If until some decades ago satellite systems were something mysterious to ordinary people and confined to the realm of specialised industry, now they have become an essential part of people’s lives − not only in developed nations, where they sustain an incredible array of services, but also in remote areas of emerging countries.
Satellite imagery and remote sensing technology have changed the way we approach farming. Satellites orbiting above the Earth provide valuable data and insights that can significantly benefit the agricultural sector.
As outlined by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), satellites can assist growers with:
Detecting and controlling pests and disease
Understanding water and nutrient status
Planning crop nutrition programmes
Informing in-season irrigation
Estimating harvest timing
Satellite systems have contributed to the development of precision agriculture or precision farming, a set of technologies and principles used by farmers to improve their activities and make them more efficient and effective. Precision agriculture involves sensors, GPS mapping, drones, and other technologies to create detailed maps of a farmer's field and collect data about soil and weather values.
A more efficient farm is also more sustainable as farmers require less investment, fewer pesticides, and less fertilizer to gain better yields. Three ways in which satellites can support farmers to make efficient, sustainable choices are:
Mapping − This helps ‘understand how large areas of land are used for distinct types of agriculture.’
Measuring – ‘plugging satellite data into complex algorithms to provide measurements on a range of properties, such as yield and crop growth stage.’
Monitoring – ‘over time, images enable scientists and farmers to see how land use has developed, or spot changes in rainfall and drought patterns’ (Angela Wipperman, 2021).
Another benefit for farming is that satellites equipped with weather monitoring instruments can provide real-time data on temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind patterns, and other meteorological variables. Farmers can make informed decisions about planting, irrigation, harvesting, and crop protection. Early warning systems based on satellite data can also alert farmers to impending severe weather events, enabling them to take preventive measures and protect their crops.
Satellite technologies were built to simplify and improve our lives. According to the UK research prepared by London Economics in collaboration with Satellite Applications Catapult in 2015, farmers who are aware of satellite-enabled agri-tech and use a wide variety of its applications benefit from reduced input costs, increased quantity and quality of output, and environmental benefits. However, full access to these applications and technology is still hindered by poor internet coverage, inability to afford the set-up costs of apps and services, and a lack of technological know-how.
It is particularly important to raise awareness of satellite technologies among farmers to improve their farm management, implement sustainable farming practices and increase the quality of farmers’ life in remote and rural areas. Farmer Charlie has been working to improve connectivity in rural areas in Côte d’Ivoire and tested its efficiency on horticultural yields in Sicily.
Always keeping an eye on sustainable farming practices, our team continuously research new ways to gather data and information to support farming at a competitive cost. In urban environments, allotment or vegetable garden owners can access information from the comfort of their living room or from a holiday home. Contact us for further details: firstname.lastname@example.org
As technology advances and satellite data becomes more accessible, it is hoped that the integration of satellite-based solutions into farming will increasingly contribute to producing sustainable food and an augmented production for the growing global population.