A satellite data playbook! Vision for Indian Agriculture
Back during the cold war, space race or launching a satellite was no more than a means to display power but it triggered a new era or scientific and technological development. More and more satellites were launched eventually as benefits rippled through society, telecommunication satellites made long distance communication easier, live television a household name and supporting an interconnected world through the Internet. The next 50 years are shaping how well our eyes can see the earth from space, but why? A single satellite can cover upto 38% of earth, and beam humongous data that helps protect our Earth, manage our resources and prevent disasters.
The agricultural industry is facing a lot of challenges, also it is slow to change and antiquated in practices, the power that satellite data brings in can help steer the industry with goal oriented insights. Since 2014 there have been a number of satellites that are providing crucial information to agricultural databases. With the advanced data storage methods, it is now easier than before to store plenty of data in one place i.e. cloud storage. This storage and the unique satellite capabilities have seen a huge amount of accurate and vital data being stored in unprecedented levels. Agriculture specially is at huge advantage:
The oceanic view -
Accurate predictions on future conditions as well as season start and end dates could be an integral part of good management practices.
Mapping crop yield is very important to make timely import and export decisions.
Predicting commodity markets and ensuring bulletproof insurance premiums helps strengthen national food security.
The drop view -
Helps farmers act immediately on localised issues like sowing, irrigation and fertilisation.
Surveillance of crop health.
Enabling logistics to prevent post harvest loss and fulfilling accurate demand and supply.
Several disasters are unspoken for that grapples our nation, signalling the risk to farmers or fishermen helps handle the amount of risk.
Eyes in the Space can be blurry!
It is sometimes difficult for satellites to either map an area or build up an accurate picture therefore another data collection tool is required to back up the information collected by the satellites such as on ground sensors and field validation exercises. Satellites are harvesting so much data and not really able to discern for themselves which data is important. There is a lot of information that goes through the processing system which requires reliable infrastructure to prevent delays or backlogs of information in the system.
Secondary to this issue there is a lot of information on the back end that is relatively useless and a lot that has to be sifted through. Classifying what is what is hampered by limited resolution for eg. researchers have great difficulty establishing exactly which crop is being grown in any given field.
Vision for India as Satellite data brings life to agriculture
India supports 15 agro-climatic zones, a speck of dust at macro-level has the potential to hold back Indian development, compromise agricultural performance, lead to high inflation and rural distress. The understanding and cooperation between all the stakeholders is the key to build a resilient system. ISRO has led the forefront to successful programmes for crop forecasting, drought assessment, horticulture management and crop insurance. Indian Government recently also welcomed profusion of private companies which are budding in various stacks of space technology. These companies will become indispensable to Indian Agritech sector, completing the circle for innovation driven public-private model. This will also benefit agribusiness companies in India to alleviate chronic and environmental stresses in the farm-to-plate value chain.