Funded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL), the Digital Tools, Geospatial and Farming Systems Consortium (DGFSC) has been recently formed to improve the resilience of smallholder livelihoods by using digital geospatial tools. DGFSC will integrate system models to quantify the impacts of innovations, which builds a new era on Predictive Agriculture across five domains (productivity, economics, environment, social, and human condition) of the Sustainable Intensification Assessment Framework (SIAF).
The consortium will target the main innovations and technologies in relevant farming systems identified in the past years of the SIIL project. Cutting-edge digital tools and datasets, as well as resilient innovative technologies, will be leveraged to help farmers, researchers, and policymakers have informed decisions. For technology transfer, the project will focus on extension practitioners and stakeholders, who are assisting smallholder farmers.
To achieve the goal of this project, DGFSC will develop and integrate a series of models and remote sensing data products for the agropastoral and cereal-root crop mixed farming systems in Senegal and rice-based and fodder-crop farming systems in Cambodia and Bangladesh and deliver these to the SIIL Geospatial Consortium
actors in the field”.
Smallholder farmers in the coastal polder zone of Bangladesh, for example, will benefit greatly from the consortium. They face severe environmental challenges, including floods during the wet season, drought and salinity during the dry season; and storms throughout the year. And, the negative impact of climate change makes it even more challenging for them to adopt any new technology that will help them intensify and increase resilience of their farming systems in the polders. Thus, reliable, tailor-fit decision support tools are critical and should be a priority.
This is where necessary data play a vital role in helping these resource-poor farmers to have resilient cropping systems and livelihood. With regards to digital solutions, the SIIL project in Bangladesh focuses on the following essential steps:
• Use field data on salinity that are collected at polder-scale to characterize both temporal spatial variations.
• Integrate the data with geospatial layers related to altitude and topography.
• Explore association with past productivity data to establish more uniform management zones in the polder.
• And, evaluate the right combination of management and crop options to improve yield stability across the year and secure not only productivity for smallholder farmers, but also improve the overall food security (see infographic).
Then, these information are shared with local extension agencies and farmers for routine use without skipping out capacity building in the agenda of digitalization.
SIIL is managed by the Kansas State University (KSU) and is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development as part of Feed the Future, the government’s global hunger and food security initiative. Through the leadership of Dr. Ignacio
Ciampitti from KSU, the researchers in the consortium include Jason Neff from the University of Colorado-Boulder; Paul West, James Gerber, Zhenong Jin, and Kathryn Grace from the University of Minnesota; Amirpouyan Nejadhashemi from the Michigan State University; and Molly Brown from the University of Maryland. These researchers and some industry partners such as Corteva Agriscience, Microsoft, Descartes Labs, and aWhere are the founding members. The members also collaborate with teams from Senegal, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, as well as with other consortia such as SOILS, Policy, and Mechanization. Moreover, the consortium will seek opportunities to train undergraduate and graduate students in the targeted countries on data science.
The consortium will use high resolution geospatial resources that can be applied across a range of tools by the consortium partners and students in the future.
The DGFSC will work with the partners to explore a simplified interface to easily access data. Each partner can access the information via GPS location, via the raw grids, customized grids for the users’ own tools, or in an online portal where the data can be viewed and interacted with such as an ESRI webapp.
As the consortium project progresses, the focus will be to test this initial data visualization activity with partners in targeted countries, gather feedback, and refine the approach. This iterative development will let the consortium deploy our data at low cost and build access points utilizing user input throughout this project. Our team strongly believes that the development of new data products can positively impact smallholders and help them better adapt to emerging environmental and market pressures.