The Ministry of Agriculture in Pakistan Uses Satellite Imagery from Suparco DRS
For a government, access to independent, easy-to-update agriculture information over its country is a fundamental requirement to:
- Define a successful agricultural policy, implement it and monitor the results.
- Assess and predict production to forecast any potential shortages.
Yet, assessing agricultural statistics purely relying on ground surveys is not fully adequate: this source of data is by essence not comprehensive; it is costly, very time consuming, consolidation of data often takes too much time and can be biased by the principle of sampling. Relying only on declarative data from census or yearly enquiries is not satisfactory enough neither.
Furthermore, forecasting production remains extremely challenging, as it depends on many factors that are out of our control - weather conditions, heterogeneous farming practices etc. Yet inaccurate predictions can lead to incorrect decision making with substantial consequences for the population.
This is why associating a geo-statistical approach to traditional processes is often a challenge for agricultural and statistical authorities.
Pakistan had a first estimate of acreage, based only on ground surveys over a few samples areas. In 2006, SUPARCO and Airbus established the Agripak project by using remote sensing to improve these statistics.
Based on the calendar of main crops, high-resolution SPOT imagery is collected at key growth stages over the country. Combined with the ground surveys, they create a land cover map featuring acreage estimates.
As per the production forecast, the Ministry of Agriculture provided main crop production over the previous season for use as a reference. Agripak then established different analytics based purely on satellite imagery time-series. They then compared all analytics with the reference, in order to determine the best correlation that can be re-used going forward, without external information, for future predictions.
This project has established a reliable, generic methodology so the Pakistan Ministry of Agriculture can, in full autonomy:
- Perform and update acreage estimates more accurately, maximising the potential of their ground surveys.
- Produce yearly production forecasting for main crops based purely on satellite-based analytics.
For production forecasting, a field guide describing the full processing chain to calculate crop production estimates was developed based on a use case for the 2005 wheat campaign.
This methodology has been used every year since then, and is still used today. Jointly with FAO, SUPARCO is regularly producing a monthly bulletin.
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