Potentials of the Copernicus Sentinel Programme for the Agro-Industry

Quadratic is currently studying problems encountered in the agro-industrial sector and develops for its partners real-time monitoring tools and decision support tools, intended to help them manage their logistics. Quadratic, conscious of the whole agroindustry, thinks more upstream of this project, at the very source of the food value chain: the crop fields and their efficiency.

Crops (Source: Progressive Media Group)

Crops (Source: Progressive Media Group)

Productivity of crop fields varies from year to year, due to the central and capricious role of meteorological factors. While it is difficult to juggle with the aspect of weather, one could however ask “How can I make my farm more productive”? Asking this question comes with two sub questions: “How can I increase the performances of my crop fields?”, and, “How can I be more cost-efficient?”

One of the key feature in helping farmers to make crops more productive is, first, to know their fields by monitoring them. Knowing the exact moment to plant grains, to use fertilizers, and, most importantly, on which part of the field to do it, are the objectives of precision farming, also called smart farming. Regular and precise crop field observations require a lot of time most farmers cannot spend.

What if an external observation tool, spatially precise, temporally very regular and above all, FREE, could be considered? This is exactly where the ESA and European Union’s Copernicus programme comes into play! With the already operational Sentinel 1, 2 and 3 satellites, it is now possible to observe every point on the European continent, with a resolution of 10 m, in the visible band, with a revisit time of 5 days at the Equator (3 days at our latitudes)! Data are freely available and a tremendous amount of information can be harvested out of every single pixel. Exploiting temporal successive images makes it possible to monitor crop growth by defining spectral signatures. For the full Copernicus programme, please see here: http://www.copernicus.eu/

Sentinel-2 satellite (Source: Wikimedia)

Sentinel-2 satellite (Source: Wikimedia)

 

Sentinel-1’s payload is a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) operating in the radar’s C-Band (microwave). It is hence not affected by meteorological conditions and signals cross all the cloud layers. Radar wavelengths can be used by day and night.

Sentinel-2 has a multispectral instrument operating in 13 different bands ranging from the visible to the near and short wave infrared spectrum. The visible bands are subject to cloud cover, making the theoretical revisit time of 5 days often longer. Most of the information useful for crop field monitoring can be gathered from Sentinel-2 images.

 

 

Quadratic is actively working on getting most out of temporal Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 images, in order to provide constant growth and health status of crop fields. The resolution of the Sentinel images gives information which parts of the field require more attention than other parts. In situ observations could be performed to fine grain even more the model used to make the direct link between the spectral signature of fields and the crop type, evolution stage, hydric regime, etc. Why not keeping up to date a diary for every single parcel to retrieve all the history of every single parcel?

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