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A Note from the ESA Food Security Thematic Exploration Platform (TEP) Meeting

Sarah Jones is a GIS/Remote Sensing Specialist working at Bioversity International. Sarah attended the ESA Food Security Thematic Exploration Platform (TEP) Meeting in Frascati, Italy, in March 2018, representing our community. Here is her take-home message from the meeting.
Espen Volden (ESA) demonstrates detailed crop maps over Germany created by merging Landsat and Sentinel-2 data.
Espen Volden (ESA) demonstrates detailed crop maps over Germany created by merging Landsat and Sentinel-2 data.

On 5-6 March 2018, ESA organized a workshop in Frascati, Italy, to demonstrate and get feedback from the user community about the current status and future development of ESA’s Food Security Thematic Exploration Platform (TEP)Bioversity International on behalf of the CGIAR-CSI and the Platform for Big Data in Agriculture attended along with reps from several other research institutes, the insurance sector, mobile credit providers and mobile phone application developers

So what is the TEP all about? The Food Security TEP is a cloud-based data storage, processing, and visualization tool.  It aims at simplifying the extraction of information from earth observation data for the advancement of data-intensive services in the food security sector mainly in Europe & Africa, including providing access to ESA Earth Observation products such as Sentinel 1, 2, 3. Demonstrations of the TEP at the workshop showed its batch processing capabilities, server-based connections to QGIS and the SNAP Toolbox, and inbuilt tools developed to enable the use of Sentinel imagery for agricultural purposes: from crop mapping to identifying crop water stress, flood risk zones, and crop disease mapping.  These tools are starting to be applied over large agricultural fields in Africa and Europe through the Sen-4-Agri and Sen4Cap.

Pierre C. Sibiry Traoré (ICRISAT and Manobi) presents NADiRA Project
Pierre C. Sibiry Traoré (ICRISAT and Manobi) presents NADiRA Project

Applications on smallholder systems remains a challenge. Even with 10m resolution Sentinel 2 imagery because of the crop diversity and management variability common in smallholder fields. Pierre Traore gave one exciting demonstration. Along with ICRASAT and building on the Malian Sen-4-Agri use case, Pierre C. Sibiry Traoré is working on a project called NADiRA to use Sentinel imagery to map crop parcels and crop growth periods on fields of about 1.5 ha, within the framework of connecting actors along the food value chain (farmers, banks, insurers, retailers). They are also mapping management practices (fertilizer applications, water applications) in cereal crop fields, though have found there are often too many confounding factors to do this reliably.

In the future, running processing tools on the TEP will not be free as ESA need to cover their running costs. However, the science community at the workshop was pushing for it to be provided at a reduced price for us. Let’s see!

ESA is currently seeking ideas for phase 2 and 3 of their pilot projects, to test the use of the TEP in addressing real-world problems. For those interested, get in touch with ESA! And keep an eye out for online training for agricultural applications of Sentinel here.

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