Space + agriculture: bringing space jobs down to Earth

Space and agriculture

There’s more to a food and farming career than studying soil and crops. Next-gen farming smarts are needed in out-of-this-world industries, like space.

Check out how space and agriculture are working together to revolutionise farming, and what cool space job you can nab on Earth!

To infinity and the farm

Forget the tractor-driving stereotype – these days farmers are flying drones and rocking wearable tech. But the coolest thing about Old MacDonald’s 21st century upgrade, is the fact that agriculture roles are no longer reserved for physical farms – or even Earth in general. Space companies are crying out for STEM grads with an advanced knowledge of farming processes and systems to manage crops and water supplies via sophisticated space systems.

And the awesome news for recent high school grads? It’s the perfect time to think about kickstarting a study path into the industry, with Australia and New Zealand both recently establishing dedicated space agencies and committing to growing their industries.

RELATED: Harvesting good data with digital agriculture

4 cool space tech uses

Space and agriculture are quite the pair! New tech from the space sector is revolutionising farming, and there are loads of roles for STEM grads in creating it. Here are just a few of the coolest examples driven by data scientists, computer scientists and software engineers.

#1 Harvesting space data

Although satellites might hang out in space, the data they collect is a huge bonus to those
in agricultural and farming fields on Earth. Harvesting info on the state of soil in a particular area, pollution levels and water temps – all from accurate satellite set-ups – is revolutionising the accuracy of the landcare game.

#2 Tracking and tagging

Farmers have been tagging and tracking cattle for years, but thanks to a new reliance on space tech, their systems have come a long way from manual monitoring. In one of the coolest research projects to come out of 2020, large herds of wild water buffalo in the NT are being tracked and managed by next-gen space tech to generate data that rangers can use to reduce the impacts of the cattle on the environment. Hit up our feature on space herding for the full story.

#3 Driverless tractors

Yep, these are a thing! In the US, self-driving tractors cultivate the majority of farmlands, with many of them relying on software straight out of NASA. In fact, the highly accurate GPS signal errors and increased location smarts, makes this tech one of the space agency’s most game- changing contributions to life on Earth.

#4 Satellites for mapping

Experts at Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO have developed a new product – ePaddocks. According to remote-sensing specialist Dr Franz Waldner, the tech will set the standard for future geospatial digital agriculture products to improve land-use maps and to track species. “The satellite images we use, although publicly available, are cumbersome to download, store and analyse by the average person,” Franz explains. “Our method only needs one satellite image and relies on data-driven processes and decisions.” CSIRO staff skilled in agronomy, satellite imagery and data science have all had a hand in developing the agri-tech. Space age, right?

RELATED: Profile – Dr Andrew Blinco, maths grad at UQ

Now hiring!

Space and agriculture roles to apply for on Earth:

  • AI specialist
  • Data scientist
  • Electrical engineer
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Software engineer
  • Satellite engineer

This article originally appeared in Careers with STEM: Space 2021

Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.

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