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Satellites for Food - Upcoming Competition

Innovate UK is scoping a new funding competition about the use of satellite and space technology in the production and distribution of food and it welcomes inputs from the relevant communities on the scope and details of the competition.

If you would like to contribute to this scoping task, please read the information below and opportunities for your input at the end of this article.


Use of satellite and space technology in food

Satellite and space technology is increasingly being used to increase the productivity of agricultural systems to meet the food requirements of a world population predicted to reach more than 9 billion in 2050. The UK Government Foresight Report into the Future of Food and Farming highlighted some of the key challenges we must address if these food requirements are to be met in the coming decades. In addition, a European Commission market report highlights some of the societal challenges that can be addressed by integrating space and satellite into the agri-food sector. These include urbanisation, population increase and shortage of resources. Two of the top four 10-year risks identified by the World Economic Forum are related to water and food crises, with urbanisation also identified as a broad risk area of concern.

New space services such as the European navigation system, Galileo, and the European remote sensing system, Copernicus, are coming online, plus new global data providers and these have the potential to create a disruptive change and the UK is well positioned to take advantage of this.  Space enabled systems using technologies such as precision navigation, remote sensing (earth observation) and satellite communications can provide opportunities to meet these challenges through more accurate and efficient crop and livestock production, more efficient and integrated logistics management and delivery and improved farming management practices.

For example, linking satellite imaging with precision navigation systems to farm machinery with common methods for data and information exchange could reduce production costs, monitor and predict the onset of crop and animal pathogens, monitor livestock welfare and bring new techniques to the agri-food sector to help to improve the overall sustainability.


About the competition

Innovate UK is looking to build on previous engineering solutions for the agri-food sector and its supply chain by running a dedicated competition that specifically targets the use of satellite and space technology within this sector. The aim is to stimulate further integration and efficiency, and enable new services to address the technical and societal challenges identified.

This competition has the initial scope to address innovation and new services in the following areas:

Primary Production:

  • Farm machinery guidance and auto steer/controlled traffic
  • Autonomous systems
  • Variable rate application
  • Yield/Biomass/Soil mapping and monitoring
  • Livestock monitoring/tracking
  • Whole farm system connectivity

Outside the gate:

  • Farm machinery monitoring and asset management
  • Geo-traceability/georeferencing
  • Field delineation/Survey
  • Compliance, mapping
  • Stock movement/traceability and provenance
  • Supply side management and logistics/delivery

Of specific interest within these broad areas are improvements to communications and data exchange, open standards, real-time operations and the use of innovative technologies such as unmanned aerial systems and autonomous systems using satellite data and technologies.


Find out more

If you would like to contribute to this scoping exercise, there are two ways to do so.  The first is to send your feedback by email to who will collate all the responses and pass them on to Innovate UK.  Second, there is a scoping workshop in London on the 11th June from 0930-1400.  Place are limited at the workshop.  If you would like to take part in the scoping workshop, please contact Andy Powell with your background and interest.


Article by Andy Powell, KTN

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