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Using Satellite Data to Vitalize Agriculture and Solve the Problem of Food Shortages

Toshio Okumura

In recent years, typhoons, localized downpours, droughts and other extreme forms of weather phenomena have tended to occur with greater frequency. Our objective is to enable quick responses to a variety of situations, and contribute to the stable food supply by using satellite data to grasp an understanding of the current situation and predict the status of crops.

Toshio Okumura, Agriculture Team Leader

This is an image of rice fields taken with a microwave sensor from an earth observation satellite

This is an image of rice fields taken with a microwave sensor from an earth observation satellite.
Image (A-1) appears dark before planting. It retains its dark appearance for some time after planting (A-2), but as the crops grow the image becomes brighter. The rice field map (A-3) has been completed by analyzing the images from these two seasons. The blue indicates paddy rice, and the yellow indicates other plants.

Accuracy and Transparency of Information Are Required for the Stable Supply of Food

As the demand for food increases with a global increase in population, there are fears of climate change affecting agriculture, resulting in a growing sense of impending crisis regarding stable food supply. This led to the inclusion of the Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture in the Final Declaration at the G20 Summit held in November 2011, in Cannes, France.

Based on an understanding that accurate and transparent information is needed to address food price volatility, this action plan calls for various measures such as establishing the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to encourage sharing data on agriculture and the food market and making use of remote sensing from satellites to improve predictions of crop production and weather forecasts. At RESTEC, we have been providing information gathered from our earth observation satellite to AMIS through our work with JAXA and the Asian Development Bank.

Estimating the Surface Area of Planted Rice Fields and the Prospects for Rice Crops and Using the Data for Insurance Purposes

Rice is eaten in many countries throughout Asia. In Japan, it is grown in well irrigated paddies, but rain-fed cultivation, which relies on water from rain alone, is common in countries throughout Southeast Asia. In such places, the surface area of rice fields that can be planted varies greatly depending on the rainfall that year. However, in reality it is difficult to carry out accurate surveys of the surface area of planted fields. This is where remote sensing can be used. The Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is capable of carrying out surveys regardless of the time of day or weather conditions, and the surface area of planted rice fields can be estimated from the observation data gathered. (Figure A-3) RESTEC is also conducting research into estimating yields and applying this technology to other crops such as corn and sugarcane.

Moreover, using agricultural weather information obtained through remote sensing, efforts are being made to estimate rice crop prospects. This information is being shared throughout the world through the AMIS. Efforts are also underway to protect farmers by using the information for other purposes such as insurance, to calculate the amount of damage from disasters, design new insurance services, and so on.

This is an example of information publicized on Jaxa’s Satellite Based Monitoring Network System (JASMIN) to allow estimating the status of rice crops in Asia

This is an example of information publicized on Jaxa’s Satellite Based Monitoring Network System (JASMIN) to allow estimating the status of rice crops in Asia.
(B-1) Shown above is the amount of rain and sunshine, the ground temperature, etc. Below, red indicates values that are high, and blue indicates values that are low relative to average annual readings. (B-2) Example of image showing the amount of rain. In this example, there are regions in Northern Thailand where it has rained more than in average years.

A Group of Professionals Using a Global Network to Contribute to Solving Food Shortage Problems

RESTEC works in close cooperation with international organizations, as well the space agencies, agricultural organizations, and other agencies of various countries in promoting the use of remote sensing in agricultural fields. We will make use of our variety of networks and experience to provide the easy-to-use information necessary for solving our customers’ problems.