FruitLook’s Evolution: From Vineyard Tool to Comprehensive Crop Management Solution

In the water-scarce region of the Western Cape of South Africa, where droughts frequently impact agricultural output and food security, innovative solutions for water management are essential. Eight of the top ten export products of the Western Cape are fully reliant on irrigation, driving the province’s economy and job market. In response to the pressing need for efficient water use, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDoA) partnered with the Dutch company eLEAF to develop FruitLook, a satellite-based solution for optimising irrigation water management. Since its inception in 2010-2011, FruitLook has been offered to Western Cape farmers at no cost, transforming the way they manage their water resources. 

Origins and Development 

The foundation of FruitLook can be traced back to the early 2000s. Water Watch, the predecessor to eLEAF, conducted the earliest feasibility studies of remote sensing technology in 2003-2004. This led to the creation of GrapeLook in 2010, which eventually evolved into FruitLook. Initially focused on vineyards, FruitLook has significantly expanded its scope to cover various agricultural commodities in the Western Cape, now spanning an impressive 13 million hectares. 

Harnessing Satellite Technology for Agriculture 

Since 2010, FruitLook has been at the forefront of providing Western Cape farmers with cutting-edge, satellite-based crop monitoring via its web-based portal ( The foundation of FruitLook’s technology lies in the energy balance algorithm, ETLook. This algorithm, developed and continuously improved by eLEAF over the past 20+ years, has been scientifically tested and calibrated for significant agricultural areas, including the Western Cape. eLEAF, the developer and owner of SEBAL1,2,3 and its successor ETLook, was the first in the world to operationalise energy balance algorithms to provide evapotranspiration (ET) and biomass production data in near real-time using satellite imagery. 

FruitLook’s data production process relies on multispectral and thermal satellite information. High-resolution data from freely available satellite repositories, such as Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 and 9, as well as VIIRS and MODIS, are used to provide field-scale information. The project area encompasses four Sentinel-2 pathways and ten Landsat-8 and 9 tiles. Additionally, local meteorological field data (mainly from a South African company, Hortec) is incorporated to enhance the accuracy of the generated data. Since October 2021, the resolution of FruitLook data has improved to 10-meter pixels, doubling its previous resolution of 20 meters. 

FruitLook generates weekly data on nine different parameters related to crop growth, water consumption, and plant nitrogen content. This information enables farmers to assess crop development and implement timely, efficient mitigation measures, enhancing overall agricultural efficiency. This initiative stands as a testament to the transformative potential of technology in addressing the challenges of modern agriculture. 

Impact on Water Management and Agricultural Resilience 

FruitLook’s data has proven extremely valuable in water management, allowing farmers to compare field water consumption, assess water shortages, detect crop stress, and evaluate irrigation efficiency. The tool also aids in the strategic placement and interpretation of probes and the detection of irrigation system leakages. The severe drought of 2017-2018 in the Western Cape underscored FruitLook’s critical role, as its satellite-based data helped assess the drought’s impact in regions like the Groenland Water Management Area and the Lower Olifants Water Management Area. 

Farmer Testimonials and Practical Applications 

Farmers across the Western Cape have benefited from FruitLook’s data and have shared their testimonials and practical applications of the tool and its data in 20 different case studies* over the past three years. In one such case study, Alan Hall, a citrus grower from Citrusdal, shared how he uses FruitLook to ensure water security, enhance tree health, and maintain consistent production despite limited water resources. 

Technological Integration and Support 

Implemented by eLEAF and supported by a South African company, Blue North Sustainability, since 2019, FruitLook has continuously evolved to meet the needs of Western Cape farmers. In August 2021, a new FruitLook web portal was launched, featuring an improved user interface and enhanced data accessibility. This upgrade allows users to compare fields, identify in-field anomalies, and make informed decisions based on comprehensive spatial data. 

To further support users, the following initiatives have been implemented: 

  • The FruitLook Stakeholder Board, inaugurated in 2020, helps gather feedback from users to continuously improve the service. 
  • Free of charge weekly online training sessions, monthly workshops (in-person), and occasional farm visits have been held. Additionally, FruitLook has been presented at Farmer’s Days or Study Groups, symposiums, conferences, and to students at tertiary institutions. 
  • A dedicated support desk is accessible via email, phone, or WhatsApp. 
  • A YouTube channel featuring FruitLook tutorials, webinars, and learnings from FruitLook users. 
  • A monthly newsletter updating the user base about new FruitLook features, case studies, training opportunities and other news.  

Future Prospects and Commercialization 

As climate models predict increasing climatic variability, tools like FruitLook will become even more crucial for sustainable agriculture in the Western Cape. Looking ahead, WCDoA and eLEAF are exploring ways to continue the FruitLook service and add possible improvements to continue supporting Western Cape farmers in efficient and sustainable farming.  


FruitLook has transformed from a vineyard-focused tool into a comprehensive agricultural resource, demonstrating the power of technology in supporting sustainable farming practices and ensuring food security. With ongoing advancements in technology, FruitLook is poised to continue its vital role in enhancing agricultural resilience in the Western Cape. 


*Case studies can be found on Blue North’s News page.