Satellite Imagery in Agriculture

Questioning privacy, data protection, and autonomy in the field

Lisa Gutermuth

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Satellite imagery has been used since the 1960s to monitor agricultural activities at a national and international level. It is only now that the image quality and cost feasibility have made satellite imagery available to individual farmers in application to crop quality analysis, yield prediction, and other measures related to precision farming. Farmers can now pinpoint problem areas of their fields and address them on the spot, rather than blanketly spraying fertilizer and pesticides, which has the potential for environmental and economic benefits. However, this development has launched agriculture into new territory ridden with issues of privacy, data protection, and autonomy of farm inputs and activities. This is a discussion of the state of affairs in agricultural earth observation and what we can do to ensure that it is used for improved practices and not against the producers of our food.