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NASA, University of Maryland initiate program to enhance food security

NASA collaborates with the University of Maryland
NASA collaborates with the University of Maryland to lead a new food security effort, focused on using satellite data to enhance reliable and affordable access to healthy food, especially in developing countries around the world.

US: To enhance food security and agriculture around the world, NASA has collaborated with the University of Maryland to lead a new multidisciplinary program called Earth Observations for Food Security and Agriculture Consortium (EOFSAC) that aims to enhance the use of satellite data in decision making related to food security and agriculture domestically and globally.

The program will combine the expertise of more than 40 partners to advance the use of Earth observations in informing decisions that affect the global food supply. The consortium will partner with the Food Security Office at NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and will be led by Inbal Becker-Reshef, of the University of Maryland’s Department of Geographical Sciences, College Park.

Food security is the challenge, particularly in developing countries, of ensuring reliable access to affordable and healthy food. NASA satellite data has long been used to study crop conditions globally, but this new office represents a more targeted effort to enhance the utility of satellite data to people around the world.

“NASA‘s observations of Earth’s complex natural environment are critical to understanding the global food system. Through this partnership NASA is interested in how uses of remote sensing data can enhance organizations’ planning and operations, and support broader food security assessments, commodity pricing, risk assessments, and policy analysis,” said Christa Peters-Lidard, deputy director for hydrosphere, biosphere and geophysics in the Earth Sciences Division at Goddard.

The consortium’s core objectives are to enhance the use of Earth observations by key decision and policymakers, which can:

  • Increase food security and resilience
  • Reduce food price volatility and vulnerability
  • Improve awareness and understanding of the applications of NASA‘s and other satellite data products by users from a wide range of sectors.

“Events such as food price spikes and food shortages related to severe weather illustrate the risks associated with knowledge gaps around food production and supply,” said Becker-Reshef, associate research professor and co-lead of the university’s Center for Global Agricultural Monitoring Research.

“Satellite data can help identify areas vulnerable to things like drought, flooding and fire; as well as variability in soil, crop conditions, and yield status. The goal of this new consortium is to get this data into the hands of more people making decisions about agriculture and food production.”

This innovative effort will bring together top researchers, humanitarian aid organizations, economists, policymakers, agribusiness, defense and intelligence specialists, high-tech companies, financial experts and other disciplines and sectors.