Using satellite data to improve food security


Using satellite data to improve food security

Published on
November 27, 2015

Based on news from the NSO website

How can agriculture in developing countries benefit from space technology? This was the central theme during the G4AWeek conference held in The Hague mid September. Specialists from across the globe shared their results and plans and discussed the obstacles still to be overcome before smallholder farmers in developing countries and the space industry can be brought together for the benefit of food production. The conference was part of the G4AW program (Geodata for Agriculture and Water). A new project within the 2015 G4AW program is the GEOPOTATO project. It will be carried out in Bangladesh over the coming years. Wageningen UR is partner in the program.

The objective of the the G4AW program is to use satellite data to improve food security and facilitate the more efficient use of water, seeds and nutrients.


After rice, the second most important crop in Bangladesh is potato, represented by 450,000 hectares worked by 750,000 farmers. “The main challenge is protecting crops against fungal diseases”, says Huib Hengsdijk, project leader of Wageningen UR (Agrosystems Research). “But farmers can’t always afford to buy fungicide and often also don’t know when the right time to spray their crops is or how often. GEOPOTATO supports farmers with a warning system and advisory service. In advance of an expected infection period, farmers receive a text (SMS) or voicemail message with information and advice on what to do and when.”

Accurate weather data from space stations

GEOPOTATO’s goal is to reach out to 100,000 farmers over the next 3 years, and their ambition over the next 10 years is to allow some 250,000 farmers to take advantage of accurate weather data collected from space stations. The satellite information service allows costs to be kept low. Farmers pay about 2 Euros for a subscription per season for the service. Hengsdijk: “This really is a good investment for the farmers. Small-scale farmers’ harvests are 20% higher on average; that comes to about 150 Euros extra income to supplement an average income of 1,000 Euros. More experienced farmers are able to reduce costs by up to 9% by using fungicides more efficiently. That’s about 60 Euros in saved costs.”

The G4AW program (Geodata for Agriculture and Water) is carried out by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Partners in GEOPOTATO project:

  • Wageningen UR Plant Research International
  • Agriculture Information Service (BNG)
  • Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BNG)
  • ICCO-Cooperation (BNG)
  • mPower (BNG)
  • Wageningen University (NL)
  • TerraSphere (NL)