The history of GIS as we know it began in the 1960s with the development of the Canadian Geographic Information System (CGIS) guided by Roger Tomlinson for the Canada Land Inventory. In the era of paper and sieve maps, the first computerized GIS enabled convenient storage and manipulation of large geographical datasets for efficient land use and natural resource management. Now, some 60 years later, the access to and adoption of GIS has increased manyfold, with GIS data becoming much more ubiquitous, and the range of commercial and open-source GIS software seeming endless.

GIS for agriculture: why location matters

The ability of GIS to visually represent multiple data layers and run spatial analysis for informed decision-making has paved the way for multiple applications in agriculture. Crops are location-based, meaning the geographic component is in place and GIS is a relevant instrument that farmers can utilize for maximizing crop productivity, cutting on input and field management costs, as well as preserving natural resources. 

All the multiple GIS agriculture applications altogether form an innovative concept called precision agriculture or smart farming. Among the most widespread techniques within it are GPS, variable rate technology (VRT), and satellite and UAV monitoring. 

The place of GIS in precision agriculture

The onset of GPS technology has brought numerous benefits for farmers, such as cost reduction and boosted productivity. One example is the use of harvesting vehicles having GPS sensors mounted on them to collect crop yield information. During every field pass, the harvesting equipment measures grain weight and records spatial coordinate data that can be further used for yield mapping.

Yield maps, in their turn, are put to good use by crop growers who rely on yields when deciding on the input use. Based on maps, they can apply fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other inputs only to those field spots where they are actually needed to sustain adequate crop growth. This GIS farming innovation is known as variable rate technology, which enables the management of inputs in the most efficient way without compromising productivity. Not only do farmers boost profits by reducing unnecessary inputs, machinery fuel, and operator man-hours, but they also efficiently use natural resources and bring environmental benefits to water, soil, and wildlife.

Besides the on-farm collection of data, a great deal of actionable data is gathered from the sky. Satellites and drones capture Earth images utilizing remote sensing technology. Satellite imagery enables continuous crop monitoring at a large scale and analysis of the spectral bands contained in images for early identification of stress in plants caused by extreme weather conditions, pests, diseases, or improper management. Satellite data has grown to become one of the most widespread agriculture GIS technologies so far due to the accessibility of information and lower costs of adoption, especially for large cultivated areas. On top of crop health, this data also assists in monitoring soil moisture, predicting crop yield, crop type mapping, and drought or flood monitoring to name a few.

Smart agriculture GIS software for agribusinesses

Over the past decades, numerous GIS software solutions for agriculture have been brought to life both by governmental agencies and private companies. One example is CropScape, a web map service brought by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service to provide access to historical field productivity data and enable estimation of crop types and potential yield.

Another example of a digital GIS agriculture platform is EOSDA Crop Monitoring developed by a trusted global provider of satellite data-driven analytics solutions, EOSDA company. This tool brings together multiple types of data, including information on crop health and weather data, soil conditions, elevation, field operations, and more. It also allows adding data from the machinery and analyzing it against other available data; for example, to find correlations between yield and fertilization maps and improve input strategy to reap bigger yields. 

EOSDA Crop Monitoring arms its users with powerful analytics that helps them adjust their farm management operations to the versatility of crops, soils, resource availability, and ever-changing weather. Some of the applications of this GIS farming tool include:

  • Optimizing fertilization: vegetation and productivity maps generated within the tool help to differentiate between productive and low-productive field areas to apply more or fewer nutrients where needed.
  • Detection of crop health issues: an array of vegetation indices in EOSDA software provides insight into crop conditions at various growth stages, which is essential for the detection of threats to plants (pests, diseases, excessive moisture) and estimation of their nutrient availability to come up with a timely response.
  • Irrigation control: NDMI and NDWI index-based analysis allows farmers to find overly dry or waterlogged areas within fields and adjust fertilization plans respectively to minimize crop losses.
  • Simplified scouting: the Scouting feature optimizes on-field visits with a convenient task management system. The agricultural manager can drop a pin where a potential threat has occurred based on satellite data for the scout to visit, and the latter can add detailed information about the inspection results directly to the platform, even offline.  

On top of the precision ag platform, EOSDA also offers custom solutions combining GIS data, proprietary AI-enabled algorithms, and years of expertise. Clients can get crop classification maps, yield prediction with over 90% accuracy, precise field boundary detection for current or past growing seasons, and advanced soil moisture maps.

GPS, satellite and drone monitoring, and variable rate technology are some of the emerging trends showcasing the crucial role of GIS in precision agriculture. They provide farmers with the location intelligence they need to make informed decisions and increase crop productivity.


Agribusiness in UK and Wales today

Agriculture in the UK includes three main sectors: cereals, livestock, arable and pastoral farming. The southern and eastern parts of the country have more fertile soils and a warmer climate, suitable for growing crops. In the north and west of Great Britain, the weather is more humid, and steep slopes dominate the terrain. In this part of the country, animal husbandry is the main branch of agriculture.

In Wales, agriculture and forestry account for 1.8% of total employment. In addition, 90% of the land area in the region is used for agriculture, with animal husbandry predominating. 86% of agricultural land is used for grazing livestock.

This distribution of agricultural industries is associated with climatic conditions and topography. Wales is dominated by mountainous terrain and a mild, humid climate. Only a small part of agricultural land is suitable for the cultivation of crops, and there is a lot of grass for grazing, so crop cultivation prevails on the plains. The main types of agricultural activity are dairy production and animal husbandry.

EOSDA webinar on agritech solutions in UK

On September 20, EOS Data Analytics held a webinar hosted by the Director of Strategic Partnerships at EOS Data Analytics, Brijesh Thoppil. The event focused on several topics, including the application of satellite data analysis and precision farming practices to improve farmland management. The webinar also discussed the agricultural market of the United Kingdom, namely the factors that complicate the development of the market and the trends in the introduction of precision farming.

Environmental degradation and climate change drive farmers to look for new, more sustainable crop growth approaches. In addition, the world’s population and the need to increase productivity are also growing. It is necessary to reduce the industry’s negative impact on the environment, including pollution of soil and water sources, as well as to prevent soil degradation. Farmers and agro holdings are adopting precision farming practices such as soil mapping and variable rate fertilization.

During the webinar, Brijesh Thoppil also noted the importance of satellites in precision agriculture. Remote sensing data provide valuable information about the condition of plants and soil. Space-based data helps you understand plant development, soil health, and other vital indicators for field productivity. An important application of this data is also valuable for yield prediction.