A research group from the National Research Council, Italy, has won the inaugural BayWa Smart Farming Challenge as part of the Copernicus Masters competition. Together with winners in 15 other categories, the scientists received their award on 4 December at the 'Space Oscars' as part of the European Space Week in Marseille, France. Their approach of monitoring water consumption over large areas using satellites and the subsequent ecological assessment of the data prevailed in a field of 28 international competitors in the 'Smart Farming' challenge. The aim now is to prepare the innovation for launch on the market together with mentors from BayWa and its Group companies FarmFacts and Vista.
'Irrigation is necessary for food production and has a global impact on the economy and society', says Jörg Migende, Head of Agricultural Sales and Digital Farming at BayWa, who presented the award. Growing confidence and trust in artificial irrigation has led to a doubling of agricultural production worldwide over the past 40 years. By contrast, over two billion people on the planet are now already affected by water scarcity - a number that will increase in future as a result of population growth and climate change. Jörg Migende: 'For areas used for agriculture purposes, such as in Africa for example, we already successfully provide satellite-based solutions to precisely meet the water requirements of plants, while also preventing water losses. But, this has previously always only provided a view for the individual field. For the very first time, it will now be possible to quantify water consumption at a global level.'
'Around 70 percent of the world's available water is used for agriculture', says Luca Brocca, head of the research group at the National Research Council. 'We were previously limited in our ability to precisely determine the global water consumption and intervene accordingly - not just technically with the use of appropriate monitoring programmes, but also where water was available free of charge or withdrawn illegally. Satellite data helps us overcome these hurdles - this is a ground-breaking innovation for agricultural and food production.'
Luca Brocca spent two years testing his team's approach in the Urmia Plain in Iran and in Spain, in combination with soil measurements. Winning the BayWa Smart Farming Challenge now enables him to expand the practical trials to Europe and other locations. The experience and networks of mentors from BayWa, FarmFacts and Vista will help develop the prototypes into a marketable product.
This year, the BayWa Smart Farming Challenge was one of 16 categories at the international Copernicus Masters competition. Initiated in 2011 by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Anwendungszentrum Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), it is an annual event that awards innovative solutions for business and society based on Earth observation data.
Picture: Italian group from the National Research Council (© National Research Council, reproduction free of charge)
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