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Satellite revolution in agriculture (Poland’s case study)

The problem of drought in the changing climate of Poland is increasingly affecting the local farmers. This season, nearly 4 million hectares of crops fell short of rainfall. Poland’s Agency for Restructuring and Modernization of Agriculture is providing public aid to combat this, however many useful tools that are currently available for farmers to foresee and act in advance of problems, are still not used as they should.

Information from satellites can help in increasing agricultural productivity, despite difficult conditions

The world is on the verge of the third modern revolution in agribusiness related to precision farming. The first revolution caused by the mechanization of agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century enabled one farmer to create resources for 26 people. The second - "green" - took place in the 90s and was associated with obtaining genetically modified plant species resistant to pests and requiring less water. It resulted in an increase in the number of people possible for one farmer to 155. Thanks to the third, which is based on increasing analytical capabilities and the development of new technologies, each farmer can produce food for 256 people.

Increase in Power

As population increase and shrink as a result of climate change, fertile cropland resources face the challenge of increasing production efficiency per hectare. This is related to soil type, irrigation, application of fertilization or atmospheric conditions. Thanks to big data analysis, which provides information from Earth observation, all these elements can be examined for optimal results.

One of the largest sources of information about conditions on our planet are pictures from satellites. They create new technologies, applications and services that optimize various processes and facilitate human functioning on Earth.

"Every day, the CREODIAS platform receives a huge amount of valuable information from satellites orbiting the Earth. Companies and startups interested in using them, which need high computing power to analyze larger data repositories, can use our ready cloud infrastructure. This significantly reduces their cost of entering the market" - says Urszula Mielcarz from CloudFerro, the operator of DIAS platforms - CREODIAS and WEkEO, sharing satellite imagery implemented as part of the European Earth observation program Copernicus.

The market for products and services using information from space is growing dynamically. As for Europe and the Copernicus program, according to a recent report (Copernicus Market Report 2018), the use of Earth observation data in agriculture alone generates over EUR 18 million in revenue annually. And in the coming years, this value will grow by over 20% annually. This market has huge development potential and a field for operation also for Polish companies from the IT sector.

"Applications using data on precipitation, temperature, soil moisture, fertilization, etc. are already supporting farmers in managing crops. They can help reduce the use of pesticides and other fertilizers, plan optimal irrigation or detect plant diseases. A great example of the possibilities offered by information is the observation of bee activity. Current data from satellites allows you to plan spraying so as not to harm insects. There are infinitely many situations in which the potential of observation from space can be used "- explains Urszula Mielcarz.

Dutch global database

Monitoring of crop condition, soil condition and properties, and mapping of cultivation activities are key to harvest prediction. Satellite data can also be used to monitor changes in agricultural and crop production efficiency due to drought. What's more, satellites enable monitoring of soil degradation trends and a decrease in land productivity as a result of excessive grazing, improper irrigation or farming.

In response to the projected population growth and increasingly demanding growing conditions, the Dutch organization Waterwatch Cooperative is developing a global database on weather, water supply and growing conditions. It aims to help farmers produce food more efficiently, profitably and sustainably. Using a wide range of sources, including satellite data, the organization wants to record and analyze crop data for the entire globe.

"Thanks to our solutions, the farmer will no longer be lonely in making decisions on which not only his profit depends, but also the situation on local food markets," says Ad Bastiaansen, the creator of the company. - "Our application allows you to reduce cases of plant diseases by up to 40 percent and reduce the use of pesticides by 15 percent. We estimate that by the end of the year up to one million farmers around the world can use our application," he adds.

Understanding the images

Today, access to data from space is open - for more than a year, anyone with access to the Internet can enter one of the DIAS platforms, e.g. CREODIAS, generate information of interest to him and analyze it, from any angle. The biggest challenge associated with the use of satellite images is the need for specialists who will deal with their analysis and "translation", or processing, so that everyone interested can use them. However, the informational value of space data is priceless and timeless.

Today, over 16 petabytes of data are stored under CREODIAS. For more, please access