Thanks to a £ 200,000 funding package from the UK government, EDINBURGH University will be using space technology to help farmers in Africa produce more crops.
Through the UK Space Agency, five projects are being funded, explicitly designed to combine business experience with university science to establish solutions to global space problems.
One of the ventures, led by the University of Edinburgh, will enable Malawian farmers to establish maps of land use that illustrate the current use of their land and help them prepare for large-scale agriculture.
“The UK space sector is thriving and it is vital that we give the right support to our most innovative space companies and universities to collaborate, share best practices and advance new ideas that could enrich all our lives,” said Amanda Solloway, UK science minister.
“Today’s funding will boost some of the country’s most ambitious space collaborations, including Edinburgh’s own Trade in Space project, which will develop a unique land classification map to help grow more crops.”
Iain Stewart, Secretary of the Scotland Office, said that the UK government-funded project is an example of how space innovation can solve big global problems, and Scottish scientists play a key role in helping Malawian farmers prepare for the future.
The UK government’s continued investment in the space sector would cement the UK as a global leader in space. The latest estimates show that the Scottish space sector currently employs almost 8,000 people and generates nearly £ 254 million for the economy, he said.
Overall, the UK space industry is booming, producing revenue of £ 14.8 billion and hiring 42,000 individuals.
Trade in Space and Geospace Agriculture is partnering with the School of Geosciences of the University of Edinburgh to help establish a land use classification map of Malawi’s major agricultural development regions.
This, the government stressed, would be an essential instrument to allow effective planning for large-scale farming in the region, modeled on the region’s Jacoma Estates mega-farm, which has already provided productivity-boosting microfinance and a marketing route for more than 5,000 smallholder farmers in Malawi.
The National Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology[SPRINT] will finance the latest space ventures as part of the UK Space Agency funding, with industry partnering with scientists from the University of Edinburgh.
SPRINT and the UK Space Agency have given us a fantastic opportunity to build the tools to make a very positive impact on sustainable agricultural production in Malawi,” said Robin Sampson, head of Edinburgh-based Trade in Space.”
We are also enthusiastic about the potential to continue collaborating with the strategic collaborators Geospace Agricultural and the University of Edinburgh School of Geosciences.’
In order to help businesses create new commercial products, SPRINT offers unique access to university space resources and facilities.
To date, 87 joint ventures with 70 companies have been funded by the program, designing space hardware or utilizing space-based data and transmitting space know-how and knowledge to create products planned for out-of-space use.