Smart Farming and Space Farming: The Next Frontier of Food Production
When it comes to advances in farming technology, the sky’s the limit—or is it? Some may think that space technology and smart farming have nothing in common. And yet both fields seek the same goal: to increase food production while reducing input costs and expenses. Smart farming and space technology are coming together to make space farming a reality.
Smart Farming and Space Farming: The Next Frontier of Food ProductionWhen it comes to advances in farming technology, the sky’s the limit—or is it? Some may think that space technology and smart farming have nothing in common. And yet both fields seek the same goal: to increase food production while reducing input costs and expenses. Smart farming and space technology are coming together to make space farming a reality.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Space Congress 2019 which annually brings together technology companies in the field of aerospace and various industrial partners. For 2019, the theme “Light the Fire” was chosen to outline discussions about “lighting the fire” of launches, new technologies, exploration, innovation, imagination, and inspiration.
There was a surprising, underlying common theme in many of the panels: agriculture and food production. As space technologies advance and we explore further out, food production will be the limiting resource. For long term, sustainable missions, fresh food will be required. According to Dr. Gioia Massa, Life Sciences Project scientist at the Kennedy Space Center and the NASA Veggie Project, “Agriculture technology and advanced cropping systems must be adapted to sustain the mission directive for the Moon and Mars.” Currently, there are experiments underway on the International Space Station (ISS) for growing crops in zero gravity environments with the Veggie Project. Lettuce has been successfully grown and harvested on the ISS. The challenge will be how to scale the production up to harvesting many plants, possibly on the lunar surface.
How does agriculture play a role in forthcoming space missions?
In 2028 there is a directive to have a sustainable presence on the moon, by all means necessary. Agriculture and biosciences will play major roles in fulfilling this mission directive. The precision agriculture industry has an opportunity to partner with NASA to develop new, innovative technologies for long term survival in space, including the Mars 2020 mission which will have a crop and agriculture component.
It isn’t hard to imagine applying current smart farming technologies to space farming. Xaver, formerly known as MARS (Mobile Agricultural Robot Swarms), could assist in a low gravity greenhouse environment where operators would not necessarily have to be present. The sensor technology which powers our SmartFirmer® by Precision Planting® solution could greatly assist with data collection, and our telemetry offering, AGCO Connect, could facilitate remote diagnostics to monitor equipment health from afar.
While the space industry can utilize smart farming tools, the smart farming industry can utilize the space industry’s solutions to positively impact growers. OneWeb Satellites hopes to provide rural connectivity by utilizing a global “web” of satellites in space and through providing internet only satellite based service where cellular providers cannot reach. Additional space technology solutions like the new GPS III Satellites, which incorporate technology such as anti-jamming and provide improved uptime, can also be used in smart farming. According to Col. Thomas R. Ste. Marie, 45th Space Wing vice commander at Patrick Air Force Base, “The new GPS technology provides robustness and posturing to provide GPS solutions to farmers using automated precision technology for years to come.”
As alluded to earlier, fresh food is a critical limitation that must be overcome and agriculture is now considered a crucial major for students with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Separately, the Space Foundation which represents the global space community, is looking for agriculture and precision agriculture companies to engage with.
As the future continues to unfold, space farming and smart farming will continuously align in order to provide more solutions in creating more food and opportunities to adapt to both land and space needs.
Written by: Jonathan Riley
Jonathan is a Fuse Product Marketing Manager focusing on Data Connectivity. Jonathan holds a Master’s Degree in Data Analytics from the University of Maryland. Connect with Jonathan on LinkedIn.