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
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.
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.