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A Cloud-Based Multi-Temporal Ensemble Classifier to Map Smallholder Farming Systems

By Rosa Aguilar, Raul Zurita-Milla, Emma Izquierdo-Verdiguier and Rolf A. de By


Smallholder farmers cultivate more than 80% of the cropland area available in Africa. The intrinsic characteristics of such farms include complex crop-planting patterns, and small fields that are vaguely delineated. These characteristics pose challenges to mapping crops and fields from space. In this study, we evaluate the use of a cloud-based multi-temporal ensemble classifier to map smallholder farming systems in a case study for southern Mali. The ensemble combines a selection of spatial and spectral features derived from multi-spectral Worldview-2 images, field data, and five machine learning classifiers to produce a map of the most prevalent crops in our study area. Different ensemble sizes were evaluated using two combination rules, namely majority voting and weighted majority voting. Both strategies outperform any of the tested single classifiers. The ensemble based on the weighted majority voting strategy obtained the higher overall accuracy (75.9%). This means an accuracy improvement of 4.65% in comparison with the average overall accuracy of the best individual classifier tested in this study. The maximum ensemble accuracy is reached with 75 classifiers in the ensemble. This indicates that the addition of more classifiers does not help to continuously improve classification results. Our results demonstrate the potential of ensemble classifiers to map crops grown by West African smallholders. The use of ensembles demands high computational capability, but the increasing availability of cloud computing solutions allows their efficient implementation and even opens the door to the data processing needs of local organizations

Topics: Google Earth Engine, crop classification, multi-classifier, cloud computing, time series, high spatial resolution, Science, Q
Publisher: MDPI AG
Year: 2018
DOI identifier: 10.3390/rs10050729
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