Agriculture meets aerospace

May 22, 2019

Agriculture meets aerospace

Scientists are being challenged to develop the technology that will help farming on earth, from space. Photo: SpaceX

Teams of scientists across New Zealand are developing technology to help farmers face agricultural challenges.

Their efforts are a response to the Aerospace Challenge launched by ChristchurchNZ, MBIE and Airbus.

The challenge asked participants to develop a product which monitors soil and water pollution through satellite or unmanned aircraft technology, helping farming become more sustainable.

At an event for TechWeek, Blinc CEO and challenge judge Toni Laming said agriculture faced many challenges – such as climate change and emissions - but technology can help combat these.

Her co-speaker, SpaceBase’s Emeline Paat-Dahlstrom, said space-technology could solve many earth related problems.

With satellites no longer being heavy and expensive to launch, it is possible to monitor farms from space. While this is not new, the speakers said innovative developments can make the process quicker and more productive.

Ms Laming pointed to the idea of using hyperspectral imagery to monitor where fertiliser is ending up, to ensure it does not get into conservation areas.

Blinc’s Victoria Stark said another advancement was in the emergence of cloud-cutting satellites, which meant data can be collected no matter the weather.

“They were only passing around once a week, or whatever the schedule was and unfortunately if it was very cloudy that day, they actually weren’t able to get any gauge on pasture growth for that week.”

The eighteen participants and their projects accepted into the challenge were announced today.

Given the isolated land masses and “progressive Government” quick to make legislative changes, New Zealand is the “best place to prototype,” Ms Paat-Dahlstrom said.

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