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Geomatics: We’ve got a map for that

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Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Humans have been turning information into maps for thousands of years, from simple cave drawings to Pokémon Go. Why? It’s simple: maps are easier to understand than long lists of numbers, and help data come alive!

Geomatics is the science and technology of mapping the earth's surface. Since agriculture uses so much of that surface, it’s easy to see why experts at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) have been busy making maps of Canada’s agricultural landscape.

"A picture is worth a thousand words – so maps help us visualize the information we collect and create. This in turn helps us ask better questions and make better decisions. Imagine how a farmer or policy maker could benefit from simple web based access to mapped information on changes in land use or environmental impacts like drought, crop rotations or land use."

- James Ashton, Geomatics Applications Lead, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

There are lots of examples of how this information can be used. The maps developed by AAFC could inform policy makers on where specific cropping trends are occurring, or to see where forestry changes or urban expansion is taking place.

AAFC also uses data maps to produce weather-related risk reports which could be of use to anyone from land purchasers to the insurance industry. Different sources of information are combined to show the possible severity and reach of weather conditions.

Unlike the paper maps you might remember from high school geography class, data maps are interactive. On most maps, users can choose what details they want included. Most of the data that has been turned into maps by AAFC can be found at the Government of Canada’s Open Government Portal, along with data from other departments.

A couple of web apps AAFC has created are: Annual Crop Inventory, an app that helps users quickly analyse and visualize field-level cropping patterns across Canada; and Land Use, which helps users analyze changes in land use across Canada between 1990, 2000 and 2010.


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James Ashton, Geomatics Applications Lead, AAFC
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The Annual Crop Inventory helps users quickly analyse and visualize field-level cropping patterns across Canada.
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The Land Use tool helps users visualize changes in land use over time.

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