UMD and NASA Join Forces to Improve Global Food Security through Satellite Data

Dr. Inbal Becker-Reshef from the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Geographical Sciences has been selected by NASA to lead a new multidisciplinary consortium dedicated to enhancing the use of satellite data for improving food security and agriculture around the world. The Earth Observations for Food Security and Agriculture Consortium (EOFSAC) will combine the expertise of more than 40 partners to advance the adoption of Earth observations in informing decisions affecting the global food supply. The consortium will partner with NASA’s Food Security Office at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (GSFC), strengthening the long-standing collaboration between GSFC and the UMD Department of Geographical Sciences (GEOG).

“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.”

The EOFSAC’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.

NASA awarded the EOFSAC a total of $14.5 million over a five-year period through its Research Opportunities in Earth and Space Science (ROSES) grant program. The consortium aligns with NASA’s priority to make its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues such as food security, changing freshwater availability and human health. It will also constitute NASA’s contribution to the G20-GEOGLAM initiative, with which faculty members from UMD GEOG are significantly involved.

“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 Dr. Christa Peters-Lidard, Deputy Director for Hydrosphere, Biosphere and Geophysics in the Earth Sciences Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

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 the EOFSAC. “Providing decision-makers with access to timely, objective, accurate and actionable information can strengthen food security, market stability and human livelihoods.”

In addition to Becker-Reshef and Justice, members of the UMD Geographical Sciences team leading the EOFSAC include: Alyssa Whitcraft, Alona Bunning, Matt Hansen, Sergii Saskum, Mike Humber, Brian Barker, Christina Justice, Ritvik Sahajpal, Indrani Kommareddy,Belen Franch, Jean Claude Roger, Varaprasad Bandaru, Cesar Izzauralde, Estefania Puricelli, Catherine Nakalembe, and Mark Sullivan.

Learn more about the EOFSAC and the NASA Food Security Initiative.

Arrows and text indicated the exchange of ideas