Farmers are using satellite data to get precise information about the health of their crops. Healthy plants absorb light for photosynthesis and reflect infrared. By looking at a field with both visible and infrared cameras, satellites can provide weekly – even daily – information to farmers about the state of their crops. This helps ensure fertilisers and other treatments are only applied where they are needed.
Autonomous farm vehicles can be accurately controlled to follow set paths using global navigation satellite systems to ensure that no section of the field is missed when ploughing or seeding, and overlapping is reduced. This helps prevent too much soil compaction, which causes lower yields, and means fewer seeds or treatments are wasted.
Satellite positioning is also being used to monitor and manage livestock. Scotland’s Rural College,SRUC, is working on “virtual fencing”, which involves fitting cattle with a collar programmed with exclusion zones. Cattle can be gently nudged away from particular areas using negative stimuli such as an irritating sound.