Space meets agriculture online | The Western Producer

The Canadian Space Agency recently joined Agriculture Canada on the social media forum Reddit to answer questions from the public about “how space helps agriculture.”

On May 5, nearly 200 people took part in the session.

A CSA official kicked off the event by answering the broad question of how space helps agriculture, writing about the 93.4 million acres of cropland that needs monitoring in the country.

“The only way to obtain frequent and reliable observations over this entire landscape is to use space-based systems that let us collect images over the entire landscape with no gaps,” the agency wrote on the forum. “With these images, we can tell what crop is growing, where it is growing and the condition it is in. This information is then used to make targeted decisions that reduce risks to the agricultural sector.”

Ag Canada wrote about its connection to the international Earth observation community through its involvement in the Group on Earth Observation Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative “whose purpose is to increase market transparency and improve food security by strengthening the international community’s capacity to utilize co-ordinated, comprehensive, and sustained Earth observations.”

An international crop assessment and monitoring program is also conducting experiments with the help of Canada.

“Global teams are conducting experiments at more than 30 sites, throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America, chosen because they represent the planet’s main cropping systems and agricultural practices,” Ag Canada wrote. “Satellites pass over these sites, collecting data from above, while researchers on the ground take measurements to corroborate the data and validate algorithms.”

Three of those sites are operating in Canada, and are being used to develop methods “that assess surface soil moisture, identify crop type, monitor the growth stage and productivity of crops.”

One of the more bizarre questions asked about the results of growing a QR barcode out of crops. The user asked how large the barcode would need to be for a satellite to detect it, or if it was possible.

In its response, the CSA said the satellite would not be able to read the code but expressed enthusiasm over the idea.

An update was also provided on Canada’s attempts to grow crops in space.

“The Vegetable Production System, known as Veggie, is a space garden residing on the space station. Veggie’s purpose is to help study plant growth in microgravity, while adding fresh food to the astronauts’ diet and enhancing happiness and well-being on the orbiting laboratory,” wrote the CSA.