Meet the IGNITE Finalists – Jens Hiestermann

This week we’re featuring IGNITE Finalist, Jens Hiestermann. Get to know more about Jens in this Q&A, including how his background in Remote Sensing and GIS combined with his love for agriculture helped ignite the idea for his Smart M.App, GeoFarmer – A Monthly Crop Monitoring Tool.

Q: Where are you from?
A:  I am proudly South African, and originate from a small German farming town called Harburg in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal.

Q: Where did you attend school and what did you study? Why did you choose this subject?
A: I went to a school called Wartburg Kirchdorf School, and then proceeded to obtain my Honours and Masters Post Graduate degrees at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg. My field of study was Environmental Science and my majors were Geospatial Information Systems and Remote Sensing.

Q: Where do you currently work? What is your job? What are your responsibilities?
A: I currently work for a private company in Pretoria called GeoTerraImage as a remote sensing and GIS specialist. My current responsibilities include researching, innovating and exploring new approaches in creating dynamic product solutions to assist in our clientele’s key business decisions.

Q: What are some of your favorite things to do during your free time?
A:  My favorite things to do include: playing golf, photography, walking our dogs, trail running, travelling our beautiful African continent.

Q: Where did your interest in geospatial/mapping/information services come from?
A: I have a creative mind and (I think) an entrepreneurial instinct, and therefore with the knowledge that almost every business can benefit from location intelligence, I saw the geospatial field as an exciting route to pursue. Creating solutions in the form of a map appeals to my creative side.

Q: How did you hear about IGNITE?
A: The company I work for has a long history in using Intergraph/Hexagon Geospatial software in their daily business, and therefore after receiving their email announcing the campaign, we were keen to hear all about the new Smart M.App platform. This is where we were told about the IGNITE competition.

Q: Why are you excited about this competition?
A: The first reason is that I believe that cloud-computing/web-services is a dominant direction the industry is following and therefore it is key that our company stays current with the possibilities and solutions emerging from this direction. The Hexagon Smart M.App makes use of familiar elements from our daily tasks in a cloud environment, which makes the transition a little simpler. The second reason is that growing up on farm has instilled a love of agriculture in me and I have always wanted to create a web-based solution to agricultural decision makers and therefore this was a great opportunity to do so.

Q: What is the problem your Smart M.App addresses?
A: There are a number of organisations (such as crop insurers, commodity traders, financial institutions, or food security organisations) that require up-to-date agricultural information to support their business decisions, and at the moment such information is either out of date, expensive to obtain or perhaps unreliable. We address this problem by creating an intuitive, user-friendly application to analyze the growing status of agriculture and climatic conditions in almost real-time, and users having access to this information with a click of a button.

Q: What is your Smart M.App called?
A: Originally it was called “GeoFarmer Crop Insurance System,” but is now called “GeoFarmer – A Monthly Crop Monitoring Tool” because we have realized the broader potential of this application in different markets and not only crop insurance companies.

Q: What IGNITE Theme does it support?
A: It supports the “Finance” theme, however I guess it could also fall under “Food” because such information is valuable to the food security industry.

Q: What does it do?
A: This dynamic application provides the most up-to-date information regarding current agriculture in a country, as well as information for the previous 12 months. GeoFarmer uses climatic data and satellite imagery processed through a complex model to determine monthly climatic averages and anomalies, and, most importantly, the field-specific crop status (i.e., is the field fallow, or is the crop emerging, or has the field been harvested). The information is also summarized at magisterial district or provincial level. This application provides invaluable information for agricultural estimators, insurers, and commodity traders, and can easily be adapted to any agricultural growing region.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your Smart M.App?
A: We aim to develop a great dynamic tool to disseminate important up-to-date agricultural information, whether it be the drought status information of a catchment or the number of crop harvested during a particular period, we hope that our Smart M.App can provide that answer.

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