Expert view

watchITgrow: Was it a success?

The first growing season in which the satellite monitoring programme watchITgrow was widely available to Belgian potato growers is coming to an end. Tentative conclusions about the concept’s use can now be drawn.

What was the purpose of the programme?

watchITgrow determines the vegetation index of registered potato fields once every 5 days, based on satellite images. This index shows what fields look like at any given time. watchITgrow calculates the yield forecast through crop growth models on a national, provincial, municipal and field level. The models combine different types of data such as satellite images and weather and soil data. The more registered fields, the more reliable the yield forecasts.

Photo: watchITgrow

Potato growers could register their fields or just watch

The programme is widely available since the start of this year’s season. Individual growers were able to create an account on watchitgrow.be (for free this year) to register their own potato fields or to watch. By adding more of their own data about fertilisation, crop protection and irrigation, growers take steps towards precision farming, by making use of a decision support tool.

The beauty of the system

The grower can use it extensively and rather passively. This makes it very approachable. I become more and more convinced that concepts need to have a low threshold and direct results in order to ensure the successful wide introduction of precision farming.

watchITgrow meets those conditions: just signing up is enough for the grower to follow the yield forecast of his own crops and those of all registered fields in Belgium. This year, 6.000 hectares were registered, divided over the most important potato areas in the country.

Right now, watchITgrow paints a picture of the Belgian potato yield that matches other forecasts. That goal has been achieved.

This winter will show how watchITgrow will help potato growers to take their first steps on the slippery, but promising path of smart farming.

To be continued…