training needs, IHE Delft is collaborating with FutureWater and HiView in providing this TMAT (tailor-made training).

The overarching objective of this TMAT program is to provide participants with practical knowledge on flying sensors and its relevance for the agricultural sector. The modules and topics are structured as follows:

  • Module 1: Basic Understanding of Flying Sensors (background, technology, and setting up drone units).
  • Module 2: Imagery Processing (with ICE, Metashape, and ODM software).
  • Module 3: Crop monitoring
  • Module 4: Advisory services and data dissemination.

Today FutureWater and HiView kicked-off stage 2 of the Nuffic TMT training course on ‘Crop models and remote sensing for water management in agricultural systems’ at Egerton University in Nakuru, Kenya. After a series of online training courses in stage 1 last year, this in-country follow-up training focusses on flying sensors (drones) for agricultural systems. The training will allow the staff to gain advanced skills in working with flying sensors and satellite-derived data to support agricultural and water-related challenges, such as pests and diseases, water efficiency in agriculture to enhance food security, and drought monitoring. 

Egerton University (Crops, Horticulture & Soils Department) is partnering with FutureWater and HiView (the Netherlands) to conduct a tailor-made training on ‘Crop models and remote sensing for water management in agricultural systems’. The training project for Egerton University is a Tailor-Made Training (TMT), as part of the Orange Knowledge Programme, funded by Nuffic and will enhance capacity in accessing and using innovative data and tools in the public domain, to analyse crop performance and irrigation management.

In March and April 2021 FutureWater, together with HiView, conducted a series of online training courses on flying sensors (drones), agricultural applications, hands-on processing and interpretation of aerial imagery, setting up a drone unit, the use of WaPOR to access remotely sensed derived data, and real water savings in Kenya. In the comprehensive course, HiView and FutureWater reached out to more than 260 participants. A team of four lecturers delivered nine training sessions, in a period of just over 5 weeks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the course was done completely online through FutureWater’s Moodle platform, dedicated to educational use. The participants received this new form of knowledge sharing enthusiastically.

After the online training sessions now a second in-country training will take place with a smaller group, focusing on the use of drones in agriculture. From 24 to 28 January 2022 a selected group of 15 to 20 members will be trained. To maximize the impact representatives from Egerton University, other institutes, ministries and private sector companies were invited. Focus will be on staff with lecturing responsibilities, to ensure impact on higher education provision and transfer of the new skills to students. For public sector representatives, the training objective is to obtain skills that can be directly and sustainably implemented in their respective organizations.

The current training will focus on the following aspects:

  • Piloting skills: Safety management and controlling the drone in manual and automatic modes
  • Image processing skills: Producing orthomosaics and crop stress maps and georeferencing
  • Skills regarding tools for imagery viewing and reporting
  • Knowledge about interpretation of the flying sensor imagery

The training is conducted by:

  • Martijn de Klerk, general director and flying sensor expert at FutureWater, the Netherlands
  • Jan van Til, operational director and certified drone pilot at HiView, the Netherlands
  • Veronicah Nyaguthii, AgPilot at ThirdEye Kenya
  • Purity Kinya, AgPilot at ThirdEye Kenya
  • Anthony Kibe, professor at Egerton University (training host)

Application of the new skills will be stimulated by assigning the participants clear, tailor-made goals at the end of the second training session, to be worked on during the distant-support period. After the second training stage, an online symposium will be organized for a larger audience including the superiors/managers (who most of the times are the final decision makers) of the training participants and representatives of similar organizations. During this knowledge sharing event, trainees and trainers will actively provide contributions to showcase the newly gained skills and their added value to the respective institutions and the Kenyan agricultural sector in general.

This project forms an important step in the capacity building strategy as it focuses on strengthening the universities and preparing them to provide high quality education to the future generation agronomists and agricultural managers, as well as upgrading the knowledge of current professionals. Overall, the Kenyan society at large will benefit from improved food security provided by well-educated agricultural researchers and professionals.

The team of trainers: Martijn de Klerk (FutureWater), Veronicah Nyaguthii (ThirdEye Kenya), Antony Kibe (Egerton University), Purity Kinya (ThirdEye Kenya) and Jan van Til (HiView).
Introduction in the classroom.
Instructions in the field.
Manual piloting by all participants.