January 18, 2021
International Congress Berlin
Farm & Food 4.0

12. December 2019

Expert for Digitization in Agriculture and Ag-Tech talks about satellite images

Interview with Dr. Katrin Kohler, Satlytics

Satellite images in combination with other existing data are able to close the agricultural process chain completely digitally, states Dr. Kohler. Find out more in her session at the Farm & Food 4.0 in Berlin and in advance here in the interview.

By Sarah Liebigt

Farm & Food: What are you currently working on, what is your most important project?

Katrin Kohler: I’m currently working on making satellite imagery more intelligent. Because I think we should get away from using satellite image data just to identify growth differences in the field, and then send the farmer into the field to look at the causes of the growth differences.

If I combine this information with other data, I can find the cause behind the symptoms revealed in the satellite image. For example, I use weather data to check whether suitable conditions for the occurrence of a fungal disease currently prevail. If this is the case, I use digital elevation data to see whether the field has a slope, so that a more humid microclimate may be created in the valley. And I look at the satellite image to see how many wheat fields are in the vicinity of my field in order to estimate the disease pressure. etc. So, we can close the process chain digitally completely.

Since a lot of data must be combined and analysed together, we are entering the area of BigData. However, with the right tools and methods it is already possible to analyse 100,000 fields and their properties in a matter of minutes.

How do you deal with technology-critical companies?

Companies have every reason to be technology-critical, because it always questions their existence, the means of production and the employees, by which I mean plants and animals. This means that we must not only develop ecologically justifiable solutions, but also economically sensible and practical solutions.

I believe that we should look at digitalisation as an opportunity. Firstly, to automate conventional processes and have sensors and robots take over the work. Then everyone will have more time for more important things. But with the new tools and data, we can also develop something new. And who, if not farmers, as entrepreneurs with an affinity for nature and technology, have what it takes to really come up with something new?

What obstacles do farmers have to overcome in order to be able to use new technology such as satellite-supported applications?

None, actually. There are entry-level models that are intuitive and can be used immediately without additional equipment. One example: In some apps, you can create a satellite image map for your field produced with one click of a button. You can take that map into the tractor on the tablet and start with specific fertilization immediately. No additional equipment is needed. This is only necessary if you want the entire process to run automatically.

There are many possible uses for Big Data. Which areas of agriculture can benefit most from it?

Unfortunately, Big Data is a term that often has a negative connotation. And we are all right in the middle of it. Data is constantly collected from smartphones, machines, satellites, drones, soil samples in the field and their results: Digital data and its use are the foundation for innovation.

On the other hand, we can use this data to invent something new. And who, if not farmers, as entrepreneurs with an affinity for technology and nature, have what it takes to really develop something new?

Do you see possible cooperation with other specialist areas that do not yet exist or that need to be expanded in order to achieve improvements in agriculture?

Cooperation is very important. The result will be that we will no longer offer farmers individual maps or data sets. In future, satellite images will simply be an accessory: When I buy a car, I want a well-functioning navigation system. Which maps and data are stored there is irrelevant. I see it the same way in agriculture.

What makes the Farm & Food 2020 an interesting event for you?

Farm & Food provides a very good overview of all areas of the agricultural value chain. That’s why it promises interesting insights and discussions and I’m very much looking forward to them.

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