July 15, 2024

As the government zeroes in on agriculture as a top priority, the Philippine Statistical Authority has started the decennial 2022 Census of Agriculture and Fisheries (CAF) this month, with the assistance of modern technologies including artificial intelligence in data gathering.

The CAF, which started on Sept. 4 until Oct. 25, is a large-scale government undertaking geared towards the collection and compilation of basic information on the agriculture and fishery sectors in the country to provide government planners, policymakers, administrators with agriculture and fishery data on which to base their social and economic development plans, policies, and programs.

Aldrin Federico Bahit Jr., PSA-Cordillera chief statistics specialist, said PSA has piloted the use of remote sensing artificial intelligence along with geographic information system in gathering data for the CAF and the results of which are being compared with the regular methods to determine its accuracy.

Remote sensing is the process of detecting and monitoring the physical characteristics of an area by measuring its reflected and emitted radiation at a distance typically from a satellite or aircraft, and special cameras collect remotely sensed images, which help researchers “sense” things about the Earth.

He said AI through remote sensing will provide data for area estimation and count of selected crops and aqua farms, identify areas for census saturation, and provide inputs in the development of statistical frame for agriculture and aquaculture surveys.

AI is initially being used to gather area size of palay and corn farms (high value crops); number of scattered mango and coconut trees and respective area size of plantations (fruit-bearing trees); and surface area of fishponds, fish pens, and fish cages (aqua farms).

“We are using remote sensing in processing the data gathered from the satellite maps to identify the areas and the fruit-bearing trees and aqua farms,” Bahit said.

He said the project is “very promising” for the PSA because the materials they have so far gathered at the pilot stage are close to the survey results.

“This will be very helpful because one challenge in the region is the terrain. When using remote sensing, we no longer need to go the sites especially in the far areas. Previously we used stereoscopic binoculars in reading maps. Now there is a program using a computer in reading and processing data seen in satellite maps,” Bahit said.

He said the PSA is trying to improve its methodologies by taking advantage of modern technology so that in the next years it would be effectively used in censuses, surveys, and other statistical activities of the government.

“Hopefully we will have continuous funding so that the use of this technology could be expanded, hindi na lang enumerators ang pupunta para kumuha ng mga datos.”

Enumerators for the 2022 CAF will still be doing house-to-house visit for household interviews of target respondents – head of household, or any responsible member of the household who can provide accurate information about the household and all its members, agricultural farm, aquaculture, or fishing operation – through the traditional pen and paper interview, and computer-assisted personal interview using tablets.

There will also be telephone interviews for areas without Internet access where interviewers would be writing down and encoding data gathered and upload it to their server via Internet.

PSA is also using the self-accomplished questionnaire and pen and paper interview among non-household respondents (establishments/institutions).

“The current administration is prioritizing agriculture and that’s the reason why we need to have the full support of everybody for the census of agriculture and fisheries,” he added. – Hanna C. Lacsamana