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VITO recent news on APEX, ESA’s first airborne imaging spectrometer and E-farming

APEX, ESA’s first airborne imaging spectrometer

In December 2010, the Airborne Prism EXperiment (APEX) was officially accepted by ESA-PRODEX. This means that after a long development phase that started in the mid 90’s, the instrument is now ready for operations. APEX has been developed by a Swiss-Belgian consortium led by the Remote Sensing Laboratories (RSL) at the University of Zurich and the Flemish Institute of Technological Research (VITO). The latter will be responsible for the airborne campaigns and the data processing, while RSL is primarily responsible for the scientific aspects.

APEX is intended as a simulator and a calibration/validation device for future spaceborne sensors. It is an advanced scientific instrument for the European remote sensing community, recording hyperspectral data in approximately 300 bands in the wavelength range between 400 nm and 2500 nm and at a spatial ground resolution of 2 to 5 m. Hyperspectral remote sensing or imaging spectroscopy greatly extends the scope of traditional remote sensing. It is based on the detection of many narrow, contiguous spectral bands. This presents opportunities for more precise identification of surface materials than is possible with broadband multispectral sensors. Possible applications are endless, but the most promising ones are in the field of geology, mineralogy, agriculture, vegetation analysis, aquatic monitoring (as well as snow & ice), and atmospheric applications.

From now on acquisitions with APEX can be requested via:
Koen Meuleman, operations manager
Tel: +32 14 33 68 63
Please note that the instrument is also offered via the EUropean Facility for Airborne Research (EUFAR –

APEX cube: APEX quicklooks acquired above Oostende (B) in June 2009 during the acceptance campaign.

VITO goes E-farming

On 24 March, the E-AGRI project had its kick off meeting at VITO in Mol, Belgium. Its purpose is to support the uptake of European ICT applications in agriculture in developing economies. This will be achieved by setting up an advanced European E-agriculture service in two developing economies, Morocco and China, by means of crop monitoring. The activities of capacity building will be carried out in the third developing country, Kenya, to raise the interest of local stakeholders on European E-agricultural practices and to pave the way for an eventual technological transfer in the future.

The European research institutions including VITO, Alterra, JRC and University of Milan, have developed series of agricultural monitoring approaches to support European Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). These approaches are based on the European Information and Communication technologies including space-based Earth Observation (EO), geographical information systems and agro-meteorological modelling. The transfer, adaptation and local application of these E-agriculture practices will assist the policy makers of developing countries in their challenge to sustain agriculture’s productivity growth. It helps to achieve the food security, increase farmer incomes and protect local farmer interest, in the context of agricultural liberalization. On the other hand, the feedback from this project will enhance the applicability of European crop production forecasting technology on a global scale, thus ultimately strengthen its capacity in global monitoring of food security.

The partner institutions based in the three developing countries include the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA) from Morocco, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the Jiangsu Agricultural Academy of Sciences from China, Anhui Institute for Economical Research from China and the Ministry of Environmental and Mineral Resources from Kenya.

The kick-off meeting highlighted the progress and the adaptability of Europe’s crop monitoring technology in different continents of the world and defined the specific objectives of the activities. Especially, in the frame of capacity building, the consortium decided to strengthen the activities in the third study region in Kenya by including them in the task of yield monitoring using remote sensing. Furthermore, in order to strengthen the visibility of the project, the consortium has planned several E-AGRI workshops attended by decision-makers from the local governments as well as the European Union. These workshops intend to promote globally the importance of E-Agriculture tools in the domain of food security and agricultural commodity trading.

The E-AGRI project is an FP7 collaborative project of the European Commission and will be implemented between 2011 and 2014.

E-Agri: Participants at the E-Agri Kick-off meeting at VITO in Mol.