Bryan Dean, CEO of Dragonfly Aerospace, highlights the world’s first agriculture-focused satellite constellation supporting efficient and sustainable practices.
The United Nations’ (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) has called 2022, “a year of unprecedented hunger” due to the devastating effects of climate change on agriculture, alongside food insecurities caused by the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2019, there has been an increase of over 200 million people who are now classed as ‘food insecure’. The UN has set ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
With the global population set to increase by 1.8 billion, reaching 9.8 billion by 2050, the world is looking for ways to increase food production in a sustainable way. Globally, we are currently in a precarious situation where food production must increase to supply the growing demand, but we are also fighting a degradation of nature which is needed to deliver higher yields than ever previously seen.
For increased food production to happen, we will need to ensure water is available. Currently, 28 percent of agriculture lies in water-stressed regions. By 2050, we will need twice as much water than is used in agriculture today. Waste is a huge issue for the sector – 30 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 70 percent of freshwater withdrawals occur in agriculture. To ensure sustainable global growth in agriculture, we need agri-tech to create operational processes that can deliver sustainable solutions.
As a leading provider of Earth observation data, Dragonfly Aerospace has partnered with EOS Data Analytics to create satellite-driven solutions for stakeholders across the entire agricultural sector.
Launched from Cape Canaveral on 3rd January, EOS SAT-1 is the world’s first agriculture-focused satellite constellation that will provide the agriculture and forestry industry with high-quality data to support efficient and sustainable practices. Equipped with two DragonEye electro-optical imagers, EOS SAT-1 will provide 44 kilometre (km) swath panchromatic and multispectral imagery across 11 spectral bands at close to one metre (m) resolution – making it one of the most capable imaging satellites in Lower Earth Orbit.
Images obtained from Dragonfly’s EOS SAT-1 will deliver valuable information for harvest monitoring, application mapping, seasonal planning and assessments that analyse information such as soil moisture, yield prediction and biomass levels. By observing Earth from space, farmers can make data-driven decisions which will give them more reliable guidance to effectively control and manage their land, crops, and livestock.
The agri-sat will help farmers decide whether to increase or decrease water supply to a specific patch of land, or if there is a need to improve the current soil quality to cultivate a certain crop in the future. Such targeted insights can reduce adverse impacts on the ecosystem caused by use of fertilisers and pesticides or through building new water channels, resulting in less runoff chemicals into rivers and groundwater.
This data will also support growers in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, detecting heat, cold and water stress, and averting pest attacks, thus helping them adopt sustainable agricultural practices.
The satellite is only the first of a seven-satellite constellation in low Earth orbit for EOS Data Analytics. The remaining six satellites will be deployed by 2025. Together, the seven satellites will have 100 percent coverage of all farmlands and forests globally – and will be able to cover an area of over 10,000,000 km2 in one day.
All the information gained from the EOS SAT-1, and eventually the seven-satellite constellation, will provide important environmental benefits for the planet and help better manage our natural habitats for increasing crop growth and maintaining biodiversity. As a result, farming will become more sustainable, productive, and profitable, which will increase global food security by improving access to food supplies and helping ensure reasonable prices.
EOS SAT-1 is a testament to how South Africa’s space industry has grown over the past 20 years to a point where it now has the Earth observation capabilities to support not just South Africa, but also the rest of Africa, in industries like coastal safety, forestry, town and infrastructure planning.
Dragonfly Aerospace has a state of the art 3,000m2 manufacturing facility and a roster of international clients, including EnduroSat, Loft Orbital and Pixxel.
Some of our employees have been involved with South Africa’s aerospace industry in 1999, which saw the launch of the country’s first Earth observation satellite. This experience and knowledge are what enables us to be a leading authority in earth observation data and showcase South Africa’s capabilities in the global space industry.
Like anyone in the space industry, I am passionate about space and pushing the boundaries of what we know. But I strongly believe that we need to explore Earth first and develop a deeper understanding of how our planet works.
Earth observation and imaging will give us answers on how to tackle pressing issues such as food insecurity and climate change. By embracing new technology and using it to enhance our agricultural systems, we can make the world a more sustainable place to live in.