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Satellite-enabled Agriculture


Spacenus News

Satellite Imagery and Intelligent IoT for Agriculture (SIITAg ) – ESA-IAP Project Kick-off

Nicholas Cointepas

We are happy to announce our next adventure. This time it is with European Space Agency (ESA) under the framework of the Integrated Applications Programme (IAP), which is dedicated to the development, implementation and pilot operation of integrated applications. The kick off meeting of the project titled, Space based Services integrating the “Internet of Things” took place on 4th Oct 2017 at Spacenus office in Darmstadt.

Spacenus team who are shouldering the ESA-IAP feasibility study

Spacenus team who are shouldering the ESA-IAP feasibility study

Agriculture is the most important core industry in the world. For feeding the coming 9 billion people, our agricultural production must increase by 75%. This is a major global challenge while the arable land is limited and climate change is making its cultivation unpredictable. Under the framework of ESA – IAP, Spacenus would like to assess the technical feasibility and commercial viability of a proposed solution for sustainable operational services that aims to address the agricultural plant’s nutrient deficiency (PND) challenges.

Fertilizer use is one of the main factors for agricultural yield increase. Precision agriculture and related technologies offer various management options to optimize the fertilization applications like the variable rate fertilization. On the contrary, the global fertilizer demand is expected to reach 200 million metric tons per year, which represents a ten-fold increase since 1950. This expected fertilizer demand increase will have accelerated negative impacts on water, air, soils and climate. For stopping fertilizer being lost to the environment, the fertilizer use efficiency must increase significantly. More precise fertilization will be needed than ever.

Fertilizer use efficiency highly depends on the diagnosis of nutrient deficiencies in the plants and the field nutrient budgeting. The nutrient deficiency problem can get worse by other environmental conditions like weather, soil properties etc. and that can affect the crop quality as well. There are several well-known methods and tools available for addressing such issues.

Satellite based fertilization maps hold potential. It can provide information about the relative spatial variability of the crop nutrient status. For an example, the satellite image derived Canopy Chlorophyll Content Index (CCCI) tells about the relative spatial variability of crop chlorophyll content. This CCCI map then is calibrated with the in-situ nutrient status of the plants and thus a variable fertilization map can be generated. Besides, combining this fertilization map with the Field Management Zones (FMZ), farmers can take decisions about fertilization for best economic return.

The method flow for nutrient deficiency detection and varible rate application map preparation

The method flow for nutrient deficiency detection and varible rate application map preparation

Eyes are considered as one the most powerful sensors. The most equivalent technological tool is a camera, which is connected to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) cloud and that can capture, analyze and provide actionable information in a real-time fashion. Spacenus has developed an AI system, which is powered by a deep Convolution Neural Network (CNN) that can recognize crop-specific plant diseases with a high degree of accuracy (e.g., 96%). This kind of intelligence system also can be devised to detect and quantify the nutrient deficiency in the plants and that will enable the farmers to diagnose the crop nutrient deficiency in a quantitative manner. By combining this in-situ nutrient deficiency information with the satellite-derived fertilization map (e.g., CCCI map), the farmer can easily derive a variable rate fertilization map.

Besides, using the Machine Data Link services of Spacenus, the farmer can easily translate the fertilization map into a machine-readable application map and transfer the map into the tractor. The working methodology is being depicted in figure above. These all will be possible just by taking a photo from the field with a smart phones. To know more about this project please reach us – info(at)