Agriculture is one of the oldest means of food production for consumption and commerce. It has been a vital part of human civilisation since time began. Farming of domestic species created food surpluses enabling people to live in cities and build civilisations.
In the past, it was almost impossible to tell when it would rain. The lack of scientific data made it hard to prepare for crop planting or to tell when a major storm was on its way in order to prepare for it. It also made predicting a good harvest very difficult. All humanity could do was make vague assumptions based on what the clouds looked like or by observing animal behaviour to try and predict the weather.
Today, however, satellite technology has revolutionised the farming industry and aided immensely in the growth of the global agricultural sector. It has enabled the human race to proliferate due to the abundance of food. Satellite imagery is used in many ways. Predicting which areas are best for growing which types of crops to produce maximum yield is one of the most popular uses. Another use is to observe climate conditions and measure the altitude of the land to determine if it’s suitable for particular types of crop.
Predicting crop yields with satellites has been made easier thanks to solutions created to solve the problems associated with visual imaging. Cloud cover has traditionally caused problems with satellite imagery. Innovative techniques have, therefore, been developed to improve imaging ability. One interesting method that has aided seeing through clouds is by imaging the same spot every day. If the area is partially cloudy during the week, all the images taken can be stacked together to develop a composite image that is clear and cloud-free.
Moreover, the addition of radar to satellite technology has made it even easier and more accurate to monitor the earth. Optical satellites may not be able to see through clouds but radar sure can. Radar imaging enables crop observations in any weather, day, or night. But radar alone is not enough to get a clear picture of the land. Combining the radar image with optical data gives a new and better insight to crop production anywhere on earth.
Satellite data combined with advanced image analytics help improve predictions in the agricultural industry and helps save costs. Improved crop yields and accurate forecasts for profits or losses allow farmers to plan for the future.
Another area of improvement is in the realm of image coverage. In the past, satellites could not produce images of vast areas. With today’s technology, a wide range of optical lenses fitted on the satellites can cover areas over 90 km wide and still produce a clear, high-resolution image. In the past, processing these images was also tricky. Today, by leveraging modern cloud computing capabilities, data can be collected in more massive amounts and processed in a timely fashion.
Satellite technology has taken the world by storm. Some of the uses are obvious, for example, GPS and global internet access. The more interesting benefits, however, are often lesser-known. The use of satellites for predicting crop yields is now an established method of ensuring global food supplies are safe for generations to come.