Modern satellite technology has become an integral part of many industries, including agriculture. Weather forecasts, remote crop quantity, quality assessment, and crop health imagery are just opportunities they provide to farmers.
The role of satellite technologies is gradually increasing because agriculture faces the most challenging task — to solve the food problem while minimizing the damage to the environment and the depletion of natural resources. Satellite images help us choose the right strategy for developing the industry in different regions and directly affect our food system.
What Is Satellite Imagery?
Satellites provide information in pixels that represent an area of a specific scale. It, like the image resolution, directly depends on a device. Modern satellites can record up to 1 km sq. per pixel. However, technology is constantly improving, and the resolution quality is also enhancing.
Another feature is that the satellites move around the Earth to take pictures at a particular frequency. Usually, it’s about once a year, and only a few cameras can take photographs about once every two weeks.
Satellite Data Products
Some of the most famous satellite data products are Google Earth, Maps, and Earth Engine applications. They contain the largest publicly available database of images. By the way, at the bottom of each map, the developers indicate the satellite’s name, whose data were used to create it. Most often, Google purchases them from private companies and the US government. The latter also made the Landsat satellite program’s data public. These data replenished since 1972 are of severe research and industrial interest. In particular, they are used to create web-based tools in the agricultural industry.
Why Does Satellite Data Matter?
As mentioned earlier, satellite data is actively used in the agricultural industry. Here are just some of the benefits they provide to farmers:
- preparation for changing weather conditions, including forecasts for the future;
- identification of problems with the processing of fields and plants;
- lower costs due to production optimization.
At the same time, technologies are available to anyone on all types of mobile devices. Therefore, farmers can receive vital information in real-time, even away from a field.
Potential Use Cases
In addition to the already mentioned advantages, satellite imagery can be used to solve a much more comprehensive range of problems. In fact, with their help, farmers can fully establish the production process: from choosing seeds and fertilizers to organizing the supply of products to consumers. Let’s name the principal directions.
Monitoring Crop Health
With infrared light technology and satellite imagery, it is possible to determine the health of plants, in particular, the level of stress during periods of drought. For example, healthy crops are shown in blue, and sick or stressed yields are shown in red.
Watching Droughts and Floods From Space
Drought is a severe economic threat to agriculture. With satellite technology’s help, we can monitor, track changes in the weather, and forecast drought. Moreover, we can analyze a field condition before and after a drought to determine the natural consequences for plants and further actions.
Farm Water Management
Conservation of water resources is a global problem. At the same time, agriculture can use them ineffectively, so too much water is consumed. As a result, the farmers themselves incur additional economic losses. Satellite images help identify areas in need of irrigation and the optimal amount of water. So, you can save up to 30 percent of the water supply of the enterprise.
Various crops require different amounts of fertilizer. Keeping a balance on your own is extremely difficult. Satellite imagery makes it possible to identify locations that need additional resources. It is especially effective to combine this technology with others, for example, to fertilize the desired areas using a drone.
Powering Precision Agriculture Practices
Precision farming is increasingly used today for the rational and efficient use of resources. Satellite imagery, combined with other innovative technologies, provides accurate information on soil and crop conditions to help improve management systems. With the gradual integration of robots into agriculture, we can use images to optimize planting.
Fortifying Farm Planning
As mentioned above, when combined with other technologies, satellite imagery provides additional benefits to farmers in assessing the health of fields, crops, and the environment. They can more accurately estimate yields, plan the procurement and storage of resources, and create better planting conditions with this information.
Farm Animal Tracking
Also, satellite technologies are suitable for monitoring the condition of livestock. With their help, you can track the level of activity, behavior, and health status of animals. Technologies are especially effective in preventing the spread of diseases because it is almost impossible to manually identify one sick creature among a large population on time. Thanks to controlling the animal number and location, technologies also prevent theft.
In this industry, satellite imagery can prevent many problems. So, according to them, it is easy to determine the place of flowering in the enclosure of harmful phytoplankton to take preventive measures to save the fish. Technologies also provide information about water visibility and temperature. It allows farmers to plan a feed and save resources as fish eat less in water with low temperatures and poor visibility.
Satellite Tech to Tackle Food Insecurity
Food security in developing countries is in critical condition due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Food production and supply chains have been disrupted. Especially they caused damage to small farms, which have lost access to the market. Physical distancing due to restrictions on movement worldwide only exacerbates the food problem on the ground.
However, COVID-19 has only exacerbated an already existing food security problem. Satellite technologies make it possible to fight it more effectively. That is why today, more and more countries unite to exchange experience and joint actions to integrate technologies into agricultural production.
One such initiative is the CropWatch Innovation Cooperation Program, in which 14 countries have joined forces to fight hunger. With satellite data, states monitor crops in real-time and use the program’s infrastructure platform to analyze the findings and take appropriate measures to ensure food security.
Thus, satellite imagery takes agriculture to the next level. It allows you to organize an effective production management system and minimize environmental damage. At the global level, states cooperating in satellite technologies can solve severe food security problems. These innovations’ benefits contribute to their ever-deeper integration into the industry and an active impact on our daily life. Therefore, farmers who use satellite data solve critical problems and remain competitive.