On Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22, it has become a tradition for us to take a look at how the European Space programme, Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus, is helping to protect the environment by driving innovation and enabling solutions that increase efficiency across a wide range of sectors, from aviation and maritime transport to energy and engineering. However, it is in the agriculture sector in particular that synergies between the three EU space components are helping to reduce the environmental footprint.
EU farmers are leveraging synergies between Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus to increase crop productivity, make processes more efficient and reduce resource use with a view to improving their environmental footprint. One example of this is the Spanish company Ixoriguè, which is leveraging satellite and other technology to optimise processes in mountain stockbreeding, which is usually difficult to achieve due to the challenging geographical terrain.
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The Ixoriguè solution is an excellent example of how by integrating satellite positioning, sensors, Earth observation with data management and analysis, it is possible to respond to various livestock management needs. In the solution, better geo-localization performance is achieved thanks to Galileo, and when this is combined with Copernicus Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 Earth observation data, Ixoriguè is able to predict grazing areas and available pasture, providing data-driven recommendations to optimise pasture and cattle management.
Another project that harnesses space synergies, specifically Copernicus and Galileo, in the service of more sustainable agriculture is the FaST digital service platform. Supported by the European Commission’s DG AGRI, DG DEFIS, and the EU ISA2 Programme (DG DIGIT), the platform aims to provide EU farmers, Member State Paying Agencies, farm advisors and developers of digital solutions with capabilities for agriculture, environment and sustainability. The platform uses data from Galileo and Copernicus and will help lay the foundations of a comprehensive digital ecosystem for sustainable farm and land management in Europe. It will support farmers in their administrative decision-making processes, for farm profitability and environmental sustainability.
The Farming by Satellite competition has consistently generated innovative ideas that increase efficiency and improve the environmental footprint of agriculture, and last year was no different. The contestants were tasked with creating a new sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture solution using Galileo, EGNOS and/or Copernicus, and they did exactly that.
First prize in the 2020 edition of the competition went to the Spanish startup Graniot, for a web application that uses European satellite technologies to help agronomists and farmers monitor crops, reduce water waste and avoid poor fertilizer practices. Second prize in the competition went to the Italian team Genuine, for another web-based solution that identifies crop stress and calculates the optimal tractor path for irrigation and fertilisation using Copernicus, EGNOS and Galileo. Third prize went to AI4OceanFarming, for a solution that uses satellite data to identify ocean farming threats such as harmful algal blooms (HABs), ocean acidification (OA), and invasive species. Finally, the Africa prize winner GeoM&E monitoring coffee farms in central Kenya, and indicating the changes over time and areas where farmers could increase yield.
A key objective of the European Space Programme is to support the European Union in achieving its priority policy goals. One such policy objective is the European Green Deal. Through the projects highlighted above, and countless other initiatives, services and applications that make European industries, including agriculture, more efficient – Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus are helping the EU to achieve its sustainability goals and to make Europe greener.
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