NASA Harvest & University of Maryland, US and GEOGLAM Secretariat, CH

Alyssa Whitcraft is a geographer with broad training in remote sensing, agriculture, and interdisciplinary development studies. She is the co-founder of NASA Harvest, NASA Applied Sciences Program’s global food security and agriculture program, for which she co-developed the scientific scope and manages the operations of over 35 projects composed of more than 50 U.S. and international partners from various disciplines and sectors. She is an Associate Research Professor in the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, and since 2015, she has served as Program Scientist for G20’s Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM).

Alyssa is an expert in organizational change with respect to integrating new satellite technologies into workflows. She has developed collaborations and partnership models with public and private sector, emphasizing sustainable business models and value to all actors. Having grown up working in her family winery, she understands well the challenges of farm and supply chain resilience in the context of climate change, extreme weather events, and land mismanagement.

Plenary Lecture – Day 3 – Session 7: Applying Phytobiome-based Solutions

A View from Above: What Satellites Can (and Cannot… Yet?) Tell Us About Agricultural Sustainability, Soil Health, and Climate Resilience


July 2022 marked the 50 year anniversary of the satellite Earth observing era, whose earliest foundations were in agricultural monitoring. After five decades of slow-but-steady progress, we are experiencing an international, trans-sectoral explosion in the use of satellite data for agricultural assessment. While the number and characteristics of satellite missions proliferates, concurrent advances in cloud computing and machine learning/AI are powering a surge in venture capital and public investment alike in this technology’s use for everything from agricultural production forecasting, to on-farm decision support tools, to monitoring, measuring, reporting, and verification of “climate-smart” agricultural management. 

As we look ahead to the race to reduce agriculture’s climate footprint, and the positing of satellite data as a tool to incentivize and enforce mitigative and adaptive agricultural practice adoption, this is a moment to take stock of from whence we came and what is (and is not yet) possible with top-down view satellite data provide. This talk will explore the evolution of EO for agriculture and open up a dialog on these key questions:

  • What can satellites tell us about agricultural sustainability, soil health, and resilience to climate change and extreme weather events? 
  • How can the view they provide be used to inform policy incentives and on-farm decision making that can promote whole ecosystem health? 
  • Who gets to decide, and who benefits from the use of this data?