Space and agriculture meet on social media

Reddit ‘ask-me-anything’ event with Canadian officials attracts interest, bizarre queries

“The only way to obtain frequent and reliable observations over this entire landscape is to use space-based systems that let us collect images over the entire landscape with no gaps.”

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) partnered with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to do an “Ask Me Anything” event on social media.

On May 5, officials from both agencies took to the popular social media site Reddit to answer questions from the public about “how space helps agriculture.”

Nearly 200 people directly engaged in the discussion.

Some of the questions were a bit bizarre, because it is the internet; but overall the event was engaging and informative enough to be one of the more popular events taking place on the space-specific Reddit page.

A CSA official kicked off the event by answering the broad question of how space helps agriculture, writing about the 93.4 million acres of cropland that need monitoring in the country.

“The only way to obtain frequent and reliable observations over this entire landscape is to use space-based systems that let us collect images over the entire landscape with no gaps,” the agency wrote. “With these images, we can tell what crop is growing, where it is growing and the condition it is in. This information is then used to make targeted decisions that reduce risks to the agricultural sector.”

AAFC wrote about its connection to the international Earth observation community through its involvement in the Group on Earth Observation Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) initiative “whose purpose is to increase market transparency and improve food security by strengthening the international community’s capacity to utilize co-ordinated, comprehensive, and sustained Earth observations.”

An international crop assessment and monitoring program is also conducting experiments with the help of Canada.

“Global teams are conducting experiments at more than 30 sites, throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America, chosen because they represent the planet’s main cropping systems and agricultural practices,” AAFC wrote. “Satellites pass over these sites, collecting data from above, while researchers on the ground take measurements to corroborate the data and validate algorithms.”

Three of those sites are currently operating in Canada, and are being used to “develop methods that assess surface soil moisture, identify crop type, monitor the growth stage and productivity of crops.”

One of the more bizarre questions asked about the results of growing a QR bar code out of crops. The user asked how large the bar code would need to be for a satellite to detect it, or if it was possible.

In its response, the CSA said the satellite would not be able to read the code but expressed enthusiasm over the idea.

An update was also provided on Canada’s attempts to grow crops in space.

“The Vegetable Production System, known as Veggie, is a space garden residing on the space station. Veggie’s purpose is to help study plant growth in microgravity, while adding fresh food to the astronauts’ diet and enhancing happiness and well-being on the orbiting laboratory,” wrote the CSA.

About the author

Reporter

D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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