Helping small farmers to meet growing food needs
The expansion of the world's population poses a number of urgent challenges, including increasing food production. An EU-funded project is developing an Earth observation (EO)-based IT platform that provides key information and advisory services to small farmers, to help them play their part in meeting future food needs.
© StockMediaProduction, #207119737, 2019. source: stock.adobe.com
The global human population is now expected to reach 9.15 billion by 2050. If that estimate holds true, world food demand will rise by 70 %. All food producers, large and small, will need to improve their efficiency to meet that demand.
The object of the EU-funded APOLLO project is to develop an IT-based platform that brings the benefits of precision agriculture to small farmers. The platform makes extensive use of free and open Earth observation (EO) data, such as that provided by the EUs Copernicus satellites.
Today, many European small farmers encounter difficulties in obtaining and using the latest technologies, because of the high cost. At the same time, they lack access to information about novel, low-cost agricultural practices.
The APOLLO platform, with its ability to exploit EO data, helps farmers to monitor the growth and health of their crops. It delivers information on a wide range of variables, such as soil moisture, ground surface temperature and plant photosynthetic activity.
It also provides clear guidance on the latest methods for calculating agricultural parameters. APOLLO can advise on when to irrigate and till fields, and is also able to estimate harvest size.
All this contributes to better-informed decision-making on the part of small farmers, who can fine-tune their operations and use resources more efficiently. They can reduce the amount and hence the cost of agricultural inputs such as seed, fertiliser and water. The resulting increased efficiency means greater yields, profitability and resilience in a highly competitive market.
Finally, the APOLLO platform minimises the environmental impact of farming operations, which is good for everyone. Farmers can reduce fossil fuel use by running farm machinery on an optimised schedule and, as already mentioned, they can reduce their use of water resources all this while producing more vital food for the world's growing population.