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30,000 Acres in Eight Florida Counties Managed with GIS

Evans Properties, Inc., Goes Digital

The tools of today's farmer are a quantum leap forward from those used by previous generations. Powerful technologies are helping farmers produce a greater abundance of crops at lower costs and with greater efficiency. For citrus grower Evans Properties, GPS, field technologies, and GIS provide a competitive advantage while preserving precious environmentally sensitive habitats.

Above right: Tractor-mounted laser with Trimble GPS received utilized for automated tree inventory, canopy density, and tree height.

"We're looking for a competitive advantage," says President and CEO Ron Edwards. "I don't think you can be effective and competitive without being environmentally responsible. The two are integrated."

"Evans Properties is a leader in using GIS, GPS, and other technologies for precision agriculture," says Jack Dangermond, president, Esri. "Today's global economy dramatically impacts farmers of all sizes. GIS is an integrative information technology for all areas of farming, from subfield-level analyzing of crop yield information to internationally assisting governmental organizations enforce fiscal Business rules such as taxation, farmer subsidy programs, and regulation. GIS can give decision makers a better method for understanding how features within the agricultural landscape interact, thereby creating a better means to increase efficiency and lower costs."

Above left: Tractor-mounted Veris Soil EC mapping system with Trimble GPS receiver utilized for soil variability mapping.

Evans Properties

Founded in 1951, Evans Properties is privately owned with 250 employees overseeing 30,000 acres in eight Florida counties. The company annually produces seven million boxes of citrus and also runs a few thousand head of cattle. In addition, it's expanding into real estate ventures to redevelop older groves located in urban settings.

Taking over for founder J. Emmett Evans, who started Evans Properties in 1951, Ron Edwards became CEO in 1995 and is a leader in the progressive use of technology including GIS. Evans Properties moved its headquarters in 1998 to Vero Beach, Florida, since the greatest portion of its farmlands were located on Florida's Treasure Coast.

Above right: Precision agriculture, using ArcView and GPS, gives farmers a better method for mapping and integrating data.

The company's success over 50 years is a direct result of its continuing long-term view of how to remain successful in a highly competitive world.

For Evans Properties, the larger its farming operation gets and the more complex farming becomes, the greater the need is for better methods to manage information to plant crops. How can you create the highest possible yielding crop? Plant pathology, soil composition, herbicides, pesticides, climate, temperature, and irrigation are just a few agronomic items involved in data collection and decision support. The right mix, match, and analysis of these variables can vary from one tree to the next, from one farm area to the other. Now enters GIS.

A New, Improved Solution

Evans Properties turned to technology for a new, improved solution that provides lasting results now and into the future. The company acquired ArcView GIS, GPS, scanner equipment, and high-technology sprayers and other farming tools. The company also acquired a wealth of farm data for analysis.

These data and tools are used for a number of farming applications, from counting, mapping, and cataloging crops to applying pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers to projecting crop yield. What was done in the past using work experience and paper methods is now done using advanced computing and mapping techniques.

In the past, for example, a farmer might have used the same pesticides or fertilizers throughout the farmland. While this method was effective, a more precise application of pesticides and fertilizer provides for a greater crop yield and environmental benefit to the land, ecosystem, and watershed.

Above left: Evans Properties created this ArcView 3D Analyst plot using GPS laser tree inventory point data, grid surface plot of tree size standard deviation, and neighborhood mean grid analysis surface.

"The tree or soil physics and chemistry in one area of a farm can differ from another area," says Max Crandall, agriculture industry manager, Esri. "Precision agriculture, using ArcView and GPS, gives the farmer a better method to map areas, integrate a wealth of agriculture data, and analyze the results to see where, when, and how pesticides, fertilizers, and other variables can be managed. Instead of using one type of fertilizer or pesticide throughout a farm, the best fertilizer and pesticide can be applied to the right area of a farm at a varying rate and precise amount."

And that's precisely what Evans Properties is doing.

The company collects a lot of data on land, soil, and tree composition, and this data is geographically analyzed and visualized. Having tree-by-tree geographic specific agronomic information can then be used to solve problems and boost efficiency.

For instance, the company uses ArcView and GPS for its annual tree count. Combining GPS with laser sensing equipment, the company went through its farmland and digitally mapped each tree and gathered related tabular data such as tree root type and height; the data was then stored using ArcView.

While it might seem an elementary task, it's the tree count that is the beginning point for crop projections and other long-term planning. A more accurate count done at a faster rate provides a greater competitive boost. With this data stored digitally, it can be further analyzed and refined for other application areas.

Above right: A three-dimensional plot using airborne infrared remote sensing.

The company can also map and analyze soil content throughout its farms for better crop production. For much of its farmland, soil composition may differ dramatically within short distances. Understanding soil composition can mean the difference in what type of tree to plant and what fertilizer and pesticide to use.

Sprayers equipped with lasers can make "smart application" of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, turning on and off according to predetermined application doses. In addition to improving crop yield, the precise application of these chemicals and fertilizers saves money and creates more environmentally sound farming practices.

It is also providing a competitive advantage by managing its information digitally and using more detailed data in the decision making process. But the fruits of these labors don't stop there.

The company recently received the "2000 Commissioner's Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award," presented by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This prestigious award is handed out by a committee of representatives from public and private organizations including the Nature Conservancy, State Water Management Districts, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and cattle and dairy associations. According to the committee, Evans Properties received the distinguished honor for "leadership in promoting progressive environmental practices."

Evans Properties uses GIS to create basemapsThe company's success is also extending to other application areas. Evans Properties is extending its groundbreaking work, doing a joint research project with the University of Florida to investigate what soils and tree rootstock work best together.

At right: Evans Properties uses GIS to create basemaps.

"Technology can give us a better means for performing a number of tasks," says Edwards. "We're excited about what's taking place and where we are headed."

For more information, contact Max Crandall, agriculture industry manager, Esri (tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1-2309; e-mail: mcrandall@esri.com).


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