Climate Change And Our Food Supply

Displaying NVDI for a region and selecting an area for further analysis.

The ADAM platform provides a gateway to silos of Earth Observation (EO) data. This EO Big Data is produced by organisations such as the European Space Agency (ESA). For researchers, ADAM enables an easy way to include observations from satellites in their research.

For the first in a series of blogs showing how ADAM is being used in research projects, we talked with Özlem Özalp (an Earth Observation Data Scientist), who is currently investigating the impact of Climate Change on potato production in Europe.

Needless to say, the potato is a staple food and a commercially important crop across the 28 EU states.

Area of land in the EU (1000s of hectares) growing potatoes, by year.

Q1) Why is your work important and how can it help with food security.

It doesn’t take much insight to realise that certain crops tend to be grown in regions with ideally suitable weather conditions (climate) and soil for their particular requirements. For example, grapes grow better in Italy than in Ireland, which is why Ireland imports grapes and wine from Italy.

Climate Change will alter the prevailing regional weather conditions across Europe and this will in turn have an impact on food supply (food security). Subsequently, it will also have an impact on commerce, as regions trade with each other to obtain a cohesive food supply. For some regions this has the potential to offer a positive impact. For other regions, it will be negative. Regardless, there will be change that will impact on food security for the citizens of Europe.

My research forecasts the quantity of potato production in the future by EU member state while preserving good soil fertility, which can be lost by intensive agriculture practices and climate change.

Q2) How do you perform this type of research?

As with all science projects, I start by reading the scientific literature on Climate Change, which helps me understand how the environment is changing at a regional level. The next step is to find suitable data to investigate the problem. Fortunately, there are many free and open data sources managed by the European Union, in collaboration with local farmers and big industries. Analysis of these data sets allows me to understand the influence that Climate Change is having on crops in different locations and regions. These data sets also give me insights into the systems of growing, including cropland maps, crop calendars, crop types, crop management data sets, meteorological data, statistical, and in-situ data on agricultural yield. I combine this information with machine learning to perform image classification on remotely sensed images.

The calculation of NVDI for three areas in Austria.

Q3) How has ADAM helped?

ADAM contains a catalogue of pre-processed multi-temporal observations from different satellite technologies. I search this data to track the progress of a single crop from a chosen field. Because ADAM is very easy to use, I can quickly find the information I need, and download the data. This allows me to combine data sets such as Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), precipitation and temperature. These features make it easy for me to calculate agricultural distribution on different land surfaces. Using this information helps me to understand how the weather contributed to crop development in the past and how it may affect different plants in the future.

Soil moisture data from the SMOS satellite of ESA. Countries on interest highlighted.

The ADAM platform allows me to subset large Earth observation data to suit my research needs, it removes the big data processing overhead and reduces the time required for data preparation, which gives me more time for analysis and knowledge discovery.

Soil moisture data from the SMOS satellite for the countries of interest. Calculated using ADAM.

Q4) What will be the implications of your results.

Many researchers have demonstrated the importance of Earth Observation (EO) and Remote Sensing (RS) for agricultural yield prediction. Building on this research to include how Climate Change will impact the growth of crops in an agricultural region will help us to understand what crops would be most favourable in these regions in the future. Thanks to this knowledge, farmers can adjust their crop varieties to suit the changing climate for their region. Consequently, the cooperation between farmers and relevant authorities can tackle the technical problems globally caused by extreme climate events.

For more information on how Özlem is using ADAM or for a consultation on how your research project could benefit from ADAM, please contact us, .

About the author: Özlem Özalp and Conor Delaney

  • Özlem Özalp is an Earth Observation Data Scientist with MEEO. She has a strong interest in environmental sciences as related to the atmosphere, agriculture, forestry and urban planning. Özlem has a Masters Degree in Electronic Engineering.
  • Conor Delaney is an Environmental Data Scientist with MEEO. He has a PhD in Atmospheric Physics, a Master's degree in Environmental Science and over 20 years of experience designing and developing software for environmental protection.