S.I.M.I.S

The Belize Sugar Industry Management Information System

Introduction

The sugar sector utmost priority is currently improving sugarcane productivity to match challenges that are expected in 2017 with the removal of preferential market for the sale of sugar in Europe. The Sugar Industry Management Information System (SIMIS) can guide this process by establishing which areas are suitable for sugarcane production, determining levels of productivity and the infrastructure and management practices required to bring those areas into production with a given level of productivity.

The goal of the SIMIS is to improve the production, efficiency and profitability of the Belize sugar industry in a collaborative framework, through the development and maintenance of a Sugar Industry Management Information System.

Inception

Through the implementation of the Institutional Strengthening of SIRDI project by the Inter- American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and funded by the European Union (EU) phase 1 of SIMIS was initiated.

Phase 1 includes collection of field data such as owner, acreage, age, variety, cycle (ratoon or plant cane) and overall condition of cane field. SIMIS was also engaged in development of a farmer ID system that allowed for collection of farmer personal data and cleaning of cane farmer registry. A first round of farmer ID registry drive has been conducted in 2015 and a second round is expected in 2016 to finalize the database. SIMIS has also sought support from its stakeholders who have expressed commitment to support the initiatives being taken to create these databases and collaboration to implement the SIMIS.

Phase 2 is currently being developed with the establishment of a centralized database and upgrades to various datasets currently available within the industry. It is also envisioned that a web portal will be developed to provide data input, monitoring and reporting to stakeholders of the sugar industry. SIMIS is also engaged in various initiatives to do data collection, provide training, guidance and provision of quality data to its stakeholders. Current projects being engaged include the Production Monitoring pilot project which include tracking sugar cane deliveries from time of burning to delivery at the mill. This is currently in a pilot stage with participation of 10% of harvest groups and collaboration with the Sugar Cane Production Committee (SCPC).

SIMIS is also collecting weather data at its SIRDI headquarters with the installation of automated weather stations and expects the installation of more weather stations in strategic locations with the sugar belt in 2016. Data is uploaded every 15 minutes to a data sever and cane be viewed on real time at www.sirdi.bz. Through collaboration of all its stakeholders a logo has been created with a cane stalk to remind us of the industry we work for and a barcode to incorporate technology as a core factor to the information system. Logo also has incorporated all logos of stakeholders and can be viewed as separate websites with our collaborators.


Digitizing of sugar cane fields using SPOT-6 (1.5m) satellite imagery and production of maps

Digitizing was done by creating polygons over SPOT 6 satellite imagery over areas believed to be sugar cane fields using a pointer or mouse in the SIMIS laboratory. SIMIS team has completed digitization of polygons believed to be sugar cane fields and upon the conclusion of that project in May 2014 the following results were obtained: Total digitized fields amounted to 19,228 polygons equivalent to 76,631 acres of land believed to be sugar cane fields. Satellite imagery was taken on March 2013 and during that time to present date many cane parcels have been created and modified. The task of digitizing fields was carried out by a team dedicated to creating a complete layer of digitized sugar fields. This automatically created one of the largest agricultural geo-datasets of the agriculture industry in Belize. Newly digitized layer has been compared with the soils study carried out by the BSCFA in 2010 and it illustrates a more detailed map of the entire industry. Data captured by the BSCFA soils study has been migrated to the SIMIS database to identify farmer’s locations and use as a guide to collect SIMIS data. All fields have been digitized using the ESRI ArcGIS software.

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Population of SIMIS database (Recently Digitized Cane Parcel layer and Farmer ID database)

SIMIS team has been busy planning, coordinating and executing two components of the project that includes data collection through field verification and collection of social security cards to correct the cane farmer registry list for the cane parcel ID database. Various approaches have been tried prior to executing data collection that include pilot project of GRID 29 with collaboration of Georgia State University and University of Belize students, Data collection exercise 2014 with SCPC field officers and the launch of 2014 campaign for data collection with SIRDI extension officers, SIMIS team and SCPC field officers.

Pilot Project carried out on GRID 29 with collaboration from Georgia State University and University of Belize.

In June 2014 data collection was piloted using ESRI’s ArcGIS Online application to collect both online and offline data. The application was piloted on GRID 29 which was created by SIMIS to designate areas under sugar cane production. The pilot project was done in one day and data collected included variety of cane planted, name of owner, age of cane, area located and yield estimation. Pilot included planning, training of data collectors and execution of data collection on grid 29.

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SIMIS and SIRDI collaborates with SCPC verification exercise 2014

SCPC is responsible for carrying out a yearly exercise to verify all stand over sugar cane fields and in 2014 it was done in collaboration with SIMIS. Exercise was conducted for the purpose of verifying all stand over cane that remained during the 2013/2014 cane harvesting season. The verification exercise will yield the acreage remaining and a production estimate will be assigned by the SCPC depending on the age of cane and the type of farming practice being done by farmer. A plant cane is a cane that was recently planted and will be harvested the first time. A ratoon is a cane that will be harvested the second time and onwards.

Through the formation of SIMIS it has been recognized that the format for data capture has to be standardized and the methodologies used to collect data has to be more efficient. Data has to be consistent and other fields of data will have to be collected that includes varieties, production estimate, age of cane, name of farmer and acreage verified. SIMIS has identified the need to train industry field officers to use the new methodologies being used and emphasize on collecting data more efficiently. SCPC, BSCFA, BSI/ASR field officers have been trained by SIRDI extension officers to identify sugar cane varieties and also trained on how to assign production estimates. SIMIS has been testing many software’s and applications that can be used to collect data and one of the most successful test has been the use of android application. SCPC field officers were each assigned android phones and all pertinent applications installed and deployed for data collection. Data collection has been carried out by conducting training in variety identification, yield estimation, using android application for data collection and training in GPS mapping.

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Preliminary results obtained from SCPC verification exercise 2014 for varietal status gives a good indication of dominant variety currently planted.

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SIMIS collaborates with SCPC and SIRDI extension officers to collect data for all sugar cane fields.

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With the conclusion of SCPC field verification exercise SIMIS saw the need to continue collaboration with field officers to collect field data for the remainder of fields left to be verified. All field officers were assigned GRIDS and Sub-GRIDS to do data collection. Data entry officers and SIRDI officers coordinate data collection. Verification also includes cane parcel modifications and tagging a nine digit unique identifier to all cane parcels by SIMIS data entry assistants.

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Development of the Cane Farmer ID system and Database

Through the SIMIS project a cane farmer ID system database is being developed and will be completed at the end of 2014. A database is being developed to host all farmer registry information and SIRDI will be the central repository for industry data. Data will be used as the “central point of truth” for the industry and make SIMIS the industry data centre. All data will be used for decision making and act as the centre for business intelligence and data mining. A newly established database will be able to issue a cane farmer ID card and record all pertinent information from his/her field. Establishment of this database will result in creation of a digital database that will be used in identifying average age of cane farmer, gender, administrators, division, branch, reaping groups etc. System will enable stakeholders to make more informed decisions that affect production and delivery using the ID system.


SIRDI and SIMIS managed automated weather stations for real time weather tracking

Automated weather stations have been installed by SIRDI at two primary locations within the sugar belt and more stations will be installed in the future. Automated weather stations deliver information every 15 minutes using a GPRS system used to update precipitation, pyranometer (Radiation), humidity, temperature, wind direction and wind speed. Information is being used to track weather patterns that have major impact on sugar cane production. More humidity means that sugar cane seeds can be planted, growth will be optimal, some types of pests and disease are also optimal at these conditions, weed and grass growth will also be optimal during this time. Proper planning can be made to address these situations. Less humidity and high temperatures indicate that soil will be less humid in turn causing the sugar cane to ripen and accumulate more sugar. This in turn indicates that cane fields will soon be ready for harvesting. Weather stations provide a good indication for future forecasting, planning and executing field activities as most of it relies on the weather performance.

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Building the SIMIS infrastructure

The SIMIS infrastructure will require data integration from both cane parcel database and farmer ID database. These databases will have to be integrated to function as one system so that cane farmers information and cane parcel information can be accessed by industry stakeholders. Data integration is an essential component to the success of the SIMIS project that will include software and hardware setup, configuration, testing and deployment. A concept map has been drafted to illustrate how SIMIS will be integrated and work over a network of industry partners through a collaborative agreement.

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