Success story

National Monitoring System for Crop Sustainability

Digital Sense is a Uruguayan company established in 2008. It has become a leader in machine vision and machine learning R&D, and its machine vision software is used in satellites in outer space globally. Recently, the Uruguayan government has requested its services to help implement a world-renowned soil conservation program.

Uruguay has more arable land per capita than any other country on the planet and is considered an agricultural powerhouse. The national government hopes to further increase the productivity of the agricultural sector, which is why soil is one of Uruguay’s most valuable natural resources.
 
The country's soil conservation efforts date back to the 1980s, when researchers were able to relate long-standing agricultural practices to soil depletion.
 
However, rising land prices over the past two decades have pushed farmers to concentrate on a small number of cash crops that generate income. Soil conservation practices such as crop rotation and cover crop planting became more expensive to implement, while some crops in the rotation did not bring in the cash needed to justify land prices. Furthermore, cover crops could not be harvested, so they could not generate income. Agricultural experts began to worry about the sustainability of the sector.
 
What followed was a national law requiring farms larger than 100 hectares to submit soil management plans, certified by a panel of agronomists.
These plans are aimed at ensuring that soil erosion does not exceed the rate at which it is replenished, but in fact, their implementation was extremely complicated, so the Uruguayan government needed a way to ensure that farmers would adhere to plans to ensure soil sustainability.
 
Consequently, in 2015, Digital Sense presented a plan to the Ministry of Agriculture for a satellite-based system to automate implementation.
 
Artificial and Satellite Vision to protect soils and natural resources
 
Digital Sense worked with Geocom Uruguay to build a nationwide GIS (Geographic Information System) to track and monitor each land management plan. The system, called Administration System of Responsible Land Use and Management Plans, calculates the slope of hills (best for estimating runoff risk) and the shape of each parcel, and identifies whether crops are growing or the field has been left fallow.
 
Through the use of artificial intelligence (image processing) and satellite imagery, the system can automatically identify farmers who do not plant erosion-preventing cover crops or who do not rotate crops to improve soil health.
 
For Digital Sense, solving a ground-based problem from space was not out of the ordinary. It had been doing so since it was founded. But, for this particular project, Digital Sense needed to develop a complete backend to process the data and integrate Uruguay's systems – such as licensing and land records – and to this end it turned to the GeneXus development platform.
 
We needed an agile and integrated way of creating processes, such as databases and front-end systems,” said Javier Preciozzi, co-founder of Digital Sense.
 
Also, Mr. Preciozzi explained that since most of the company's employees are electrical engineers, he needed a way to ensure that his company's valuable software developers could remain productive and efficient, but he realized that building the business processes needed for the Uruguayan government’s project in a programming language such as C# or Java would take months.
 
We chose GeneXus because the platform allowed us to develop prototypes and build code very quickly,” said Preciozzi. “The language was easy to learn and we were able to develop a prototype quickly to show to the client, getting immediate feedback.”
 
Currently, the system reaches almost all aspects of Uruguay's agricultural system, which covers more than 1.5 million hectares of agricultural and livestock land.
 
Most of our experience revolved around creating AI image processing components that other developers would integrate into their applications. For this project, we needed to create a complete system that defined processes and workflows.”

Mr. Preciozzi believes that another platform or language would have significantly slowed down the production of the backend, which would have delayed the launch of the project. Choosing GeneXus gave his team a platform that helped them accelerate the development of their end-to-end system. As a result, Digital Sense was able to move quickly, focusing on its machine vision technology, which was at the heart of the project, and get to work with the Government of Uruguay to support the country's agricultural economy.