The efficiency and accuracy of the project’s tree mapping ef-
forts improved immediately. Compared to the pen-and-paper 
approach, the crews gathered tree data much faster in the field, 
while digital uploads to the database eliminated the need for 
transcription. With the mobile solution, the team mapped 1,400 
trees in roughly 160 hours—nearly 9 trees/hour.

The most significant advantage of the automated solution 
is expected this year with a boost in harvest productivity. 
According to Trimble's Local Government Market Manager Rick-
Gosalvez:  “With Cengea, the Garden to Table team can query by 
fruit, season, condition and productivity of inventory to make 
more informed decisions. This will help them concentrate vol-
unteers in neighborhoods where the most fruit can be picked."  
Lewis says: "This application revolutionizes the way we are able 
to look at our tree data." 

Future Growth (Literally)
The effort dovetails with a green initiative started by San Jose in 
2009, one goal of which was to plant 100,000 new trees across 
the city. With fruit tree canopy inventory and monitoring in 
mind, the team turned to Equinox Analytics, Inc., of Bismarck, 
N.D., for the solution’s third component. 

Working with Trimble eCognition software, Equinox created 
a script that calculates fruit tree canopy coverage by analyz-
ing high-resolution aerial orthoimagery and airborne LiDAR 
elevation data acquired over San Jose. “eCognition is ideal for 
performing complex analysis of large, high-resolution spatial 
data sets,” says Equinox Analytics President, Aaron Smith. 

First, the eCognition application identified areas of vegetation 
in the digital orthoimagery using information from the visible 
green spectrum. To separate the trees from other green vegeta-
tion (e.g., grass and bushes), the script then used the elevation 
points in the LiDAR data to eliminate vegetation shorter than 
five feet in height, making it possible to calculate total tree 
canopy coverage. 

Smith output the tree data as a georeferenced profile across 
the project area and provided this file to SJSU and Garden to 

Table, so that Nixon and Lewis can cross-reference known fruit 
tree locations with the GIS canopy profile. Armed with this 
information, they expect to more accurately measure specific 
tree canopies and improve their fruit production estimates. 

100-percent Increase
Garden to Table will use the fruit tree canopy map as it moves into 
the project’s next phase: increasing the overall number of fruit 
trees. Nixon and Lewis plan to work with city officials and private 
landowners to encourage tree planting where most beneficial.

Gosalvez sees the tree canopy monitoring piece of the solution as 
having significant long-term benefits for overall urban forestry/
agriculture efforts in any city. “This integrated solution provides 
all the tools needed for communities to beautify their environ-
ments, battle food insecurity and support healthier living in the 
face of a changing climate,” he says. 

For CommUniverCity, the project is already successful. Garden 
to Table has dramatically reduced the time needed to map, 
catalog and organize central San Jose’s fruit trees. This will 
translate directly into more picking time and a projected 
100-percent increase of fruit in 2013, to roughly 25,000 pounds, 
to help feed local families. Because the negative impacts of 
“food insecurity” can range from poor academic performance 
and rising healthcare costs to increased crime and social unrest, 
this is good news for everybody.