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 - ItalyLead 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. - ItalyInitiative 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 (http://www.irrisat.it). The approach developed by ARIESPACE for the Mediterranean region has been transferred to other arid and semi-arid agricultural systems, e.g., Southern Australia (http://www.irrieye.com). 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 - ItalyInitiative 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.