The recent integration of 13 global Agricultural Stress Index System (ASIS) datasets (11 data + 2 auxiliary) in the HiH Geospatial Platform marks another successful milestone in the collaboration among FAO units, in this case between the EST’s Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) and the Digitalization and Informatics Division (CSI)’s Hand-in-Hand (HiH) teams, for greater efficiency and results. ´´This joint effort is the outcome of intensive work that has been ongoing for several years, with the aim of working for zero hunger through digital innovation. It constitutes a win-win solution as the HiH Geospatial Platform extends the function of the current ASIS, a satellite-based agriculture monitoring tool, and also provides a great window to expand the usage of ASIS in broader contexts and to broader audiences´´ highlights Mario Zappacosta, EST Senior Economist and Team Leader.
Find some more details about this great collaboration below.
What is ASIS exactly and what is its main objective?
´´Monitoring crop growth is crucial to forecast production and provide early warning of situations where crop failures may lead to food shortages´´ says Yanyun Li, EST Economist and Data Management Specialist. ´´The ASIS is an innovative tool to monitor agricultural drought across the globe and it is operated by the FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) to support its food security monitoring and assessment activities´´ she further explains. As a digital expert system, powered by remote sensing, geospatial, data mining and machine learning technologies, the ASIS simulates the analysis that agronomists and remote sensing experts would undertake and simplifies the interpretation and usage of remote sensing data.
How does ASIS work?
The ASIS uses near real time (ten days), middle resolution (1 km) satellite imagery that is freely available in the public domain as key input data. Based on the time series of the imagery, the Agricultural Stress Index (ASI), a quick-look seasonal indicator, is introduced for the early identification of agricultural areas probably affected by dry spells or drought, in extreme cases. The ASI is complemented by the Drought Intensity indicator that illustrates the severity of seasonal water stress. The timely detection of developing droughts and the accurate assessment of the resultant stresses to crops allow to carry out informed interventions and alleviate any negative impacts. Although the main target of ASIS is seasonal agricultural drought monitoring, the ASIS datasets also include other vegetation indicators. In addition, the rich temporal and spatial granularities of the ASIS datasets can serve different analysis purposes. For example, one of the ASIS dataset: Historic Drought Frequency was used as a key input in the State of the Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2020 report to evaluate the population affected by water stress.
How has ASIS evolved through the last years?
Since 2014, the GIEWS Earth Observation website, which hosts ASIS as a key component, provides analysts with updated indicators for 196 countries! Besides the complexity of using satellite imagery as input data for various algorithms, another key challenge has been to ensure that large amounts of information are regularly and timely updated online in order to effectively support the monitoring and early warning activities. Every ten days, for each country, over 20 maps are released in a publish-ready format. Thanks to the great support from CSI’s HiH Geospatial Team, from July 2021, all ASIS raster datasets (over 16 000 layers) are accessible to the general public through the HiH Geospatial Platform. For more advanced Geographic Information System (GIS) users, the datasets can also be accessed through the Web Map Service (WMS) provided by FAO. This integration, through an optimized data collection, analysis and sharing technology, gives users a more valuable insight on crop monitoring and production forecasts that supplements ground-based information.
What about ASIS’ actual impact?
´´The ASIS detects hotspots around the world every ten days and contains an archive of agricultural drought hotspots since 1984. This is a unique data asset in FAO!´´ says Zhongxin Chen, Senior Information Technology Officer from CSI. ´´The system fully addresses the four vital “As” of digital application: Availability, Accessibility, Applicability and Affordability. It also won the Geospatial World Excellence Award in 2016 at the Geospatial World Forum. More and more users have known ASIS since then and its outputs have been used in many research papers and food security bulletins issued by FAO´´ he adds.
Besides the global version operated by GIEWS, the ASIS also includes a standalone country-level tool whose purpose is to strengthen national/regional early warning systems for food security. The tool, customized with local knowledge as well as detailed land‑use maps and national crop statistics, allows countries to fine‑tune the parameters to be used by the system and thereby generates more accurate results.
What are ASIS future perspectives?
For the next steps, GIEWS is aiming at boosting the usage of global ASIS datasets through the HiH Geospatial Platform for more precise, location-based monitoring and analysis, index-based crop insurance, and evidence-based, targeted agricultural drought risk management strategy. Disseminating the ASIS datasets on other well-known geospatial cloud platforms (such as Google Earth Engine, ArcGIS Online,) is underway. Work in ongoing to develop training material to increase the outreach of the new features of ASIS and, broadly, to exploit the great potential of embedding big Earth data and geospatial analysis into daily analytical work. Since 2017, a team in the FAO’s Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (OCB) Division has been responsible to implement the country ASIS Tool in more than ten countries and its outputs will be integrated with the HiH Geospatial Platform. And this is meant to continue…
A word for the end?
Digitalization for data management has definitely an important role to play in transforming food systems and helping to address food and nutrition insecurity. In the agricultural sector, it can do so in several ways, through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other tools, including optimizing or even carrying out some human activities, such as planting and harvesting, increasing productivity, improving working conditions, and using natural resources more efficiently.
Capitalizing on this context and the unique opportunities it provides, the ASIS constitutes a key advancement in the use of satellite‑based data for crop/pasture monitoring. ´ASIS is definitely an easy‑to‑interpret product in remote sensing and enhance access to information products for a broad audience. This lays at the core mandate of our Digital FAO and with GIEWS, we hope to continue serving it for the benefit of our expanded communities´´ concludes Karl Morteo, CSI Information Technology Officer.
Watch ASIS video here
Visit ASIS website here
Find the ASIS datasets integrated in Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform here
For more information, contact GIEWS1@fao.org