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Technology: New Satellites to Protect Agriculture in Africa

An early warning system that relies on satellites to avoid the devastation of African farmers’ crops is the brainchild of a team of researchers. These hope through their approach to provide an adequate response to a reality on the continent.

The mechanism proposed by these researchers is simple and innovative. The Pesticide Risk Information Service (PRISE) combines weather-related data and weather forecasts with computer-assisted simulations. He then sends the farmers an alert on their mobile phones so that they can make their arrangements to protect their crops or their plantations.

The proposed system hopes to help contribute effectively to increasing yields and farm incomes up to 20%. The PRISE system is being used in Kenya, Ghana and Zambia and will soon be deployed in other parts of the world.

PRIZE was inspired by the success of a British aid program offered by the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International Development Charity (CABI). The latter is seeking the expertise of a network called “plant doctors” and advisory units to inform farmers when pests or diseases threaten their crops. “Doctors” use the stored data to diagnose the problem. This will allow them to better prescribe the right pesticides and other protective measures.

At the same time, a new initiative with CABI and the UK Space Agency (UKSA) will use the network to primarily prevent situations. The idea is to use satellite data collected by the UKSA to develop a system that can predict when pest infestations will occur one week or more in advance.

Satellites can provide accurate information on soil temperature, which is one of the main drivers of pest infestations.

These data, combined with meteorological data and computer models, can be used to give farmers enough time to spray pesticides and take other precautions.

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