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Agriculture Can Be Managed From Outer Space


The first attempt in the Russian Federation to utilize contemporary information technologies for efficient farm production management has been made. The decision-making support system for agricultural enterprises is being tested at a private agricultural farm in the Orenburg Province.

Information technologies, which formerly served solely space industry, can be employed to make agriculture more efficient. That has been done by the specialists of the GEOMIR Engineering Center in collaboration with the ILYINKA agroindustrial holding located in the Orenburg Province, ILYINKA being one of the largest private agricultural enterprises.

Quick and appropriate decision-making for farm production needs precise information about the environment status, meteorological conditions, crops status. A unique system developed by the GEOMIR specialists serves this purpose. The system utilizes the data of space shooting, aerial photography, digital mapping. The latest computer technologies summarize these data, process them and deliver them in the real-time mode to the executives of the agricultural enterprise to the regular planning meetings. The joint project started by GEOMIR and ILYINKA agroindistrial complex in April 2003 is called “Decision-Making Support System for Agricultural Enterprises”.

What decisions does the system help to make? “We have all required data on the status of the fields to plan the seeds consumption, fuel consumption and to decide which fields are ready for sowing based on the climatic conditions”, explains Pyotr Tobachenko, project manager on behalf of ILYINKA agroindistrial complex. Economists have calculated that availability of that kind of information will reduce agricultural production expenses by 15 percent and that will exceed the cost of the information system. The project is supposed to fully pay back within a year.

Data collection and analysis regarding the status of all farming elements will be performed by the situation center, which is being constructed now by the GEOMIR specialists to be put in commission in November 2003. Geoinformation data are delivered from satellites and light aircraft – balloons or motor hang-gliders. The shooting is performed within the sowing preparation, vegetation, ripening and harvesting periods. The shooting allows to evaluate germinating capacity of winter crops, to notice the signs of drought, formation and growth of ravines, soil erosion, salinization and swamping. On top of that, any emergency situations can be observed, such as conflagration, flooding, damages. If weather conditions do not allow to get high-quality space pictures, monitoring can be continued by balloons or motor hang-gliders equipped with digital photographic and video facilities. The data on machinery, warehouse, staff and other necessary information is entered into the system. After the data are processed and analyzed they are displayed on the multiple-access monitor in the situation center. Decisions made by the executives at the operative meetings are stored in the database and their utilization is automatically controlled.

Therefore, the agricultural enterprise starts to work in a new fashion. In addition to economic benefit, the enterprise quickly acquires the image of progressive farm, which increases competitiveness of its production in the market.

This project is one of the areas the specialists of GEOMIR Engineering Center are developing. They have extensive experience in developing space information technologies as GEOMIR was established in 2002 by a team of highly skilled professionals who had been employed earlier at ENERGIA (Energy) rocket and space complex. They manage the remote probing methods, which can be applied for diverse purposes: mapping, ecological monitoring, building construction and hydraulic work. “The presented project for farm production is part of the remote production business management system created by our specialists, says Professor Voronkov, Director General of GEOMIR. – Our future lies in the high-precision agriculture based on exact positioning of all objects”. The peculiarity of this particular project is that the information system has been ordered by a private customer.

Sergey Komarov | Informnauka
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