Space-gazing technology could address world food crisis


An astrophysics professor from the UK's University of Manchester has said that space-gazing technology could be used to address food-related challenges such as shortages, pest-control and climate change.

In a report published on the university’s website, Sarah Bridle tried to explain how big data and precision instrumentation expertise from fundamental research in astro, particle and nuclear physics could ensure global food security.

Highlighting parallels between astronomy and food research, she said: “For example, in my astronomy research I analyse images of galaxies from multiple observations of large areas of the sky taken at different light wavelengths from optical through to infrared.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage more people to think about how their expertise can be transferred, and to make a contribution to food research and industry.”

“I’m now using the same tools to observe fields of wheat and look for signs of weed infestation.

“I see strong parallels between estimating the distance to galaxies, crucial to measuring the nature of dark energy, and quantifying the level of disease in a crop, crucial to timely intervention to increase crop yield.”

Additional comparisons that were noted involved supercomputers, which are used to help analyse the detection of Type 1a supernovae explosion to measure the universe expansion rate, could find use to monitor and predict pest outbreaks for crops.

According to Bridle, with food contributing more than 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, there is an increasing need for sustainable production.

Bridle concluded: “This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage more people to think about how their expertise can be transferred, and to make a contribution to food research and industry.”