- François-Xavier Branthôme
CropScope, virtual fields for optimizing crops
As early as 2018, Portuguese tomato growers will have a new technological tool providing them with real-time access to information and advice for cultivation decisions and procedures. This facility should lead to a productivity gain of approximately 10%.
This new technology, called CropScope by its designers, was officially presented at the end of August 2017 in Vila Franca de Xira, in the Lisbon region. It has been jointly developed by the NEC company, which specializes in infrastructures dedicated to information technology, and by the Japanese multinational Kagome, the main shareholder in the holding HIT (Holding da Indústria Transformadora do Tomate), which includes FIT and Italagro.
"The concept has already been tested for the past three years in Portugal, in the fertile regions of Ribatejo, and in Australia, and has given excellent results. We are convinced that this technology will lead to improvements both in terms of productivity and quality," pointed out NEC Portugal's João Paulo Fernandes.
According to João Subtil, in charge of field trials for Kagome, "production is expected to reach 130 or 140 tonnes per hectare," in comparison with Portugal's average production of 84 tonnes/ha.
Mr. Fernandes explained that CropScope technology enables the creation of virtual fields, using data regarding the weather, pedological conditions and any other data relating to crop development obtained thanks to sensors installed in the fields, images obtained by satellite and by drone, as well as other information supplied by the grower regarding cultivation techniques, particularly irrigation levels and use of inputs (fertilizers, plant health inputs, etc.).
"Once the virtual fields have been created, this solution means that simulations of crop growth can be generated, providing growers with personalized information in real time, such as recommendations for cultivation decisions, forecasts of final crops and the most appropriate date for the harvest." The NEC representative added that this method will also lead to an optimization of water usage and of applications of fertilizers and other agrochemical inputs, depending on crop development and weather conditions.
CropScope technology will be available commercially through NEC as from 2018 in Portugal and other countries.
The Secretary of State for Agriculture and Food, Luis Medeiros Vieira, attended the presentation and welcomed the emergence of this new technology that will provide support for tomato production. He expressed his optimism regarding an increase in Portuguese exports for the industrially processed tomato sector.
These considerations "indicate that Portuguese agriculture is healthy, thanks to its growers, who are highly professionalized and qualified. Specifically given the area of tomato production, we are talking about a sector that has demonstrated a highly dynamic approach to innovation, achieving major export results," he added.
The Minister expects processing tomato production to reach 1.7 million tonnes this year in Portugal, of which the largest proportion is intended for export. This year, 462 tomato growers have registered with the 16 existing organizations.
An NEC video is also available at:
Sources: www.dn.pt, www.vidarural.pt, www.oribatejo.pt, www.agronegocios.eu
Some complementary data
Evolution of the quantities of tomato paste exported by the Portuguese industry.
Portugal also exports canned tomatoes, whose volumes have been growing rapidly (12 700 mT in 2011, close on 31 000 mT in 2016) and sauces (17 300 mT in 2011, 35 000 mT in 2016).