Using Google Earth to enhance urban agriculture in Rome

Urban agriculture can be a great thing, but can be difficult to effectively plan and manage. Flavio Lupia, along with other researchers from the National Institute of Agricultural Economics in Rome have been making great use of digital mapping tools to help research and plan ideal locations around the city.

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You can read more about their work in this PDF document, which goes into detail about their work, such as:

The current version of the database contains more than 4,000 polygons spread over a total surface of about 35,000 hectares with a total farmed area of 400 hectares. The geodatabase was realized by interpreting the high resolution images of Google Earth for the year 2007 and 2013 allowing further analysis on the temporal evolution of the phenomenon.

Beyond that, here are some additional thoughts from Flavio:

  • Despite in Italy there are some private and governamental bodies producing regularly very high resolution aerophotogrammetric scenes the restriction and policy distribution of the data don’t allow researchers to perform this kind of analysis.
  • Although in Italy, especially during the last year, the concept of open-data is becoming more and more common this is still a theoretical idea since public administrations have releases very few geospatial data.
  • GE allows to perform the photointerpretation process, the digitalization and the multi-temporal analysis with an easy to use single tool.
  • The entire mapping project employed only human resources (researcher for the photointerpretation), no costs for tools and images acquisition and pre-processing thanks to GE.
  • Even if the radiometric and spatial resolution of the GE imagery are lower than those provided by the Italian public bodies, the researchers demonstrated the fitness-for-use of GE for mapping urban agriculture. The images are sufficient to discover cultivated parcels as small as 8 square meters in size and allow to photointerpreters to use all visual element to identify cropping activities (tone, color, texture, pattern, etc.).
  • Since 2011 GSV report the timestamp in the GE status bar. This helped researchers to have a clear idea about the acquisition time during the “virtual field check”. Nonetheless some limitations in the usability of GSV exist: 1.the temporal mismatch between GE imagery used for parcels identification (year 2013) and GSV (2011-2012). 2.the temporal variation among the single images of GSV, in fact scenes acquired in different times are woven together to form a continuous coverage along the streets (in our study area we found GSV images acquired in 2011 and 2012).

It’s an excellent use of Google Earth, and it should help result in great things for the city of Rome.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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