Food crisis and Precision Agriculture revolution
The term precision agriculture has been around since the first use of spatial data for decision making in farm management. It brought to us the use of GIS mapping, GPS routes for crop vehicles, and derivative Software and data products. All of them target increasing efficiency of farm management, but also in the latest years: optimized energy and fertilizers use, monitoring environment degradation and soil management.
The innovation behind precision agriculture is that timely decision data helps yield better crops as well as saves resources: produce more food with less power used.
And it is a timely concern. We soon hit 10 billion in global population, and food vulnerability is a staggering concern for many nations. Industrial agriculture is often heavily controlled by governments, and surplus/deficits are managed with export/import trade flows, as well as humanitarian food support.
The world is at the brink of the Food Crisis. FAO highlights the most vulnerable countries, and it is the time to bring precision agriculture to those places. In the crisis context, use of spatial data, and satellite imagery analytics bring timely insights to:
1. Production supply monitoring
2. Inefficiency in planning and transportation leading to food waste
3. Farm management and consequences in environmental degradation
From Precision Agriculture to Sustainable Agriculture and support of Small holder farmer
Satellite imagery has shown its use in many industrial and developed economies. However, agriculture is the sector that is data poor. And it is in developing countries where there is a significant challenge of cultivated lands remain unregistered and unmapped.
How using satellite imagery analytics is critical for sustainable agriculture in developing countries?
- Mapping land use. For example, in India, there is a significant % of individual farms but the cadastral maps are outdated. The problem is very prevalent to developing countries. Depending on the government set up and past reforms, in some countries, individuals were granted access to a parcel of land. In some countries the individual farming became significant in its land distribution vs industrial agriculture. In case of smaller individual farm parcels, cultivated land is hard to track or identify. In case of industrial farming in Latin America, for instance, cultivated vegetation is larger in size of plots.
- Monitoring livelihoods destruction or environmental damages. New mining and expansion of construction may result in reduction or displaced agricultural lands. In developing countries with highly reported levels of administrative corruption, the licences are obtained with lesser consideration on displaced lands and livelihoods of communities. Scandals of rapid constructions of mining sites have been known in Nigeria and Guinea.
Who will step in with satellite imagery innovation for Sustainable Agriculture?
National and sub-national governments. This way they are better informed of their resources and capacity.
Farmers and growers. So they can benchmark and understand where they stand against the crop health of others. Therefore, monitor, optimize and plan better: from seed to harvest.
Agribusiness (financiers, insurance companies, equipment, seed and fertilize production). The sector needs more data to better understand how to target their products to farmers.