Eye in the sky

Western Cape to benefit from Sentinel-2 earth observation technology


As part of its initiative to embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape has introduced Sentinel-2 earth observation technology.

The department explained in a statement that Sentinel-2 is an earth observation satellite mission developed by the European Space Agency as part of their Copernicus Programme to perform terrestrial observations in support of a wide range of services, including agriculture.

Sentinel-2 is groundbreaking in agriculture and with 10-20m spatial resolution and a five-day revisit frequency, it represents a considerable improvement on the old agricultural remote sensing products.

Sentinel-2 also provides free access to data.

The department has developed a Sentinel portal and remote sensing tools which will leverage the extraordinary wealth of agriculturally relevant satellite data in an integrated platform which hides the complexities from non-specialist users.

These tools provide rapid access to near real-time information on vegetation (veld) and crop conditions resulting in quicker information flow and better decision making and understanding. This also allows for rapid assessment of natural disaster impacts such as fire scar extents, drought, crop failure and pest and disease damage. It also allows for a better assessment of crop conditions and resource use and is therefore particularly useful in the study of the impact of climate change.

Previously the only option to access satellite imagery was to browse through catalogues of images, select suitable cloud-free images and then download and archive each image, with all its multispectral wave bands. This process was both laborious and highly data-intensive, whilst the subsequent analytical workflows required specialist skills and expensive software.

Sentinel-2 also makes use of cloud based services, which streamlines workflow.

The Department is currently exploring some of these cloud-based services in their geographic information system (GIS) and their very popular online tool, CapeFarmMapper (CFM).

Research commissioned by the Department and conducted by the University of Stellenbosch Business School last year revealed that in order for the Western Cape to achieve an “agri-renaissance”, the fourth industrial revolution should be embraced, and affordable technology be made more widely available.

Minister of Economic Opportunities, Beverley Schafer said: “The Sentinel-2 portal is a free-access space where ground breaking satellite imaging technology can be accessed and used to develop agriculture, respond to disasters and study the impacts of climate change. By making these tools available, the Department is contributing towards sustainable farming and the development of a food-secure province through the intelligent use of technology.”

Commenting on the development, Benji Meltzer, co-founder & CTO at award-winning agritech innovator Aerobotics said, “Farmers can greatly benefit from the data and insights provided by new and innovative agricultural technology. We therefore encourage them to take full advantage of this wave of emerging tech.

“We agree with the Department of Agriculture for the fourth industrial revolution to take place in the Western Cape. This will introduce new opportunities on how to approach some of the challenges in the agricultural sector, this is why Aerobotics has chosen to invest in the technological future of agriculture with our drone & satellite analytics which has shown great impact by helping keep farms healthy.

“We are confident that with the government pursuing the fourth industrial revolution, South Africa will make significant headway in the agriculture industry.”

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