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IRRISAT: Irrigation supported by Satellite.

Place: Caserta, italy, Europe
Sustainable management of natural resources Sustainable management of natural resources
Total Budget: € 1.171.029,00 | Period: From May 2011 To


IRRISAT is an innovative irrigation support system such as an "irrigation advisory", based on the use of satellite imagery to:
• monitor the development of crops in the field;
• estimate the best moment to water and the right amount of irrigation water necessary.
IRRISAT operates over both large areas and small fields and is therefore an ideal working tool for all stakeholders in agriculture: government authorities, water use associations, and individual farmers.  Each stakeholder can access data of interest through either mobile phone (SMS, MMS) or the internet (E-mail or Web Apps).
The system is based on the direct measure of the development of a given crop and its water needs, using near-real time satellite imagery, obviating the need to acquire other site-specific information on crop and soil. This innovative approach results in the universal applicability of IRRISAT to high-yield agriculture at the local level.


Drainage and irrigation association of Sannio Alifano - Italy

Lead applicant

The Consorzio Sannio Alifano is located in the North-Western part of Campania Region and, with an extension of 1950 Kmq., it is one of the largest in the Region. The Consorzio is a public economic body, whose management is subject to the supervision and control of the Campania Region. The scope of the functions and duties of the Consorzio has been conferred on it by public laws on land reclamation. The Consorzio coordinates both public and private projects devoted to drainage, irrigation, flood control and soil defense, as well as those designed for the protection of surface and groundwater. It is also involved in activities pertinent to environmental safeguarding and is now mainly engaged in renovation of existing irrigation systems, with an emphasis on innovative irrigation use. In summary, the Consorzio carries out activities that include: • Food security through irrigation in agriculture; • Environmental safety; • Land safety through minimizing hydrological risk and water protection.

ARIESPACE s.r.l. - Italy

Initiative partner

ARIESPACE is a small-sized enterprise (SME), established in 2006 as a spin-off company of the University of Naples Federico II. It provides ready-to-use and user-friendly Decision Support Systems (DSS) based on satellite observations, geospatial data and biophysical models to fill the gap between currently availability geospatial tools and information needed for people working in agriculture. ARIESPACE has developed an operative processing chain to estimate crop water requirements and a web-tool dedicated to farmers, water associations and authorities in the context of the IRRISAT project ( The approach developed by ARIESPACE for the Mediterranean region has been transferred to other arid and semi-arid agricultural systems, e.g., Southern Australia ( ARIESPACE experience has been consolidated in the context of various national and international projects funded by EU (FP6, FP7, LIFE+ and the National Research Council of Italy (CNR).

Campania Region - Italy

Initiative partner

With respect to food security, the Campania region, by statute, promotes any useful initiative to encourage: • Protection, development and dissemination of agriculture, scientific research and technological innovation; • Protection and support of places where scientific and technical knowledge pertaining to agriculture are formed, shared and disseminated; • Creation and strengthening of networks of excellence and increase in international cooperation in agricultural and environmental disciplines; • Protection and enhancement of ecosystems and biodiversity, environment, land, natural resources and rural heritage; • Adoption of systems to ensure food security and consumer interests; • Recognition that water, air and wind are common property of mankind whose use should have universal value.

“Every drop counts and an eye in the sky can help”. IRRISAT is the Italian on-line Irrigation Advisory Service, based on satellite data to assess reliably the demand for irrigation water and detect non-authorized irrigations. It works in near-real time on the plot and basin scale. The initiative has already been selected as “best practice” for agricultural applications by EURISY (see Step 4) and it is consistent with EU Water Framework Directive and Blueprint outlines for the future EU agenda on water policy. Non-authorized irrigations and over-consumptions, besides the impact to reduce water availability in the Planet, can have social consequences in terms of conflicting uses. Most States are aware of the issue but don’t have the tools to tackle it efficiently. IRRISAT provides key information to farmers, water managers and irrigation Authorities, targeting irrigation activities and supplying: - maps of irrigated areas; - basic information on crops growth and their water needs.

In order to consume less water and to avoid conflicts with other users of water resources, some Consortia in Campania Region are adopting IRRISAT, an advisory service to assess irrigation water accordingly to crop needs, developed by ARIESPACE, first spin-off Company of the University of Naples Federico II, as a follow-up initiative deriving from EU-funded research projects.
In the irrigation networks of Consortia, the crop water requirements, estimated by means of satellite imagery, are used to set an upper limit on the water volume available to every individual farmer.
By rendering of high-resolution multispectral satellite images, IRRISAT provides farmers with personalized information about the maximum water volumes to be applied in each plot on daily or weekly basis, and also maps of the corresponding crop vigor and meteorological data. This information is sent within few hours from the satellite acquisition to each farmer via SMS, E-mail or Web Apps, allowing a real water saving.

From satellite to farmers. The following sequence of operations in IRRISAT is completed in 36 hours from satellite pass: - Monitoring the crop growth through the analysis of satellite data in the visible and near infrared wavelengths; - Acquisition of meteorological data; - Processing of images for the estimation of crop irrigation requirements by using F.A.O. models; - Integration of the data into a Geographic Information System (GIS); - Data made available to the end user by e-mail, SMS and dedicated web-page.
IRRISAT web-interface. The maps and irrigation suggested volumes are timely published on a dedicated webGIS-site, with access restricted to farmers and Consorzio managers. Once the service is accessed by Internet, users can visualize satellite images acquired on a given date in false colors where the intensity of red is proportional to the crop vigor. Irrigation volumes for each plot can be displayed in tables and graphs from the Data panel of the user interface, together with meteorological data.
SATELLITE in the farmer hands. The irrigation advisory service is delivered directly to farmers by SMS, e-mail or dedicated web-page. Farmers can access the information relevant for their fields by using different Information Communication Technologies.
Web-demo of IRRISAT/IRRIEYE. This video shows how farmers can browse the webGIS to visualize their plots and extract information about irrigation volumes. The South Australia version, named IRRIEYE, is presented here, with the same functions of the Italian version IRRISAT.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf IRRISAT Scientific References. This document contains the main Scientific References of the IRRISAT project.
../file-system/small/pptx ../file-system/small/pptx IRRISAT: brief summary. In this short presentation (12 slides) are illustrated the main concepts, the technology and the characteristics of “IRRISAT: the Italian on-line Satellite Irrigation Advisory Service”, provided to the farmers for a more efficient and cheaper watering.

IRRISAT is applied in three different Consortia within the Campania Region. From now on we will tell the story of Consorzio Sannio Alifano where the project covers a surface of 4,440 hectares equipped with a collective irrigation system, resulting from the modernization of the traditional canal network; today, pressure pipes, monitored by a remote control system, allow for a direct measurement of the water volumes consumed.
Before IRRISAT the irrigation was managed by farmers based on experience, often leading to over-consumptions (average seasonal volumes of 4,500 m3/ha).
The new challenge in this area (and in most irrigated areas of semi-arid countries) is to save water while at the same time increasing food-production. IRRISAT enables it because it can easily match the basic information to the specific needs of farmers.
In fact, the key of success is to give farmers reliable information and deliver them quickly and in a simple way, without asking for input and complicated data.

Riardo plain: North view. The irrigation plain of Riardo (plus Pietramelara and Pietravairano) covers an irrigable area of about 3,070 hectares, served by a collective irrigation system supplied with water from the Volturno river, at the Dam of Colle Torcino. This infrastructure has been recently built and equipped with a modern remote control system, enabling the operation of the pipeline network directly from the Consorzio headquarters in Piedimonte Matese.
Vairano plain: North view. The irrigation plain of Vairano Patenora covers an irrigable area of about 1,370 hectares, served by a collective irrigation system supplied with water from the Volturno river, at the Dam of Colle Torcino. In recent years the current network has substituted the traditional canal system with pressure pipelines, equipped with a remote control system. Irrigation water at the farm outlet is accessed by using electronic cards, which allow also for a direct measurement of the water volumes consumed.
Vairano plain: South view. Vairano town lying in adjacency of the irrigation plain. Urban and rural contexts live close each other.
Consorzio: irrigation stories. The Consorzio was founded in the 1927, when the initial works for the irrigation channel networks started. From that age, poor livelihood condition have evolved into modern agriculture bringing a new economic development. This change brought an increase of water demand for civil and industrial uses and a contemporary reduction of water availability for agriculture. Thus, the Consorzio is being committed to improve the irrigation management to save water. Here comes IRRISAT as a support tool.
../file-system/small/ppt ../file-system/small/ppt Brief summary of the Consorzio. The presentation shows, through 7 slides, the location of the Consorzio, the extension of the areas under its jurisdiction, the areas under irrigation and the main characteristics of the collective irrigation networks that Consorzio manages.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf The Consorzio in figures. The table presents some significant data about the Consorzio Sannio Alifano and its main sectors of activity.

In Italy (with IRRISAT) and in other EU countries (with EU FP5-7 projects) this approach has proven that economic benefits generated by such advisory services are able to fully repay the initial investments, creating advantages for environment and opportunities for all the users of water resources.
Accordingly, IRRISAT has been selected as a “best practices” for agricultural applications by EURISY.
A cost-benefit analysis, carried out at European scale, demonstrates that, assuming the application of the services over only the 30% of EU irrigated land, the expected net benefit is around from 80 up to 200 million € per year, depending on the cost of the water services.
In the specific context of Consorzio Sannio Alifano, the overall results, obtained comparing the irrigation season 2012 (before IRRISAT) and 2013 (post IRRISAT), demonstrate water savings of about 18%, while a survey on a sample of monitored farms highlights peaks saving of about 25 to 30% without loss of production.

An EU cost-benefit analysis. The graph in the image shows the results of a cost-benefit analysis carried out at European scale. Considering that the expected economic benefit is related to the cost of water for irrigation, and assuming that advisory services like IRRISAT are applied over on area of 30% of the total EU irrigated land, the resulting increase of irrigation efficiency may give a reduction of costs between 80 and 200 million € per year.
Credits within EU programs. The first concept of satellite-based irrigation advisory services was designed in the context of the DEMETER UE-RTD project in 2005. The advisory services based on WebGIS platforms have been initially developed within the PLEIADeS UE-project ( and further tested in SIRIUS ( Thus, IRRISAT technology has been granted in the context of European R&D programs.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Extract from EURISY brochure. The satellite-based irrigation advisory service operating in Campania Region has been selected in 2011 as “BEST PRACTICE” for agriculture by EURISY, an association of space agencies or governmental offices in charge of space affairs in Europe, and international organizations dealing with space matters (
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Water delivered: 2013 vs. 2012. Data gathered by the Consorzio throughout the years before IRRISAT indicate that the average irrigation volume delivered per season was about 4,500 m3/ha. The volumes measured during the IRRISAT campaign in 2013 show that there has been an average reduction of water of about 18%.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Water savings in Consorzio. Results from a field campaign in Consorzio Sannio Alifano over 80 hectares of irrigated maize: the same yield in 2013 is achieved reducing the water volume up to 30% respect to 2012, accordingly to IRRISAT suggestions. The chart also shows that applying more water than suggested does not contribute to yield increase.

IRRISAT beneficiaries are persons and groups who both use agricultural resources and make decisions about their management:
Farmers, take care of the agricultural production on their own farms. Soil and climate characteristics have always been at the basis of traditional agriculture, but to increase production according to environment, they need tools to improve irrigation practices.
Water Users Associations (WUAs), are responsible for control management of water resources of irrigation networks. They need tools to perform the day-to-day management tasks and monitor the irrigation water consumption of each farmer and the entire irrigation system, over the season.
Government Authorities, are responsible for general use and quality of the water. In order to control and address properly the agricultural use, providing sustainable food security and rural development, they need tools for monitoring of water exploitation plans for irrigation schemes, aquifers or river-basins.

IRRISAT in figures. Global figures concerning IRRISAT development in the Campania Region in 2013-2014.
IRRISAT users’ needs. IRRISAT addresses different users, from farmers to regional authorities, and different issues, from agricultural productivity to environmental protection.
IRRISAT beneficiaries. This video shows, in the first part, some features images of local context and then reports the IRRISAT experience and feedback from the point of view of government authorities, water managers and farmers in the Sannio Alifano area.

The people actively involved in the initiative, by affiliation, are:
Consorzio Sannio Alifano: 20 people lead by Eng. Massimo Natalizio, General Manager. They are: Eng. Giuseppe Cefarelli, irrigation specialist; Dr. Filippo Santangelo, Agronomist; 5 land surveyors; 8 computer experts of web services for management of irrigation and front-end office; 5 field workers for the operation of irrigation systems;
ARIESPACE S.r.l., spin-off company of the University of Naples Federico II: 8 people: Eng. Carlo De Michele, project manager; Eng. Guido D’Urso, Full Professor of Agricultural Hydraulics, Irrigation management and Remote Sensing at University of Naples “Federico II”, responsible for scientific research; 1 Ph.D. in Management of agricultural resources; 1 Agronomist, 3 Senior Engineers; 1 software analyst and developer;
Campania Region, Agriculture Supporting Services: 2 people: Dr. Mariella Passari, Unit Head; Dr. Amedeo D’Antonio, Agronomist, official responsible for soil and water.

Consorzio Headquarters. Main building of Consorzio where IRRISAT activities and remote control system of the irrigation network are located.
IRRISAT people at Consorzio/1. The President Prof. Pietro Andrea Cappella with technical staff of Consorzio involved in IRRISAT standing near the Consorzio Headquarters. On his left Massimo Natalizio, Senior Engineer, M.Sc. (Cum Laude) in Hydraulic Engineering, employee of the Consorzio since 1987 and General Manager since 2000; for over 25 years designer and project manager of all works devoted to drainage, irrigation, flood control and soil defense.
IRRISAT people at Consorzio/2. The General Manager Eng. Massimo Natalizio with technicians and field workers involved in IRRISAT, standing near the Consorzio Headquarters. The technicians are engaged in the management of irrigation networks, including the control of flow rates and water volumes; they provide farmers with specific information about the activation of IRRISAT and participate in the activities of dissemination and transfer of results. The latter are engaged in the maintenance and operation of irrigation systems.
Interview to Carlo De Michele. Eng. Carlo De Michele, CEO at Ariespace, explains how IRRISAT works and which are the benefits for the final users.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf ARIESPACE: organization chart. The document shows the organization chart of ARIESPACE, spin-off company of University of Naples Federico II, with short profiles of people actively involved in IRRISAT.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf CAMPANIA R.: organization chart. The document shows the organization chart of Campania Region with short profiles of people actively involved in IRRISAT.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf CONSORZIO: organization chart. The document shows the organization chart, some historical data and the main institutional functions of Consorzio Sannio Alifano, with short profiles of people actively involved in IRRISAT.

Although an Irrigation Advisory Service has been operating in Consorzio since 2007, the internalization of EO-based procedures (and more generally the use of spatial data by farmers and irrigation personnel) still seems to be a slow learning process in the context of direct application to agricultural practices.
Software with user-friendly interfaces are currently available to facilitate the task but the actual average level of computer literacy in the agricultural community is not yet enough for a quick diffusion of new technologies. To overcome this barrier, IRRISAT provides a value-added service supplied by ARIESPACE, which acquires data, extracts the information, and makes it easily available to farmers and Consorzio technicians.
However, technology alone is not sufficient to spread the use of services like IRRISAT among the users in the field, and for this reason Consorzio decided to make farmers aware of new information tools by means of regular meetings and training courses.

Farming and technology. Innovation is a slow process in agriculture and this aptitude is in contrast with a quick wide spreading of ICT-based advisory services like IRRISAT. To speed up this process of diffusion, Consorzio is being involved in all forms of dissemination, with priority to ongoing meetings with farmers and demonstration tests directly in the field.
Raising awareness of farmers. To encourage farmers in using IRRISAT and to raise their awareness in water savings, the Consorzio organizes on a regular basis dissemination and training meetings. From these discussions, suggestions for improvements as well as positive criticism often emerge.

Based on data acquired during the growing season in 2013 (see Step 4), results demonstrate that irrigation based on IRRISAT, all other conditions being equal, produces water savings of 25 to 30%. The environmental impact improves even further because, in addition to equivalent savings in energy consumption and reduction of CO2 emissions, the following additional benefits can be obtained:
• Mitigating the negative impact of climate change on agriculture;
• Preventing excess water in the soil, with subsequent loss of soluble nutrients present in the upper layers, and concomitant pollution of groundwater aquifer by fertilizers and other chemical products;
• Providing farmers with support to enhance their capability to diversify production, according to or anticipating swings in the markets, and move towards less water-demanding and more profitable crop yields;
• Maintaining a consistent presence of agricultural workers in rural areas, avoiding progressive depopulation and impoverishment.

Encourage biodiversity. Supporting farmers to diversify production allows more profitable crop yields, maintaining a perfect balance of all ecosystems. A practical example: dairy, fruit and vegetable market, every Monday in Piedimonte Matese (Caserta).
Less pollution of water. Avoid over-consumption and waste of water through irrigation practices reduces pollution of groundwater aquifer by fertilizers and other chemical products.
No depopulation of rural areas. Worrying alarm signals: abandoned farms in S. Potito Sannitico (Caserta), while growing is, or should be, the first form of defense and safeguard of the identity and diversity of animal and plant species. To be in danger is not only the land and the landscape, but our food security!
Preservation of farm land. Soil consumption at the expense of agricultural land in Piedimonte Matese (Caserta). A specific "Report on the condition of land consumption in Italy" presented July 24, 2014 in Rome by the Minister of Agriculture shows that in Italy every day concrete occupies 100 hectares of natural land: often the best land, the most fertile, paradoxically, those that would create income and generate employment.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf IRRISAT: savings and benefits. The graph is referred to a farm in the Consorzio Sannio Alifano during the irrigation season 2012 and gives a practical demonstration that, following the advices suggested by IRRISAT, can be obtained economic advantages for the farmer and environmental benefits.

There is a strong need and a potential demand for tools supporting efficient water management.
IRRISAT has been calibrated to meet the needs of the farmers and is a personalized, cheap consultant, always available during the irrigation season. It provides timely information based on objective data, obtained from the constellation of Earth Observation (EO) satellites.
On-going technological improvement of EO data, progressive reduction of costs for imagery, development of new procedures for the integration of these data in crop models and weather forecast, will make it possible to provide irrigation advice of ever-increasing accuracy and reliability everywhere, particularly in developing countries and low-income agricultural economies.
In 2011 IRRISAT technology was transferred to an irrigation district in Southern Australia using the brand name “IRRIEYE”, and, since 2012, has been used in the Danube Basin (Austria) with the name “EO4Water”: the results have been excellent as in Italy.

An application of EO4Water. EO4Water focuses on the Marchfeld area, one of the major crop production areas of Austria with more than 40,000 hectares of irrigated land, and includes field experiments to validate methodologies and adapt them to local agricultural conditions. The graphs are referred to two fields of sugarbeet in the above mentioned area and show the good accord between the cumulative water needs (volumes suggested) and the corresponding cumulative irrigation (volumes supplied by farmers).
An application of IRRIEYE. IRRIEYE web interface with a series of information, in the form of graphs and tables, for an Australian farm during the irrigation season 2013-2014.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Brochure of IRRIEYE (AUS). This leaflet has been prepared for dissemination purposes of IRRIEYE (the brand name for IRRISAT in South Australia).
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Press article on IRRIEYE (AUS). The article, published on “Riverland Weekly” (AUS) on October 25, 2012, talks about the IRRIEYE trial (the South Australian version of IRRISAT), carried out in collaboration between Naples University in Italy, the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management (SA MDB NRM) Board and the Bookpurnong to Lock 4 Environmental Association. The trial began in 2011 and is still ongoing.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Press release of EO4Water. A series of recent press articles on the project EO4Water (the Austrian version of IRRISAT), which testify to the validity of Earth Observation techniques in supporting the rational management of water resources.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Web links about IRRISAT apps. The paper contains links to website of IRRISAT in Italy and similar applications in Austria and Australia, as well as video and interactive documents available on web realized by ARIESPACE over the years.

Thanks to the constant dissemination carried out over the years by Consorzio Sannio Alifano (CE), Consorzio Paestum and Consorzio Sele (SA), many farmers have been able to verify the utility of the information provided by IRRISAT, even to detect unauthorized irrigations, which are seen as objective and impartial.
The raising awareness is the most varied: from articles in newspaper and scientific reviews, to conferences and workshops; in addition, Consortia have been leading meetings with farmers, printing posters and brochures, and Campania Region has as well produced an educational video.
Lately, even the regional TV news TG3 and the national TG1 did a service on IRRISAT.
However, the setting up of experimental plots on working farms is the most appreciated initiative by farmers who can closely compare the differences between a watering based on the “irrigation advice” and another based only on the farmer’s experience, directly measuring water savings for the same crop production.

Workshop on 25-3-14: photo. Moments during the Workshop about “New technologies for the monitoring of irrigated areas and water consumptions, for the efficient management of water resources”, on March 25, 2014 at the Auditorium of Piedimonte Matese (CE).
Workshop on 30-7-14: photo/1. The Workshop, held on July 30, 2014 in Piedimonte Matese (CE), was focused on the project PIRAM (the evolution of IRRISAT), whose purpose is to integrate IRRISAT with numerical, probabilistic and high-resolution weather forecasts.
Workshop on 30-7-14: photo/2. The good results achieved by the project IRRISAT increase the interest of farmers for its evolution with weather forecasts derived from the satellites. This will increase the dissemination of Irrisat everywhere (even in countries with a low level of technology and where a network of weather stations on land is absent).
Campania R.: Educational video. A short movie produced by Campania Region Government to spread its “Regional Irrigation Advisory Plan”, based on satellite data, for raising awareness of use of water.
IRRISAT on national TV RAI1. The national TV news TG1 did a service on IRRISAT on August 21, 2014, showing the main benefits of the “advisory services to irrigation assisted by satellite”.
IRRISAT on regional TV RAI3. The “advisory services to irrigation assisted by satellite” draw the attention of the media on August 18, 2014 with a special service on IRRISAT among the TV news of RAI3 regional edition (40 seconds after the opening sequence).
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Educational poster of IRRISAT. The poster is published by Consorzio in all its offices, on its web site and in places frequented by farmers and people interested in the field of agriculture.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Press on satellite systems. The article, published on “la Repubblica” (IT) on May 14, 2007, explains how the satellite can support farmers and water managers in giving them a more detailed knowledge about the amount of water required by crops in different development stages and climatic conditions.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Workshop on July 28, 2014. The brochure of the Workshop about “Technological innovation at the service of irrigation: Italy excellence in rationalising of water use”, held on July 28, 2014 in Napoli.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Workshop on March 25, 2014. The poster of the Workshop about “New technologies for the monitoring of irrigated areas and water consumptions, for the efficient management of water resources”, held on March 25, 2014 in Piedimonte Matese (Caserta). The workshop was organized by Consorzio Sannio Alifano on the occasion of World Water Day.