Last week FutureWater and HiView collaborated to provide a valuable training session focused on Remote Sensing and Climate Smart Agriculture. This event took place at the FutureWater office and was an integral part of the Shiraka Training Programme (STP) coordinated by The Hague Academy for Local Governance.
Participants from the MENA region gained practical insights into the potential applications of drones and satellite data in agriculture. The session aimed to highlight how these technologies can contribute to precision farming, crop health monitoring, and addressing climate change impacts in agriculture.
A notable aspect of the training was a drone demonstration in the scenic floodplains of Wageningen, illustrating the tangible uses of remote sensing technologies in agriculture. This demonstration emphasized the role of technology in enhancing agricultural efficiency, resilience, and sustainability.
The event encouraged discussions among participants about the feasibility of implementing similar technologies in the MENA region to address agricultural challenges. FutureWater’s emphasis on practical insights demonstrated its commitment to promoting sustainable agriculture in the region.
FutureWater and HiView’s collaboration in this training program represents a significant step toward a more informed and adaptive agricultural sector in the MENA region. Their efforts contribute to the ongoing development of sustainable practices in agriculture.
In a groundbreaking development, FutureWater and HiView successfully completed a comprehensive flying sensor training program for the Agency for Development of the Zambeze Valley (ADVZ) in early May. The ADVZ, a government agricultural institute providing assistance and advisory services to farmers across the vast Zambeze Valley, received training from ThirdEye Mozambique, a local drone company and spin-off from FutureWater and HiView’s previous drone initiatives in the country.
The intensive training program spanned six full days, combining both practical in-field exercises and focused sessions on image processing at the ADVZ office. During the in-field training, participants honed their piloting skills and gained valuable experience in image interpretation, while the image processing sessions equipped them with the necessary skills to analyze and derive insights from collected aerial data. To further enhance their processing capabilities, online follow-up sessions will be conducted over the coming weeks.
This training program stood apart from others due to its unique collaboration with HiView for the acquisition of the cutting-edge Rapid Eye XS drone systems. The Rapid Eye XS, a lightweight (< 250g) and cost-effective drone developed by HiView, is specifically designed for swift monitoring operations on a small scale. Notably, the Rapid Eye XS boasts a remarkable feature: real-time processing of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) maps. These maps offer valuable insights into crop health and canopy coverage, enabling immediate identification of problematic areas. Farmers in remote regions can now receive direct advisory from pilot-extensionists, referred to as AgPilots, who can share the NDVI maps directly with them via mobile phones or tablets. The practicality and usefulness of this capability in remote areas cannot be overstated.
This collaborative effort marks a significant milestone in the application of drone technology for agricultural advancements in Mozambique’s Zambeze Valley. By equipping ADVZ and local farmers with the Rapid Eye XS drones and comprehensive training, the project aims to revolutionize agricultural practices, enhance crop monitoring, and provide tailored advisory services to improve productivity and yield outcomes.
More information on the Rapid Eye XS can be found here.
Over the last months, FutureWater developed and launched its What-to-Plant application for the Mavo Diami project in Angola. The What-to-Plant service from FutureWater provides planting advice to farmers for the upcoming crop season, so that farmers can anticipate on which seeds to buy. The consortium will continue with keeping services operational so it can be used in Angola and exploit relevant opportunities to increase the added value for the smallholders.
This Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) project started in 2019 to improve sustainable food and income security for smallholder farmers in Angola, by accelerating their agri-business performance through informed decisions supported by the Mavo Diami services built on weather, soil and crop signals and other relevant data and indicators. The project was carried out in a consortium with World Vision, eLEAF, Weather Impact, Aequator, GaiaVision and KRES.
The partners developed various microservices, such as a meteorological forecast application, a rain season indicator and weather suitability predictor by Weather Impact, the What-to-Plant application by FutureWater and the When-to-Plant application by eLEAF. All microservices where validated by three different validation tests. Local implementation was assured by training several hundreds of extensionists, responsible for onboarding new farmers and providing them with valuable information from the Mavo Diami service. The What-to-Plant service from FutureWater provides planting advice to farmers for the upcoming crop season, so that farmers can anticipate on which seeds to buy. With this service, farmers get an insight on which crops are suitable for planting or not. To provide this advice, land suitability maps for several crops are calculated, based on remote sensing, historic data and a range of parameters such as historic temperature and rainfall, soil hydraulic properties, cropping calendars and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). These land suitability maps provide a number from 0 to 1 for every pixel for the crop modelled, with 0 being unfit to plant and 1 being very good to plant. With the seasonal weather forecast input provided by Weather Impact, the modelled land suitability maps can be turned into a monthly what-to-plant advice, thus giving information if a crop is suitable or not for the coming three months based on current weather information.
During the project, continuous improvements and various updates have taken place based on feedback from local partners and users. With the launch of the newest version of the Voicebot and Chatbot, that enables farmers to obtain the What-to-Plant information through their mobile phone, the project has formally come to an end. The consortium will continue with keeping services operational so it can be used in Angola and exploit relevant opportunities to increase the added value for the smallholders.
Last week, FutureWater joined a Dutch delegation to the El-Wadi Exhibition on climate and water smart agriculture in Upper Egypt. During the five-day mission, we presented our expertise and tools to help farmers prepare for the future.
On the first day of the mission, we visited two large agricultural sites to learn about current farming practices. On days two and three, we attended the El Wadi exhibition on climate smart agriculture. Our Dutch pavilion was frequently visited, and we had the opportunity to share our expertise with a wide audience of farmers and agricultural professionals. We showcased our use of drones and satellite data to help farmers improve their water management and crop yields.
On the last two days of the mission, we visited several farmers to discuss their challenges, such as drought, salinity, fertilization, and pests. We listened to the farmers’ concerns and provided them with information and resources to help them overcome these challenges.
Back home, we are working with several Dutch and Egyptian organizations to develop a plan to help these farmers become climate smart and prepared for the future. We are confident that our work will help to make Egyptian agriculture more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change.
We would like to thank the Dutch Embassy in Egypt, the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC), and Peter Prins for organizing the mission. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with these partners to help farmers in Egypt prepare for the future.
Looking at global climate change patterns and its increased pressure on natural resources, West African countries like Ghana will be hit very hard. In particular, agriculture, which is the largest water user in Ghana, will be affected by high temperatures and changes in the variability of rainfall. This variability in climate makes crop production and yield more uncertain, as well as farm income. The periods of droughts in Ghana are getting longer and there is increased pressure on water availability from the river basins due to climate change, putting many people and farmers in risk of having too little water. Therefore in this project, we will develop and pilot in the field an innovative tool that will significantly enhance water security in Ghana by reducing the quantity of water needed for irrigation per hectare (up to about 40% less of current water use).
To support the Ghanaian farmers in making the transition to a water secure future, they expressed a need for locally adapted, climate smart irrigation technologies and innovative advice to improve their irrigation practices. To develop such a smart irrigation service, FutureWater is working together with knowledge institute TU Delft, horticulture company Holland Greentech, and social enterprise TAHMO to develop this innovative tool and implement it in the field. This smart irrigation service should be able to translate various weather parameters and data (historical but also real-time data) into crop specific irrigation advice in volumes, but also in minutes for small-scale farmers. The unique and innovative part of this smart irrigation service, called SOSIA+ (Small-scale Open source, Satellite based Irrigation Advice), will be the algorithm to provide advice on how many minutes a farmer should irrigate a specific crop – based on the combination of the TAHMO local weather data and real-time data (normally not taken into account), that will be tailor-made for small scale farmers (normally these services are only for large scale farmers while the predominant type of farmers in Ghana are small scale) and is linked to the innovative drip irrigation systems that Holland Greentech Ghana already sells to farmers (so closely linked to an existing customer base of farmers and a product).
SOSIA+ will initially focus on the city of Kumasi and the Ashanti region, targeting more than 500 farmers and a growing population of more than 4 million people that needs to be fed and are affected by the changing weather patterns and increased water demand. In the long-term, the goal is to transform the horticulture sector in Ghana towards a smart and sustainable practice. By developing the Irrigation Advisory Tool, we can prevent over-irrigation to reduce water use and hence work towards the desired situation of sustainable food production and water security. This project will focus on gathering better weather information, piloting an innovative irrigation tool that is linked to a drip irrigation system to reduce water losses and implement this in the field with lead farmers. This will change the current traditional practices of the farmers leading to less water and energy losses, hence increasing availability of water and the sustainability of food production in light of climate change.
Earlier this year FutureWater and Holland Greentech developed a very first draft of the irrigation advisory application ‘SOSIA’ for Rwanda, with promising results. As one of the main problems in many African countries is that there is no ground network of weather stations, making it very difficult to efficiently manage water resources or generate weather forecasts that are localised and essential for food production, the initial SOSIA project used satellite remote sensing data to overcome this problem. But given the rapidly changing weather patterns due to climate change, the collection of ground data is also essential. This is why TAHMO has been set-up to develop a dense network of weather stations all over Africa and using their data will be very valuable to use for the irrigation tool.
The video below gives a brief summary of the tool created in the previous SOSIA project.
FutureWater and HiView will provide the Agência de Desenvolvimento do Vale do Zambeze (ADVZ) in Mozambique with a dozen of new ‘Rapid Eye XS’ drone systems, as well as DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise NDVI systems. These will be used for extension services to farmers in the Zambezi Valley. Also, FutureWater and HiView will provide a two-week in-depth training to the staff of ADVZ on the use of both systems, including image processing and interpretation. This training will take place in May 2023.
From our years of experience in Africa we have learned about the real existing needs of small commercial farmers in the region. The potential of crop fields in many regions is not fully exploited. Flying sensors (drones) have proved to be an ideal tool for monitoring crops and analyzing crop stress factors. However, the equipment costs (and therefore the service costs) are often too high for the African agricultural market. While 5 years ago, drone-based, precise high-resolution information was only available for large commercial enterprises (app. 20,000 dollar for drone-equipment alone), FutureWater and HiView invented a way to reduce these costs by developing a low-cost agricultural drone technology for farmers. This so called ‘flying sensor’ has a cost price of 3,000 USD per drone kit, which is was disrupting innovation for the applicability of geo-information services in developing country. By means of the flying sensor service successful local enterprises were established that provide a low-cost drone service to small- and largescale farmers, both in Mozambique and Kenya.
Over the years, we developed a new vision to make flying sensors even more affordable, reliable and fast. In 2022 we managed to develop a revolutionary new drone, called the ‘Rapid Eye XS‘, which costs less than 500 USD. It can process NDVI imagery on-board, and is very easy to use. First testing in Africa was very promising which led to the further development of the system over the past months. Now, the Agência de Desenvolvimento do Vale do Zambeze (ADVZ) in Mozambique ordered a dozen Rapid Eye XS as well as DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise NDVI systems, which will be used for extension services to farmers in the Zambezi Valley. Also, FutureWater and HiView will provide a two-week in-depth training to the staff of ADVZ on the use of both systems, including image processing and interpretation. This training will take place in May 2023.
Learn more about the Rapid Eye XS drone:
This week FutureWater, together with its partner HiView, gave two days of lectures at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, which partners with UNESCO. As part of their master degree, seven students were taught on the theory behind flying sensors (also known as drones), the different types of applications and how to use them in an agricultural setting.
On day 1 an in-class lecture was given on the history, technical specifications and applications of flying sensors, as well as an introduction to image processing and explanation of FutureWater’s diverse drone projects in Africa. Here the flying sensors are mainly used to make NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) maps for farmers, that show where the crop is stressed. This stress is indicated by red colors on the map and can indicate a lack of water, nutrients or the abundance of a pest or weeds. Thanks to the special cameras on the flying sensors, this stress can be detected 10 days before it can be observed by the human eye. In this way farmers can be advised before actual crop damage occurs and take preventive measures to ensure a higher yield. Furthermore, farmers can reduce their water, fertilizer and pesticide use by only focusing on problematic zones instead of applying these inputs to their whole field.
On day 2 of the lectures, an excursion was made to the Farm of the Future, a Dutch initiative in which Wageningen University & Research and Dutch farmers of the future are working together on feasible solutions to the challenges faced by agriculture in the Netherlands. The farm is located in Lelystad, in the Dutch polder province of Flevoland, a region of predominantly arable farming. Despite the rainy weather some drone flights were made, such as with the DJI Mavic 2, a quadcopter, which is very maneuverable and easy to use. This aircraft is also used successfully by FutureWater and HiView in their projects in Kenya and Mozambique. Also the new Rapid Eye XS drone, developed by HiView was demonstrated. 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 successfully completed the APSAN-Vale project in Mozambique, together with it’s partners Resilience BV, HUB and ThirdEye Mozambique. This project aimed to increase climate resilient agricultural productivity and food security, by increasing the water productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in three areas in Mozambique: Báruè, Moatize, and Nhamatanda. The project prioritized small family sector farmers and demonstrated the best combinations of adoption strategies and technological packages. The impact of the adopted strategies was assessed on the farming plot level, sub-basin level, as well as basin level.
The main role of FutureWater in this project was monitoring water productivity in the target areas, by using remote sensing data from Flying Sensors (drones) and satellite imagery in combination with a water productivity simulation model and field observations. The water productivity was used as an indicator to quantify the impact of the innovations on smallholder agriculture. These innovations can be technical packages, like interventions and trainings, and adoption of lessons-learned through farmer-to-farmer communication.
In December 2022, FutureWater published its Water Productivity Analysis for the irrigated season in 2022. Results are provided on the crop development during the growing season for vegetation status and canopy cover. These results are based on periodic Flying Sensor maps, which can be found on the online data portal. The assessment of water productivity was presented with maps of water productivity and change compared to the baseline assessment for these districts. After normalization for climatic conditions, the increase in overall crop specific water productivity at field level was found to be +55% in Báruè, +29% in Moatize, and +63% in Nhamatanda, resulting in an average +49% increase in comparison with the baseline values at the beginning of the project. The water productivity at sub-basin level indicated an increase in water productivity of +11%, +4% and +17% in Báruè, Moatize and Nhamatanda respectively, with an overall increase of +11% for all districts. The basin level water productivity results indicated +27%, +44%, and +31% increase for Báruè, Moatize and Nhamatanda respectively, with overall increase of +34% for all districts. As an addition to previous analyses, an overview of all previous irrigation seasons was analysed. This overview showed that since the introduction of the interventions on the field locations, the water productivity has increased over the last four years. The basin and subbasin results also show an increase in water productivity compared to the baseline. More information, maps and charts can be found in the Water Productivity Analysis: Irrigation Season 2022 and in the infographic.
FutureWater looks back on a very interesting project, in which there was good cooperation with all the project partners, especially with our local team of ThirdEye agricultural pilots based in Chimoio.
This month the HiFarm project, a data driven agricultural intensification pilot program for maize, coffee and tea farmers in Kenya, was completed. The 18-month project improved farmer productivity whilst enhancing the environmental risk management and climate resilience of 60 lead farmers through improved soil and crop nutrition management.
Over the past years FutureWater, leading company in the water-energy-food nexus, and HiView, company specialized in drone operations, both from the Netherlands managed to develop a low-cost agricultural drone technology which revolutionized the application of geo-information services for African farmers. With the flying sensor services, successful local enterprises were established that provide a low-cost drone service to small- and largescale farmers, both in Mozambique and Kenya. Here so-called AgPilots, young agronomist-drone operators, support farm decisions based on the flying sensor crop mapping that is viewed on a tablet. Within the HiFarm project, funded and conceptualized by the Eco-Business II Sub-Fund Development Facility, the integration of this flying sensor service with crop nutrition advisory and other improved agronomic practices brought the extension service to the next level.
A consortium consisting of FutureWater, Holland Greentech, ThirdEye Kenya and HiView collaborated with agronomists from the Export Trading Group (ETG) and the Empowering Farmers Foundation (EFF) to work together with farmers in the districts of Nakuru, Kiambu, Embu and Limuru to implement Climate Smart Agricultural practices, such as crop rotation to rejuvenate soil nutrients, or mulching to reduce weeds and water erosion. Holland Greentech conducted soil and leaf analysis and provided nutritional advice. Our Kenyan partner ETG was responsible for input delivery that was based on Holland Greentech’s findings. HiView’s role was to monitor the three crops once every 5 weeks throughout the project that lasted one and a half years. With this HiView was in the lead of the flight missions that were executed by ThirdEye, a agricultural drone company that was established by HiView and FutureWater in 2017 and is based in Meru, Kenya. FutureWater was responsible for the overall project management, monitoring & evaluation and online monitoring & planning portal development.
Thanks to the efforts of the HiFarm consortium all planned activities have been carried out in a most successful way. Altogether the team conducted 558 flying sensor flights, covering 984 acres per round (one round every 5 weeks), enhancing the productivity of 60 farmers in Kenya by up to 25%. The success of this pilot project proves the great potential for agronomic extension services in which data driven technology is used. The bundled service is now ready to be scaled up to reach more farmers and assess its replicability across different geographic locations.
This is without doubt a great achievement and we are proud of the complete HiFarm team, but especially local AgPilots Mrs Veronicah Nyaguthii and Ms Purity Kinya, together with the national manager from ThirdEye Kenya, Mr Kiogora Julius.
The pilot project was funded and conceptualized by the Eco-Business II Sub-Fund Development Facility, and carried out by FutureWater, HiView, Holland Greentech and ThirdEye Kenya, with the Export Trading Group (ETG) and Empowering Farmers Foundation (EFF). For more information visit: www.ecobusiness.fund.
Early November Agência de Desenvolvimento do Vale do Zambeze (ADVZ) from Mozambique visited the FutureWater office in Wageningen, the Netherlands where a full day was planned with APSAN-Vale project partners Resilience, FutureWater and HiView. From FutureWater side Tijmen Schults and Lisa Verschuren provided an interesting presentation on the water productivity results of the passed season. Furthermore, a demonstration of the new Rapid Eye XS drone was provided in the floodplains of Wageningen. The day was concluded with a fruitful discussion on strengthening the future cooperation.
Agência de Desenvolvimento do Vale do Zambeze beneficiary of the APSAN-Vale project in central 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, 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 (drones) in combination with a water productivity simulation model and field observations.