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Sentinel satellites offer agri-tech business opportunity

The recent launch of the new Sentinel satellites, part of the European Union’s ‘Copernicus’ Earth observation programme, has the potential to help farmers take precision agriculture to a new level, along with a host of other land monitoring uses.

Sentinel data will create a major opportunity for service providers, and can be applied within agri-tech.

Vladimir Stoiljkovic, Business Development Manager at the Satellite Applications Catapult, who will be attending the Agri-Tech East workshop “A Sense of Place – Geomatics Meets Soil Management”on 17th May, said: ’The integration of free satellite data sets from the Sentinel satellites with other datasets offers the potential for improved precision farming products and services.”

Sentinel is part of the Copernicus Earth observation programme, which includes six families of satellites, each with a different focus, and thousands of sensors in land, sea and air to help monitor our Earth. This satellite network provides data sources that could be used for precision farming, disease prediction or drought warning.

Stoiljkovic continues: “The European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites will provide high resolution optical, radar and altimetry data about land and sea temperatures. The most interesting for agri-tech is Sentinel 1 and 2, which will provide global land cover.”

Sentinel-1 offers radar imaging, which cuts through any cloud cover and can be used to monitor crop growth/health.

Although the data sets from the Sentinel satellites are free of charge, some of them require additional analysis to be useable, which creates a business opportunity for service providers.

“The issue with satellite imaging has been the resolution,” says Stoiljkovic. “Free data is available to 10m resolution but it is now possible to purchase data with a resolution of 31cm, which can be used to evaluate crop growth.

“Emerging technology has shown it is possible to identify the growth stage of crops this could be extremely valuable when timing of applying fertilisers and irrigation. We have found that some of the larger grower groups are employing satellite data analysts to create these types of models.”

The Agri-Tech East Special Interest Group meeting “A Sense of Place – Geomatics Meets Soil Management” on 17th May will provide technology developers with an opportunity to meet farmers and growers and understand better how to bring a geo-spatial focus to information gathering. There will also be discussion of how data from different sources could be integrated and what users would require from this.