Associate Research Professor Inbal Becker-Reshef was selected by NASA to lead a multidisciplinary consortium dedicated to enhancing the use of satellite data for improving food security and agriculture around the world, NASA Harvest. Several other members of the GEOG faculty are involved with this innovative work.
Established in 2018, NASA Harvest is the NASA Applied Sciences Program on Agriculture and Food Security. It combines the expertise of more than 40 partners—including universities, humanitarian aid organizations, and economists—to advance the adoption of Earth observations.
The program offers a cost-effective and transparent way to monitor the world’s croplands, informing decisions affecting the global food supply.
“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,” explained Becker-Reshef, Associate Research Professor and co-lead of UMD’s Center for Global Agricultural Monitoring Research (CGAMR). “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.”
Satellite data can help identify areas affected by droughts and other extreme weather events, and can help to reduce uncertainty in global estimates of food production within the growing season. NASA awarded the Harvest program a total of $14.5 million over a five-year period through its Research Opportunities in Earth and Space Science grant program.
Harvest activities will span 2017-2022, with a strong emphasis on operational transition of current and Consortium-developed research and development, supported by novel communications and outreach efforts. Through this Consortium approach, the NASA Harvest team develops and strengthens relationships between previously unconnected communities, creating new opportunities creating and sharing knowledge.
Through this innovative effort, UMD is partnering with top researchers, humanitarian aid organizations, economists, policymakers, agribusiness, defense and intelligence specialists, high-tech companies, financial experts, and other disciplines and sectors. Collaborators include other U.S. institutions such as UC Santa Barbara, Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, Texas A&M University, University of Vermont, USAID, USDA; and a range of international organizations, UN organizations, NGOs, and ministries in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, and Canada.
“The UMD Department of Geographical Sciences is uniquely qualified and deeply honored to lead this innovative program that will harness expertise from around the world to develop new solutions to challenges facing the global food supply,” said Dr. Chris Justice, Chair of the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences and scientific lead for NASA Harvest. “Providing decision-makers with access to timely, objective, accurate and actionable information can strengthen food security, market stability and human livelihoods.”