Detecting Cropping Patterns of Underutilised Crops using Online Big Data

A Paper presented by Ayman Salama, CropBASE Senior Application Architect
Future Technology Conference 2017
Vancouver, Canada
29-30 Nov 2017 
Crops that are currently underutilised can play a major role in diversifying food sources and combating climate variability. One major obstacle for wider adoption of these species is the lack of information on the geographic areas where these crops are currently grown. These crops are typically grown in marginal lands through subsistence agriculture. At present, there is no global database and no efficient procedure that allows users to acquire cropping patterns of underutilised crops. The proposed solution identifies underutilized cropping patterns using online search engine data. The target is to determine global public interest in underutilised crops over time through search engine data. This identifies possible crop utilisation patterns, trends and interest pertaining to underutilised crops over time.

As a proof of concept, we collected a set of keyword synonymous of bambara groundnut, from local and international atabases and research publications. Using the Google AdWords service and 40 different terms for bambara groundnut, we were able to gather search event data for two years, at the city level. Preliminary analysis done through a software prototype shows that the data provides new insights as to how bambara groundnut search events are distributed and how this data can be used to delineate current areas where bambara groundnut grows and what are the characteristics of their value chains.

For evaluation purposes, we compared our bambara groundnut results with the crop’s known network of bambara groundnut growers and researchers, and confirmed that the results not only matched known regions of the network but also proposed several new ones that need to be evaluated. The results suggest that the proposed solution provides significant indicators for possible cropping patterns and/or research interests around the world. 
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