Geographic Information Systems for Food and Agriculture
Three-credit course
Spring semester: 30 January – 7 May 2020
Thursdays, 2.00-5.00 pm

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are computer-based tools that analyze, store, manipulate and visualize geographic information, usually on a map.
With increased awareness of geospatial technologies and their role in society, agriculture and food studies continue to embrace GIS to enable the examination of spatial and socio-economic features for food security and food access as well as for an understanding of the local food environments in urban, suburban and rural communities.

This course uses case-studies from different contexts allowing participants to gain hands-on experience and knowledge of the potential of GIS as tools to manage programs that support farmers and the environment as well as decision-making for food processing and distribution. The program covers a general introduction to GIS (using a free and open-source QGIS software package). Students will critically asses the contribution of GIS to the theoretical and methodological development of food studies and agriculture worldwide.  

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. evaluate the objectives, strengths, and weaknesses of different remote sensing methods or platforms in food and agricultural contexts
  2. identify and describe standard practices during a GIS survey
  3. design and implement spatial databases using industry-standard GIS software, recognizing the principles of a range of spatial technologies
  4. map and analyze food and agricultural data with GIS and grasp the socio-economic and environmental implications of new sources of spatial data
  5. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how GIS has been applied in Food Studies and Agriculture, and how it has contributed to theoretical and methodological development of the field.

Instructor:  Sofia Bajocco
Sofia Bajocco has a Ph.D.  in Vegetation Science and a B.Sc. Degree in Natural Sciences from Sapienza University. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Climate and Vegetation Research Group, Geography Department, Boston University and at Southwest Biological Science Center - USGS (United States Geological Survey), Flagstaff, Arizona.  

Bajocco is currently a researcher at the Italian Research Council for Agriculture and Economics, Research Center on Agriculture and Environment  (CREA-AA) specialized in computational landscape ecology. Her main research topics focus on the understanding of environmental processes at the landscape scale, with a major interest in ecosystem dynamics, vegetation phenology, fire ecology, and land cover changes. She is expert in multivariate statistical methods, geoprocessing techniques, geographic information systems and remotely sensed data analysis. She teaches on these topics and has published numerous peer-reviewed papers as well as being the editor of several high impact scientific journals.

Program outline (provisional)

  • Week 1
    Introduction to course, orientation, and research topics
  • Week 2
    Introduction to Remote Sensing Techniques, Digital Mapping, total station, GPS, DGPS
  • Week 3
    Introduction to Aerial and Satellite-borne imagery; high-resolution imagery, Multi-spectral imagery 
  • Week 4
    SAR, LIDAR, and hyperspectral imaging
  • Week 5
    Geophysics: Principles, Primary, and Secondary Methods; Collection, Processing, and Interpretation of the data
  • Week 6
    Introduction to GIS; Basic cartography, and map projections
  • Week 7
    Oral Presentations
  • Week 8
    Understanding and making maps: data capture, and georeferencing 
  • Week 9
    Spatial Analysis technique
  • Week 10
    The Uncertainties in GIS and RS
  • Week 11
    The future of these techniques: pros and cons
  • Week 12
    GIS Exercises
  • Week 13
    GIS Exercises
  • Week 14
    Final Exam