Space agriculture grows food where no one has grown before

Whether to spend money on outer space exploration or to apply it to solve serious problems on Earth, like climate change and food shortages, is a contentious debate. But one argument in favor of space exploration highlights benefits that do, in fact, help study, monitor, and address serious concerns like climate change and food production. As access to space increases, the potential for terrestrial benefits directly tied to space exploration grow exponentially.

For example, agriculture has improved significantly through the application of space-based advances to terrestrial challenges. It is now increasingly likely that food items have been produced with the assistance of space-based technologies, like freeze-dried foods, or through the use of crop monitoring from space-based observatories.

Satellite monitoring is arguably the most realized benefit of space for farming. Like mindful eyes in the sky, satellites watch over the farmlands across the globe day and night. Specialized sensors on relevant satellites (for example, NASA’s Landsat, the European Space Agency’s Envisat, and the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT) monitor various parameters relevant to agriculture.

Sensors monitoring soil moisture can tell us when and how fast soils are drying, helping direct more efficient irrigation on a regional scale. Weather satellites help predict drought, floods, precipitation patterns, and plant disease outbreaks.

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