PUTTING THE SCIENCE BACK INTO AGRICULTURE

Wednesday, 08 April 2015
Illovo Sugar Ltd

"PUTTING THE SCIENCE BACK INTO AGRICULTURE"

THERE have been some exciting developments in the Cane Centre of Excellence (CCoE) in the past year. Brent Griffiths manages the CCoE, which feeds into all cane growing areas under the ABSugar purview, currently including the Illovo Africa operations and China South. The main role of the CCoE is to provide a pipeline of appropriate innovative research and development-based technology to enhance the future competitiveness and sustainability of cane agriculture within these geographical areas.

Brent also champions the AB Sugar Cane Community. This provides an invaluable link to the CCoE activities and involves influencing the community members within Illovo agriculture to share their challenges, triumphs and good practices amongst each other and with the greater ABSugar community.

The ABSugar Group Leadership Team approved the inaugural CCoE project titled “The investigation of eLeaf and a modified CanePro system as a powerful management tool to increase cane yields on Nchalo Estate in Malawi”. The contract was signed with SQR, the software company that owns CanePro, in August 2014. The project will run until December 2015.

The project aim is to determine whether new technology and systems, using satellite imagery, can assist and govern a farmer’s decision on how best to manage his/her cane husbandry to achieve the most productive and cost-effective cane yield. Processed satellite imagery will be availed every two weeks for the duration of the project. This supports the quote from Illovo MD Gavin Dalgleish on “Putting the science back into agriculture”.

One of the most important aspects of the CCoE001 project is to ground-truth the various data points that will be provided by eLeaf satellite imagery through a modified CanePro system; this will be known as the CanePro Remote Cane Management (RCM) system. Once proof of concept has been achieved, it would then be up to the various businesses to adopt the technology and systems created during the project.

Currently the project is at a stage of collating back-logged satellite imagery from eLeaf and determining the relevant ground-truthing protocols. The new SQR RCM server system has been successfully stress-tested and will now be able to upload the new imagery. The first viewable imagery was expected early October.

Phillip Ashton, the technical field manager at Nchalo, will be the on-site project manager and will be ably supported by the Nchalo agricultural team. The off-site project team contingent will visit Nchalo in December for a week of training and discussion on how best to use the new CanePro RCM system.



THE picture shows what a screenshot of the new system is likely to look like once complete.

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