Polygon Mapping in Deforestation-Free Supply Chains

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, 10 minute read

Quick summary: Polygon mapping is revolutionizing supply chain management, allowing businesses to trace and verify sourcing practices, ensuring ethical compliance. Despite challenges, the environmental and societal benefits are significant. With advancing technology, polygon mapping is poised to become a standard in supply chain practices, paving the way for a genuinely sustainable and deforestation-free future.

Businesses are increasingly turning their attention to the concept of deforestation-free supply chains. As consumers become more conscientious about the products they purchase, companies are recognizing the imperative of aligning their operations with sustainable and ethical standards. This growing awareness has given rise to innovative technologies and approaches, such as polygon mapping, which play a pivotal role in ensuring that supply chains remain untainted by deforestation. 

Leveraging GPS polygon mapping, which outlines the complete farm perimeter, adds an extra layer of visibility and vigilance, enhancing transparency and traceability within the agricultural supply chain. 

In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of polygon mapping, explore the profound importance of deforestation-free supply chains, and discuss its future trends and developments. By the time we conclude, you will have a deep understanding of how polygon mapping serves as a beacon for ethical and sustainable supply chain management. 

Understanding Polygon Mapping 

The essence of polygon mapping lies in its capacity to provide a detailed and data-rich understanding of geographical areas, particularly those that are pertinent to supply chain operations. Before delving into the importance and intricacies of deforestation-free supply chains, it’s essential to comprehend the foundations of polygon mapping. 

What Is Polygon Mapping ? 

Polygon mapping, at its core, is a geospatial technology harnessed for the creation of precise and detailed maps of specific geographic areas. These areas are delineated using GPS coordinates, giving birth to a digital representation of land boundaries known as polygons. These polygons, visual representations of land areas, serve as an invaluable tool for various purposes, including supply chain management. 

How It Works 

The process of polygon mapping unfolds through several key stages. It begins with the collection of data, particularly satellite imagery, which provides critical insights into the state of the land in question. The next step involves the analysis of these images, merging them with GPS coordinates to create accurate polygon boundaries. This mapping, which is often facilitated through geographic information systems (GIS), offers a visual overview of the land, making it more accessible for monitoring and management. 

Key Components and Data Sources 

Polygon mapping draws its strength from the convergence of various data sources and components. Some of the pivotal elements that underpin this technology include: 

  1. Satellite Imagery: High-resolution satellite imagery forms the bedrock of polygon mapping. These images deliver comprehensive information regarding land characteristics, such as tree cover, land use, and alterations over time. 
  1. GPS Coordinates: The precision of polygon mapping hinges on the accurate determination of GPS coordinates. These coordinates serve as the fundamental markers for delineating the boundaries of polygons, ensuring a high degree of accuracy. 
  1. Geospatial Software: Geographic information system (GIS) software is pivotal in processing and analyzing the data. It equips users with the tools needed to create, manipulate, and assess polygon maps. 

The Role of Polygon Mapping in Supply Chains 

With an understanding of what polygon mapping entails, let’s now venture into its pivotal role in maintaining deforestation-free supply chains. 

Ensuring Deforestation-Free Sourcing 

Deforestation poses a significant environmental and ethical challenge, particularly for industries like agriculture and timber production. By adopting polygon mapping, businesses can meticulously map the land parcels they utilize in their production processes. This not only helps to ensure that their raw materials are sourced from deforestation-free areas but also facilitates the attainment of sustainability goals and compliance with ethical sourcing standards. 

Transparency and Verification 

One of the standout advantages of polygon mapping is the transparency it affords. It empowers businesses and consumers with easy access to precise and up-to-date information regarding the origins of products. This transparency fosters trust and enables independent verification of sourcing practices. It’s especially invaluable for companies aiming to exhibit their unwavering commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing.

Compliance with Regulations 

Numerous countries and regions have enacted regulations aimed at curtailing deforestation and endorsing responsible land utilization. Polygon mapping provides companies with the means to ensure compliance with these regulations. It offers concrete evidence of their dedication to deforestation-free practices and enhances the capacity to oversee and report on land use changes and deforestation activities, thereby swiftly identifying and addressing any illicit practices. 

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Polygon Mapping for EUDR 

In adherence to the updated EUDR regulations, businesses are mandated to achieve traceability down to the farm level, encompassing geolocation data. Geolocation data entails the location of an object determined by latitude and longitude coordinates. For farms smaller than four hectares, companies are required to furnish GPS data, while for larger farms exceeding four hectares, polygon mapping is necessary. Polygon mapping involves delineating the entire perimeter of a farm, contrasting with the provision of a single GPS coordinate. 

Ensuring traceability to the specific plot of land, as mandated by the EUDR requirement to collect geographic coordinates, is crucial to demonstrate the absence of deforestation in a particular location. Various methods, including remotely sensed information like satellite images or field photographs with geotags and time stamps, can be employed for verification. The geolocation coordinates are integral to due diligence statements that operators must submit before placing products on the market or exporting them, as per the Regulation. Collecting these coordinates can be facilitated through mobile phones and freely available digital applications, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The precision requirements for geolocation vary based on plot size, with polygons or single points specified for different scenarios. 

  • For plots of land of more than 4 hectares used for the production of commodities other than cattle, the geolocation shall be provided using polygons, meaning latitude and longitude points of six decimal digits to describe the perimeter of each plot of land.  
  • For plots of land under 4 hectares, operators (and traders which are not SMEs) can use a polygon or a single point of latitude and longitude of six decimal digits to provide geolocation. 

Benefits and Challenges of Polygon Mapping 

The journey to responsible supply chain management is not without its share of benefits and challenges. 

Environmental Benefits 

Foremost among the benefits is the remarkable contribution of polygon mapping to environmental conservation. By meticulously tracking and monitoring land use, businesses can make informed decisions that protect vital ecosystems and curtail the impact of their operations on forests. This, in turn, results in the preservation of biodiversity and plays a pivotal role in the global effort to combat climate change. 

Social and Ethical Implications 

Deforestation frequently has a ripple effect, impacting not only the environment but also communities and their ethical rights. It can lead to the displacement of indigenous communities and the infringement of their rights. Polygon mapping empowers companies to respect the rights of local communities, ensuring that their sourcing practices do not encroach upon indigenous lands. This approach fosters social responsibility and upholds ethical conduct in supply chain management. 

Technological Challenges and Limitations 

  • Despite its immense potential, polygon mapping faces technological challenges and limitations. High-quality satellite imagery can be prohibitively expensive, and securing access to reliable GPS data may be challenging in certain regions. Furthermore, the precision of polygon mapping hinges on the quality of the data, and errors or inaccuracies in mapping can result in negative consequences, such as erroneous accusations of deforestation. 
  • Taking an example of the coffee, navigating the intricate global coffee supply chain poses a challenge for farm-level traceability. Coffee exporters, tasked with furnishing GPS data to their European counterparts, typically source coffee from diverse local traders or wet mills. However, many of these intermediaries lack the tools for collecting and transmitting GPS traceability data throughout the supply chain. Failure to comply with the EUDR’s new GPS requirements could render coffee exporters ineligible to sell in the EU. 
  • While the bulk of the documentation responsibility falls on the EU-importing companies, smallholder farmers are also impacted. If the traders selling their coffee cannot provide the requisite data proving no deforestation link post-December 2020, these farmers may face exclusion from EU markets. 

Technology Solutions for Polygon Mapping 

Now that we’ve explored the benefits and challenges of polygon mapping, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of how businesses can effectively implement this technology in their supply chains. 

How Businesses Can Adopt Polygon Mapping 

The journey to adopting polygon mapping commences with a steadfast commitment to responsible sourcing and sustainability. Companies need to invest in the requisite technology, which includes GIS software and access to high-resolution satellite imagery. Collaboration with experts in geospatial technology can also prove instrumental in ensuring accurate mapping. 

Steps to Integrate It into Supply Chain Management 

The integration of polygon mapping into supply chain management involves a series of well-defined steps: 

  1. Data Collection: The foundation of polygon mapping is laid with the collection of pertinent data on the land and areas that are relevant to supply chain operations. This encompasses satellite imagery, GPS coordinates, and other geographical data. 
  1. Polygon Creation: GIS software is employed to create polygons that accurately represent the land used in the supply chain. This step demands meticulous precision to ensure the mapping is faithful to reality. 
  1. Monitoring and Verification: Post-mapping, it is imperative to continuously monitor the mapped areas to ensure they remain deforestation-free. This may necessitate on-the-ground inspections or independent audits to verify the integrity of the supply chain. 
  1. Transparency and Reporting: To uphold transparency and accountability, businesses need to provide stakeholders, customers, and regulatory authorities with access to the mapping data and reports. This proactive approach enables public scrutiny and ensures compliance. 
  1. Continuous Improvement: The insights derived from polygon mapping data should serve as a catalyst for informed decision-making and continuous improvement in supply chain sustainability and ethical practices. 

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TraceX Traceability Solutions 

TraceX’s geo-mapping feature not only facilitates the collection of geolocation data for EUDR compliance but also ensures accuracy in reporting, contributing to a seamless and transparent adherence to regulatory standards. 

Precise Plot Mapping: TraceX enables companies to digitize and map the exact plot data of each farmer onboarded. This involves capturing the GPS coordinates of individual plots with unprecedented accuracy. Whether a farmer manages a smallholding or a larger agricultural area, the system ensures precise mapping of the land. 

Efficient Data Collection: The solution employs user-friendly mobile applications, making it easy for farmers to contribute their plot data. The app facilitates offline data collection, allowing farmers to input information even in areas with limited connectivity. This streamlined data collection process ensures that the plot data is efficiently gathered from every farmer in the supply chain. 

Polygon Mapping for Larger Farms: For farmers with larger agricultural areas exceeding four hectares, TraceX utilizes polygon mapping. This involves tracing the entire perimeter of the farm, providing a comprehensive view of the cultivated land. The system performs quality checks on the mapped polygons, ensuring accuracy and adherence to EUDR standards. 

Integrated Reporting: The plot data, once mapped and verified, becomes an integral part of the reporting system. Companies can generate detailed reports that include the origin and geolocation of commodities from each farmer’s plot. This integration of plot data enhances the overall transparency of the supply chain and contributes to robust reporting mechanisms. 

By incorporating farmers’ plot data into the geo-mapping feature, TraceX ensures that the entire supply chain, from individual plots to larger farms, is accurately represented. This not only meets EUDR compliance but also fosters a more comprehensive and trustworthy approach to supply chain traceability. 

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Conclusion 

Polygon mapping emerges as a lighthouse guiding businesses toward ethical and sustainable supply chain management. It enables companies to trace and verify their sourcing practices, ensuring compliance with ethical standards and regulations. Although challenges exist, the advantages for the environment and society are substantial. As technology continues to advance, we can anticipate polygon mapping becoming a standard practice in supply chain management. This, in turn, will contribute to a more sustainable and responsible future, where the notion of deforestation-free supply chains is not an aspiration but a reality. 

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