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RADARSAT: Space-age farming

What you need to know

Farmers like to call it “precision farming”—using satellites and other remotely sensed data to evaluate crops and soil moisture. These advanced farming techniques are saving money and preventing unnecessary chemicals from entering our fragile ecosystem. A new Saskatchewan project is also using remotely sensed data to map hail, frost, wind, and flood damage to help in assessing losses for insurance claims. The project has great commercial potential since, presently, large teams of assessors are needed to evaluate crop losses worth some $1 billion each year in Canada.

A satellite stands on guard

Modern farms are so large, and hail and frost damage can be so localized, that farmers may not even be aware that some of their fields have been affected. But now, Canada's RADARSAT is helping insurance adjustors and farmers more accurately assess every damaged acre. This new data is so precise that farmers interviewed in Saskatchewan are convinced that remote sensing technology can, over time, reduce their insurance premiums.

Exports and spinoffs of Canadian innovation

Once the potential of this field trial has been demonstrated, the project is designed to lead to other commercial applications in the rest of Canada and in the U.S. where crop loss is much greater. One new application would help farmers substantiate insurance claims when excessive standing water from snowmelt or heavy spring rains make it impossible to plant their fields. Space-based remotely sensed data help estimate soil moisture more precisely and help crop insurance agencies evaluate and process claims more efficiently.

Project partners are building on its potential

Digital Environmental Management of Saskatoon specializes in environmental applications of remote sensing technology. The company is working closely with MDA Geospatial Services to offer the first commercial RADARSAT-based crop damage mapping and estimating service for the agriculture and insurance industries.