According to the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency, agriculture is a critical component of the region’s economy with nearly 60 percent of the land area being covered by grassland.
In addition, according to a recent Eurostat study, agriculture accounts for 2.4 percent of economic output in Northern Ireland, compared to 1 percent in the United Kingdom (UK) as a whole.
Government grants provided to farmers in the region are a key driver for successful agriculture development in the region. These grants are contingent upon the size of the actual farmable land itself.
While abundant grasslands dominate the region, many of these farms contain un-farmable areas that are comprised of rock formations and other areas covered with shale.
Precise calculation of the usable land is critical for determining property valuations for dispersing grants, which is the responsibility of Land & Property Services (LPS), which is part of the Department of Finance and Personnel in Belfast, Ireland.
LPS helps to determine the actual rock formations of these farmlands for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), a government agency that aims to promote sustainable economic growth and the development of the countryside.
To effectively classify these rock/stone areas on farmlands, otherwise known as ineligible features, LPS needed the right geospatial solutions to extract the areas from the grant calculations.
As such, the organization recently implemented ERDAS IMAGINE from Hexagon Geospatial, which helps organizations to collect, process, analyze and understand raw geospatial data. The software also delivers usable information for enhancing decision-making efforts.
We worked with our partner Irish Mapping and GIS Solutions (IMGS) to implement the solution for LPS.
The LPS is using the software to detect ineligible features in common areas, including upland fields that are owned by more than one farmer, by analyzing the infrared imagery provided by LPS. Next, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) models were created from the near infrared (NIR) and red bands from the infrared imagery.
In the past, LPS viewed and classified the rocky areas by using 40cm ortho imagery. From there, reclassification efforts took place by using different desktop applications, as well as the mosaicking of 16 tiles into 1 sheet output.
LPS now has the ability to mosaic quickly, reducing the number of steps in this process. The organization is also using criteria based statements, to carry out this process.
The software has allowed LPS to remove the traditional dialog-driven workflow by streamlining a customized, repeatable means of getting access to accurate data. The organization also now has the ability to share the data and models with non-domain experts.
In addition, as some images/tiles had different shading, the software allows LPS to provide additional pan-sharpen functionality for processing and matching the shading across all of the tiles.
From there, LPS then successfully identified ineligible areas, and was able to run the entire process, including reclassification -- creating a new level of efficiencies for the organization.
“Using ERDAS IMAGINE and the latest in airborne imagery, the LPS have saved significant man hours by automating what would have been a labour-intensive survey process and reduced the need for field survey using the powerful remote sensing tools available in IMAGINE,” said IMGS General Manager, Ciaran Kirk.
As a result of this effort, LPS has officially moved away from doing what was once a very cumbersome manual process, prone to human error. The now fully automated process allows the organization to be more efficient and effective in providing this vital farmland data to DARD.
In the future, LPS plans on reproducing this process – especially using 4-band imagery for feature creation – in many future projects.
About the Author:
Claudio Mingrino is the Executive Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Hexagon Geospatial. He oversees the management and development of the Hexagon Geospatial (HGD) portfolio sales through the global Indirect Channel as well as developing strategic partnerships and alliances in Europe, Middle East and Africa for the growth of the Geospatial business of HGD in all the market segments.
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