With an eight billion population and growing by the second, there is a pressing need to balance food production with population growth and at the same time ensure sustainable agricultural practices to protect the environment and the communities.
At Sime Darby Plantation (SDP) we recognized the importance of employing geospatial technologies to enable sustainable plantation management practices. These technologies enable informed decision-making regarding planting, harvesting, and crop growth monitoring hence reducing environmental impact, and promoting efficient resource optimization.
Without the advent of remote sensing technologies via satellite and drone imagery, maintaining an accurate inventory of about eight hundred million oil palm trees spanning four countries proved to be an incredibly challenging task. SDP leveraged such technology to identify and georeferenced the planted palms, monitor palm health, and accurately assess nutrient requirements at individual palm levels. This enables precise optimization of fertilizer usage and other best agricultural practices, including pests and disease control. The ongoing research program, including collaboration with academia and technology providers, is aimed at further improving the efficiency of remote sensing technologies for oil palm plantations.
Terrain and hydrology modeling technologies have also contributed significantly towards responsible land use practices in SDP. With these technologies, SDP can identify areas of low productivity and high erosion risk hence enabling the company to develop customized measures for soil conservation, water management, and land rehabilitation.
Enhancing satellite imagery with machine learning algorithms enables the prediction of palm oil production levels with a high degree of accuracy.
This information can help companies make informed decisions about pricing, supply chain management, and forecasting financial performance. It is also important for SDP to use remote sensing technologies to track changes in land use around oil palm plantations, such as deforestation or land conversion for other agricultural purposes, due to its capacity to support the Crosscheck platform, which guides sourcing decisions and identifies suppliers that require further engagement.
Remote sensing technologies are vital in enabling accurate and timely identification of deforestation-risk-prone areas and safe sourcing zones. With such functions, the platform enables industry stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding sustainable sourcing practices.
Spatial Data Management and Rapid Analytics (SMART) is an interconnected web and mobile-based GIS platform that is used to address critical business challenges and facilitate better collaboration across the palm oil production value chain. Its objective is to create SDP’s Geospatial Big Data ecosystem that enables stakeholder engagement using an integrated location intelligence platform to improve operational insights and efficiency towards the implementation of Agriculture 4.0.
The use of geospatial technology has enabled plantation managers to have a better understanding of their plantations, such as identifying the most suitable areas for planting or understanding the slope and soil types of various parts of their plantations. It also allows managers to monitor plantation activities such as harvesting and irrigation, enabling them to optimize their resources while reducing their environmental impact.
Furthermore, geospatial technology facilitates precision agriculture in which the use of GPS and sensors guide farmers in planting, harvesting, watering, fertilizing crops, and identifying areas that require further attention. Overall, geospatial technology provides plantations with critical information that can lead to more efficient and sustainable management practices.