There are more than 200 operational (non-military) satellites currently in position above the Earth. Innovation is driving the cost down of putting satellites into space and increasing amounts of data is becoming available. A recent article argues that farmers are set to be key beneficiaries from the technology’s boom.

Satellite technology and the data gathered by using it could usher in the arrival of the “smart farm”, where both efficiency and effectiveness are increased.

Farmers can use satellite data for soil quality monitoring, infrared can provide information about the health of crops, ensuring that fertilisers, water irrigation and other treatments are applied at the optimal time. There’s even potential to use satellite technology to monitor and manage livestock. Scotland’s Rural College is currently researching “virtual fencing”, where cattle are gently nudged away from areas by negative stimuli, like a negative sound. This could represent a huge cost saving for farmers who spend substantial sums on building, maintaining and repairing fencing.

There are already examples of satellite data becoming a valuable and sellable commodity. San Francisco-based Planet Labs runs on the tagline, “Our data. Your creativity”.

Of course, as powerful and valuable as big data can be. There are arguments that a prosperous economic future will require agricultural paradigms to shift. One opportunity to hear more about an alternative vision for agriculture comes on November 18 when Leontino Balbo Jr, Brazilian farmer a pioneer of “revitalising agriculture”, will be featured in an exclusive video as part of the Disruptive Innovation Festival.

Source: Rise of the smart farm: get ready for satellite-controlled cows

Lead image licensed under CC – credit Flickr user: Rodrigo Carvalho

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