Thought leadership
November 22, 2022

Satellites in Agriculture

John McElhone

Satellite data has become a massive part of how we manage farms worldwide, and this technology develops daily. With reducing satellite launch costs from giants such as SpaceX or Rocket Labs, the cost to get tiny but powerful cameras into space is dropping drastically. At CropSafe, it’s our responsibility to keep up with the tide, experiment, iterate, and build with the new data we have available. Although satellite data can be tricky to work with at times, with varying accuracy, we’ve found that merging the data with other sources such as weather stations or ground truth data can allow us to derive insights much more accurately and valuably than before.

Sometimes we have to play around with satellite imagery to make it more practical. The above example (fields in Iowa!) shows an implementation we’ve been working on that automatically delineates the borders of fields. Although it’s not perfect just yet, the model we trained using datasets of thousands of fields seems to give some pretty cool early results. Data like this will allow us to, on average, speed up customer onboarding by an additional two minutes.

Monitoring crop growth isn’t the only important thing to keep an eye on. Almost just as important - water. Where it comes from, where it goes and where it’s going. Too much, bad news, too little, bad news. And farmers need to know what side of the line things are heading in order to prepare. Within CropSafe, satellite imagery can allow us to track water movement from its sources. Monitoring for moisture within a field can give us some clues on water-logging, and tracking incoming weather can give us an idea of how long these conditions might last. The above example is the southern edge of Louisiana, just as it touches the Gulf of Mexico.

The first land outcrop in the above image, looking slightly to the right, is the beautiful and ancient city of Rome. We wrote a small piece about it here. Originally, small farms in this region often focused on growing wheat, olive oil, and grapes for self-sufficiency rather than selling on the open market. Interestingly, the start and end of farming seasons were determined by stars and constellations, which indicated the changing seasons. Although this method isn’t commonplace now, it’s almost as accurate as today’s methods.

Where CropSafe started, above you see Northern Ireland, and Lough Neagh supplies about 40% of Ireland’s water. And a bit to the left is something we’re not so fond of - clouds. Typically most clouds are pretty much impossible for us to see through with our eyes, and we would commonly assume the same would apply to satellites. However, by merging different types of satellite imagery, such as radar data (S.A.R.), we can penetrate through the clouds now as if they aren’t even there.

Think what we’re working on looks pretty cool? We’re a small team but always looking to bring aboard driven and passionate people who believe in connecting the world’s farms. Please shoot us an email at [](

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