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Satellite data, farming and our environmental future

Agri-TechE Article
Agri-TechE

Increasing knowledge about humankind’s impact on the planet – from earth observation and other sources – has given us strong signals on how we are damaging the environment, but also potential solutions to manage our natural capital better, according to Jan-Erik Petersen of the European Environment Agency (EEA), Copenhagen, one of the keynote speakers at REAP 2021. 

Jan-Erik coordinates EEA work to develop better estimates of natural capital and ecosystem services and he will be explaining the implications for farmers and technology developers in his keynote address at REAP 2021.
The falling cost of satellite technology and instrumentation for monitoring and image analysis is opening up new knowledge streams, which the EEA is actively exploiting, combining a range of data sources to understand the link between farming and biodiversity, farming and soils, farming and climate change etc.

Objectivity for rewarding farmers

The satellite data produced by the EU Copernicus programme are one key element in analysing the link between farming and environment at EU level. It offers new options for increasing the productivity of farming, for monitoring how farmers manage their land and associated natural features (such as hedgerows) and potentially for rewarding better environmental management via payments for ‘public goods’, such as higher soil carbon content or landscape elements to favour biodiversity.
The EEA team collates data from multiple sources – from member states, statistical offices, research projects – but also from earth observation data from the Copernicus satellites, and Jan works closely with teams developing new products using the raw satellite data.

High nature value farmland

One focus of his work is the interaction between farming and ecosystems. He comments: “We’ve created a distribution map of high nature value farmland areas and I am actively exploring the kind of data that we can use to further develop this concept. One of the things we’ve been investigating is the role of the high-resolution data that are becoming available.”
Of particular interest to Jan-Erik is extensive grazing where there is a close relationship between agriculture and biodiversity. He says that this is a real test for the technology as it is currently difficult to distinguish between different types of grassland using satellite data, and this is where he believes the combination of old and new knowledge is so important.

Opportunities for tech developers

He is looking forward to sharing his knowledge at REAP and also hearing from technology developers about innovations that are relevant to the work of the agency.

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.
REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups.