Agriculture from Space

 Agriculture from Space

Authors: Katya Rutkovskaya, Remco Timmermans

Agriculture is one of the most important application areas for satellite data. Every spring, farmers around the world sow their fields, to grow the food crops that the world depends on for another year.

Satellite Data in Agriculture

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) considers remote sensing satellites a key provider of data for monitoring soil, snow cover, drought, and crop development. For example, rainfall assessments from satellites help farmers plan the timing and amount of irrigation they need for their crops throughout the year.

The European Space Agency (ESA) Space Solutions lists the following uses of space data in the agritech sector:

  • FARM WATER MANAGEMENT

Thanks to satellite data, it is possible to properly distribute water for irrigation. This technology will help save 18%-30% of the farm’s water supply potential.

  • CROP FERTILISATION

On large plots of land, crop growth can be uneven. In order to stimulate the growth of cultivated crops, farmers apply fertilisers. Satellite data will help in making a decision on the fertilisation of the sown soil. This will save costs and reduce the environmental impact of over-fertilization.

  • AUTONOMOUS TRACTORS AND HARVESTERS

Cultivation of fields is impossible without appropriate transport. With the help of satellite data technologies, tractors and combines will be able to do their work along the best routes. This also contributes to better orientation in the fields.

  • FARM SEASON PLANNING

Having data on weather conditions will help you understand which crops to grow at certain times.

  • FARM ANIMAL TRACKING

Livestock farmers can use satellite data for a wide range of purposes. It is about both preventing the spread of disease among livestock and reducing theft.

  • FISHERIES

Satellite monitoring of water resources will help farmers to improve the conditions for growing fish. For example, with data on phytoplankton blooms that damage fish, preventive measures can be taken.

  • GLOBAL CROP MONITORING

Harvest tracking on a global scale helps predict future trends in the agricultural commodity market. This, in turn, will enable investors to make informed business choices.

  • CROP INSURANCE

Developing countries will be able to manage their own agricultural land more effectively. Satellite data helps to accurately forecast floods and droughts.

Earlier this week, ESA Space Solutions introduced the Fusion® platform from Digital Content Analysis Technology Ltd (D-CAT) in the UK. This platform offers specialised on-demand services for agricultural corporations and a new marketplace for algorithm and data providers

Earth Observation helps farmers efficiently use sown land, as well as monitor the status of livestock / Image credit: Freepik

Precision Agriculture in the Netherlands

‘Twice as much for twice as little,’ is the motto in agriculture. We need to feed more mouths worldwide, whereas the production resources are becoming scarcer and the impact of agriculture on the climate and environment must be reduced. Precision agriculture offers a way forward and satellite information plays a crucial role therein.

Precision agriculture delivers a higher productivity, lower environmental footprint, transparent production and smart production methods. And most importantly: all knowledge and technology that we are developing in the Netherlands in this area is an important export product for the agricultural sector worldwide.

The Dutch government encourages the use of satellite data in the agricultural sector. The Netherlands Space Office supports the needs of the agriculture sector, as well as the steps that the government, industry, science and the agricultural sector itself must take to ensure that, by 2030, farmers have a daily task list based on satellite data.

Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW)

The food producers of our planet face the extraordinary challenge of feeding 9 billion people by the year 2050. As a consequence of climate change, there will be a growing competition in using water and finding fertile land. Further, reliable weather forecasts for food producers are scarcely available in developing countries.

Science and technology can help to improve this situation by empowering the most important actors in the food production chain: farmers, fishermen and pastoralists. Providing the right information at the right time to food producers can help to improve and increase food production in a sustainable manner thus ensuring food security on a global scale.

The Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) programme stimulates sustainable food production, a more efficient use of water in developing countries, and aims to alleviate poverty by enhancement of sustainable economic growth and self-reliance in the G4AW partner countries. G4AW provides a platform for partnerships of private and public organisations. Together they provide food producers with relevant information, advice or (financial) products.

Training local farmers to use satellite data for agriculture (image: G4AW/Rainforest Alliance)

G4AW is a programme by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the policy priorities for food security and water, which is executed by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO). More information can be found on the G4AW website.

Space Opportunities for Climate Challenges

From November 2020 to July 2021, Eurisy and DotSPACE hosted a series of webinars, bringing together research, government and industry experts to talk about their innovative solutions related to climate.

Throughout this series various examples of space solutions were showcased, proving that satellite solutions can contribute to the green transition. Several of the episodes showcased agriculture-related case studies.

In the first episode we saw how satellite remote sensing can rapidly reveal where to reverse the loss of biological diversity. Variables such as vegetation productivity or leaf cover can be measured across continents from space and can help farm and forest managers to implement more sustainable ways of working.

In other episodes we saw how space is relevant for the management of precious water resources, for irrigation and drinking water supply.

You can find these examples in the ‘Space Opportunities for Climate Challenges’ summary publication, published after the webinars by Eurisy.

More Sources

  • The Copernicus Agriculture Applications pages provide links to data and solutions to assess agricultural land use and trends, crop conditions, and yield forecasts. It also supports input management, farm management recording and irrigation management. Moreover, Copernicus does the seasonal mapping of cultivated areas, water management and drought monitoring, as well as subsidy controls. There are many ways to access Copernicus data, among others through the five Data Integration and Access Services (DIAS).
  • The EU Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA) showcases many solutions for agriculture on its agriculture segment website. It show fr example how EGNOS supports precision agriculture, an important method to increase crop yields.
  • The Netherlands is one of the largest food exporting countries in the world. Despite its small size it has evolved into one of the most efficient agricultural producers. Much of this efficiency is derived from a high uptake of satellite solutions. The Netherlands Space Office website highlights several themes that showcase these space solutions:
  • The OneSoil platform helps remotely monitor crops, increase yields, and reduce seed and fertiliser costs. It helps farmers and agricultural companies be more profitable and sustainable.
  • The brand new Nimbo platform helps to explore land evolutions as shown by Sentinel imagery from the Copernicus programme. It also includes a large-scale crop monitoring API.
Nimbo platform interface / Image credit: Nimbo Twitter

Do you know more organisations, solutions and sources? Contact us to let us know!.

Funding Opportunities for Smart Agriculture Space Solutions

Together with the Netherlands Space Office (NSO), DotSpace organised a series of webinars about funding opportunities for space solutions on different topics, including agriculture. In a webinar in July of last year several space data experts presented examples of solutions and opportunities for funding for new solutions in Horizon 2020 and other funding schemes. Please find the presentations of this webinar here.

You can find the most recent funding opportunities for space data solutions on our Open Calls pages, where we have preselected relevant calls for space data providers and users.

Agriculture During the War

We tell more about how the sowing campaign in Ukraine takes place in a separate article.

How Space May Help Save the 2022 Agriculture Season in Ukraine

Share Data and Knowledge for a Sustainable Future

At Groundstation.space we build a vibrant community of satellite data technologies suppliers and end-users. Do you have something to share with this community? Learn more about how you can contribute here.

Featured image credit: Freepik

Katya Rutkovskaya

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