Throughout history we have dedicated enormous amounts of time extensively mapping our world. Even today we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to topography. Recording the size and shape of land, the quality of earth, climate and stability. All these components need to link together for us to develop an in depth understanding of what our land is really like. The more technology develops, the more we can record and analyse map data: step in satellites.
Satellites with lots of sensors are recording data about the earth below every fraction of a second, every single day. It’s not just NASA and governments monitoring things from up there, there are in fact plenty of sectors that rely on satellites to provide them with the information they need. From monitoring the weather to driving around with Sat Nav, the technological advances we’ve seen from utilising satellites has been big. So why aren’t farmers taking advantage of this technology too?
For the average farmer, the idea of waking up in the morning and getting to work on a computer to do their farm management for the day sounds crazy. How can you be a good farmer if you’re not out there in the fields, understanding the land and taking care of your crops? It turns out this may make you a better farmer than you think.
What satellites can do for your farm
By utilising geographical information systems (GISs) you can gather data about your specific farm land and use this to make informed decisions. This is a pioneering method of farm management and precision farming because you are using data to understand your farm in a new and innovative way. In turn, you can make your farm more successful simply by understanding it better.
I suppose this is a little hypocritical of us. It was only a little while ago we were writing about how great drones can be for your farm, and now we’re pushing further… from small controlled machines to satellites in space! Really though, both technologies have their advantages and limitations. If you‘re not a fan of drones, this could be a better option for you. Read about both and decide for yourself.
Use maps to farm your land. But not the maps you immediately think of. This isn’t just a case of going out and measuring the size of your fields, it’s much more than that. By using satellites to collect data which can be updated and refreshed daily, you have access to up to date information.
Example: It’s a Tuesday morning, you’re eating breakfast ready for another day managing the farm and you hear the local weather report on the radio (your first encounter with useful satellite data for the day). It looks like there’s heavy rain on the way, which happens to be bad news for your small field right at the back. This is because you only ploughed it the other day ready for sowing seeds. Now you’re on the edge of a disaster: that heavy rain could wash away all that important, nutritious top soil you’ve dug up for sowing and drastically reduce the overall yield predictions for crops this year.
The first thing you might be doing is rush to order fertilizer to make up for this, or attempt to sow all your seeds now and hope that they survive the heavy rain. These are indeed decisions based on valid data, but with satellite mapping data you can be even more informed.
For example, with satellite data you can take images of your land before and after the rain, to see where the water is draining to (this is the soil where all your nutrients have gone. Could you now plant crops here instead or move this soil back to the original fields like a fertilizer?).
You could also use the satellite data to check if any crops have been damaged by the weather without travelling around your farm itself or setting up the drone to look. Furthermore, high winds that can drag down a drone will have no effect on satellites.
And those are just a few of the solutions satellite data enables you to explore in just a single farming scenario. The application of this technology for managing your farm, precision agriculture and smart farming are endless. We’ll admit, there are a few limitations including low visibility with cloud coverage and finding the software to analyse the data without it costing the Earth, but satellites are gradually becoming more accessible for the everyday farmer. There are companies that will take you through how to go about setting this up for your farm. The more data you collect about your farm, the more problems you can solve with technology, meaning the investment today could really provide a great return tomorrow.
In the meantime, keep working on using your drones and analyzing that data every night so your technology skills develop to the point you’re a pro. It’s not just about gathering data, it’s about using it to solve problems we’ve faced for years and predicting new problems we’ve not seen coming. Using cutting edge technology is the way forward, for increased yields, profits and a healthier, more efficient farming business.
And don’t forget if you are not already using drones, click here and find out why you should be!