Headed by Chief Science Officer Dr. Molly Brown, Harvest partners at 6th Grain have kicked off the New Year strong, releasing their exciting new crop mapping website and aiming to create 2019 maize maps for the entire continent of Africa in the next few months. The new crop mapping system applies machine learning technology in order to increase precision in crop area maps. By combining ground data and expert knowledge with Sentinel2a/b 10m satellite data, the system is able to employ a classification model that accurately defines both small holder and commercial fields by crop type.
While the new system is highly flexible, 6th Grain defines four particularly useful areas of application for this crop mapping tool: crop persistency analysis, field boundary detection, additional data layers, and rich visualization. Crop persistency analysis describes the ability of the system to identify regions where there is a lack of crop rotation practices, which results in the opportunity for industry experts to target specific agricultural needs and develop improvement plans. Field boundary detection is an important component of the system, automated to determine the size of agricultural fields (small/medium/large, adjusted depending on the country-specific metrics) in order to provide necessary information for strategic approaches to crop management. Furthermore, users of this system are able to overlay crop data with their desired variables in order to generate custom visualizations that enrich scientific understanding. For example, elements such as precipitation, climate information, area elevation, soil data, and important agricultural buildings can be layered onto the map according to the users’ evaluation needs. All of these features are available online, in a visually-appealing and easily-navigable format to allow for a wide range of experienced and non-experienced end users and practical applications. The new website shows just one of the 18 countries currently available, with more crops and countries coming online every month.