The agriculture industry is used to using satellite technology for GPS purposes, and now it is digging deeper into satellite technology and using or exploring the use of imagery and sensing, and telecommunications capabilities.
Al Savage, Starfire Network Director for John deere spoke virtually Wednesday as part of the SATELLITE 2021 Digital Encore, about how John Deere is using satellite technology and could do more in the future. GPS technology has had an impact on the way farmers work, to help them work “smarter, not harder,” he said. Satellite GPS is the basis for other technologies offered by John Deere, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
“As we move forward, I can see us delving into some of the other aspects of what satellite technology can offer. Big data, telecommunications, mass data storage and real-time precision, those kinds of things would also come into play for us, ”said Savage.
John Deere and others in the agriculture industry are seriously considering Low Earth Orbit (LEO) communications, as many farms are in rural areas lacking broadband connectivity. LEO connectivity could help move big data and help farmers track data and share data with each other, Savage said.
Geospatial Data Company Descartes Laboratories sees increased adoption of satellite analytics across all aspects of the agricultural value chain – from the farm level to processors and intermediary traders, to consumer packaged goods companies that distribute to consumers, said Tom Siddiqui, responsible for agriculture and financial services.
Agriculture has gained the most attention in recent years thanks to precision farming, which has found ways to increase the amount of data provided to farmers in order to increase yields and reduce costs, Siddiqui said.
But to accelerate the adoption of new technologies, advocates of satellite technology must stop presenting how the technology works and talk about its benefits to end users, he said.
“It’s not so much about electro-optics that you know [versus] hyperspectral, but rather just to talk about how we’re going to estimate soil organic carbon at scale and monitor the impact of adverse weather events in real time? Siddiqui said. “This is the level at which we all need to start talking. This is the main area where we can improve this as an industry. ”
Brad Doorn, Nasa Program Director for Agriculture and Water Resources, spoke about the challenges NASA faces to better serve the agriculture industry with its satellite data, especially in the area of climate change. He sees a major challenge in developing the ability to serve the end user and to collaborate with companies like John Deere.
“There is rightly pressure on NASA to respond to the current crises,” Doorn said. “We have a huge drought in the western United States and [it is] diffusion. Are we providing solutions? Satellites have a great understanding of what changes over time and, hopefully, what happens in the future. We need to be able to provide this information so that the agriculture industry can make better decisions now, not 20 years from now. ”
Doorn appeared on the panel just after the successful launch of the Landsat satellite, a NASA satellite that collects data on Earth. Doorn said the entry of commercial players like John Deere, Satellogic, and Descartes Labs makes the area in which NASA has worked for decades much more dynamic.
“We provided information to USDA for decades, but it has been somewhat limited. For a number of years it was Landsat and NASA alone, ”he said. “[Commercial providers] ultimately developing these technologies is what was lacking. Now we have all of these capabilities commercially and the computing capability. This is largely the reason why the revolution now is to push information to decision makers, to the level of farmers. ”