Top 5 Misconceptions About Satellite Imagery for Agriculture: By Planet Labs
Having partnered with leading agricultural companies over the years, Planet has gained a window into the day-to-day challenges, concerns, and opportunities before cultivators across the globe. From the early days of Landsat to the present-day commercial providers, agriculture has been one of the largest adopters of satellite imagery.
Planet’s vision is to deliver precise and reliable field-level crop information to help such agriculture companies and cultivators optimize their inputs, monitor crop health, and improve yield. Yet, misconceptions and reservations regarding the use of satellite imagery continue to exist, and these must be addressed urgently.
Here are the Top Five Misconceptions about using Satellite Imagery for Agriculture, that need to be busted once and for all.
Myth 1: Customers do not trust Results from Satellite Data
The truth is quite the opposite. Besides sending out people into the field to gather information, satellite data and insights can actually help increase trust by identifying acute problems on site. Planet’s customers use satellite-derived information to build vegetative indices that help visualize crop health. This is followed by deploying the data to cultivators and agronomists.
There are several instances where a phone or tablet helps spot water stress or disease, efficiently driving attention to precise locations in the field. Yet others are used to build out reporting mechanisms that can even send automatically by email a list of areas for inspection based on the field analysis.
Myth 2: Customers cannot do anything with the imagery, they want answers.
A satellite image is more than what meets the eye. By combining data from different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, satellite data can be used to assess crop vitality with indices such as the Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI), which shows whether plants are under stress and what lifecycle stage a crop is in.
Planet’s customers, such as Granular, use its API to generate analytic visualizations that can be integrated into their digital platforms. They help farmers optimize inputs like fertilizers and retain complete control over threats to their crops.
Myth 3: Growers only need a few images over the growing season.
For some agricultural use cases, a few images during the growing season can provide base-level information on crop health, but not nearly enough to really take the best action.
Some crops present relatively narrow time windows for actions specific to key growth stages. Having a reliable source of up-to-date imagery, such as Planet’s daily monitoring, ultimately provides a higher likelihood of getting usable data, especially when the risk of weather events like clouds can impact data continuity.
Myth 4: Drones are the best solutions for insights. Satellites are too coarse in spatial resolution to tell anything.
The significance and potential of drones cannot be questioned. They deliver higher resolution imagery over fields and are capable of delivering detailed insights to cultivators. However, drones are expensive in terms of both purchase and execution and can cover only so much ground. Plus, you must know where you want to fly beforehand and schedule that flight accordingly.
With satellite imagery, despite trading spatial resolution for coverage, there is an added benefit of delivering reliable cost-effective insights at scale. There’s really no alternative to it in this respect.
While some satellite imagery may be too fuzzy to discern useful insights, PlanetScope’s medium (3.7 m) spatial resolution is ideal for discerning even fine details of smaller-scale farming operations. Also, PlanetScope’s satellites are always on – so there are no issues around scheduling or tasking them ahead of time. They deliver high-quality coverage of every acre on earth.
Myth 5: Public data is good enough, and commercial satellite data is not budget-friendly.
Public Earth Observation data from missions like Landsat and Sentinel do provide a ton of valuable information to scientists, researchers and analysts. The data is free, but deriving insights from it is not. There are several significant, time-consuming, and expensive challenges involved in getting the necessary pipelines in place. This can be a huge burden on customers and end-users.
Planet’s modern, cloud-first APIs help process, stream, and deliver analysis-ready data at scale, alongside the rapid growth of any business. One can leverage the processing power of a robust platform that helps focus expertise on outcomes and applications, and not on building image processing and cloud infrastructure.
Still weighing options?
Watch Planet’s on-demand webinar: Delivering Satellite Data to Scale Digital Agriculture, or visit www.planet.com/ag to learn more about innovative applications of satellite imagery in agriculture. Feel free to reach out to team Planet at email@example.com for any questions.
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