Thursday, October 12, 2017

Farmers looking to space to limit crop damage

Instead of looking out to their fields to keep an eye on their crops, farmers are increasingly looking upward: to space.

Farmers can't see what's happening in the middle of their fields once the crops start growing, so they've turned to alternative measures like drones in recent years. But drones "just weren't logically feasible," said Wade Barnes, president Farmer's Edge, a Winnipeg-based agriculture analytics company.

Satellite imagery is a promising avenue, though. On Oct. 11, Farmer's Edge and San Francisco-based Planet announced a partnership to "combine precision agriculture programs with what they say is the world’s largest fleet of earth-imaging satellites to better monitor the health of crops," Ian Bickis reports for The Canadian Press. "The snapshots of the field, taken almost daily by Planet’s current 190 earth imaging satellites, provide what they say is a clear and regularly updated picture of the growing conditions in the field, possibly alerting a farmer to something like a growing infestation of army worms eating at their wheat field."

Though farmers have used government and private satellites for some years to get a bird's-eye view of their fields, the new Farmer's Edge-Planet collaboration will provide more frequently-updated data than government satellites. That can help farmers find out about crop damage and stop it before it destroys the whole field, Bill Spiegel reports for The High Plains Journal.

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