Food giants collaborate to develop forest monitoring system

Thursday, 07 November, 2019

Food giants collaborate to develop forest monitoring system

A number of global palm oil producers and buyers are collaborating to support and fund the development of a publicly available radar-based forest monitoring system known as Radar Alerts for Detecting Deforestation (RADD). The collaboration will include 10 major palm oil producers and buyers, including Bunge, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), Mondelēz International, Musim Mas, Nestlé, Pepsico, Sime Darby Plantation, Unilever and Wilmar.

“We take an integrated approach in addressing the risks of deforestation, combining tools like certification, supply chain mapping, on-the-ground verification and satellite monitoring. We are pleased to support the development of publicly available forest monitoring system like RADD as it will bring accountability and transparency across the industry,” said Benjamin Ware, Global Head of Responsible Sourcing at Nestlé.

Through this partnership, companies and other stakeholders will be able to see deforestation happening in real time, with greater accuracy. This can allow then to mobilise follow-up actions on the ground and work to improve the sustainability of commodity supply chains.

Currently being developed for Indonesia and Malaysia, preliminary results for the RADD system indicate that it can detect tropical deforestation several weeks earlier than optical-based systems. Developed by Wageningen University and Satelligence, and facilitated by World Resources Institute, the RADD system will augment existing publicly available monitoring tools that rely on optical-based satellite imagery, which can be delayed when clouds obstruct the view of forests. Using radar waves, the new system can penetrate cloud cover and gather forest change information without being affected by clouds or sunlight.

“GAR has always believed in harnessing technology to spur excellence in agribusiness. This pioneering initiative will support and boost our efforts in working towards full traceability to the plantation, as we will now be able to see the real-time picture from above while working with our suppliers on the ground towards responsible palm oil,” said Dr Gotz Martin, Head of Sustainability Implementation at Golden Agri-Resources.

Once the RADD system is complete, the alerts will be publicly available on Global Forest Watch and Global Forest Watch Pro, and the methodology behind the alerts will be published. The system will utilise radar data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1A and B satellites, which orbit the Earth every six to 12 days, providing spatial detail that will improve detection of smaller clearing events.

“Bunge has long believed in the power of technology to help create a more sustainable future. That’s why we’re proud and excited to see our long-term partnership with Satelligence extended to Global Forest Watch to improve transparency and enable a more sustainable supply chain,” said Robert Coviello, Senior Vice President of Sustainability & Government Affairs at Bunge.

Throughout the system development over the next two years, partner companies will receive alerts about detected deforestation events and will provide feedback to improve the system. Due to the open nature of the system, companies, governments, civil society organisations and stakeholders will be able to monitor forests using the same information source and standards.

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