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SPACE: The newest frontier in agriculture

July 16, 2019

Canola

When the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) launched its first Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite in 1995, RADARSAT-1, agriculture wasn't top-of-mind. But scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) saw earth-orbiting satellites as an opportunity to look at agriculture from a stellar new vantage point. Soon, they were using satellite data streams to run crop models and evaluate the drainability of fields.

Fast forward to June 2019 when the CSA launched its third generation of SAR satellites, RADARSAT-Constellation; agriculture is now one of CSA's primary clients and end-users.

Using Satellite Technology for Agriculture

RADARSAT-Constellation is a series of three SAR satellites. They will orbit the earth in tandem, providing more frequent coverage and more advanced imaging of our agricultural resources.

Dr. Andrew Davidson, manager of the Earth Observation group at AAFC, explains that there is no better way to obtain information on the state and trends of agriculture than from space. “Satellites cover way more ground at a much faster pace than humans and the data can be used to measure things like crop type, vegetation density, and field tillage.”

Satellites provide the kind of timely, reliable, and scientifically validated information that helps scientists, farmers, and policy-makers make good evidence-based decisions.

What's in it for you?

“Satellites provide imagery; scientists on the ground turn it into something useful,” says Dr. Davidson. His team generates data sets, maps, and forecasting tools that farmers and agronomists can access online through various AAFC web portals.

For example, AAFC's Annual Space-Based Crop Inventory maps the crop type of every field in Canada and is used to detect trends in crop planting practices. It can warn growers of threats, like crop diseases, and help evaluate agriculture's impact on surrounding environments, such as lake water quality and honeybee populations.

All in all, Earth Observation research is helping the Canadian agricultural sector thrive and the launch of Canada's new RADARSAT-Constellation satellites continues to benefit future generations of Canadians by protecting food production systems and the environment.

Find out more by visiting CSA's RADARSAT-Constellation Mission web page.

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