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Space Technology Helps Farmers Cut Costs And Ammonia

- Jan 31, 2019 -

Space technology helps farmers cut costs and ammonia

The team of British scientists is applying technology developed for space research to help address the amount of ammonia released by the agricultural industry into the atmosphere and to work to improve agricultural efficiency.

For the UK, agriculture is an important multi-billion-pound industry, but agriculture is facing challenges as demand for food continues to grow and land resources shrink. In order to meet these challenges and remain competitive, farmers have to increase production by increasing their dependence on fertilizers – but these measures have increased pollution caused by agriculture. The main contributor is ammonia, a gas produced by livestock and released directly from the fertilizer into the atmosphere. As a pollutant, its impact on the environment is growing.

Reduce farmers' production costs

The UK research team, led by Professor Brian Ellison of the RAL Space Facilities of the Science and Technology Facilities Committee, works with scientists from the environmental consultancy ADAS and is working to create a reliable method to monitor and analyze ammonia emissions in order to take mitigation measures and then introduce . According to scientists, this can not only help the environment by reducing emissions, but also support farmers by reducing production costs, such as reducing the use of expensive fertilizers.


Atmospheric ammonia pollution is a concern of agricultural and atmospheric scientists around the world. Photo: Roel Dijkstra

Continuous ammonia monitoring agriculture

They are studying agricultural continuous ammonia monitoring technology - called the CAMAG project. The instrument concept uses a gas sensing method originally developed for radio astronomy research and satellite earth observation to detect the microwave signal released by ammonia. Professor Ellison said: "By combining the knowledge of RAL Space and ADAS internal medicine and technology experts, we are developing a sensing system that can measure ammonia output in the ground and on the farm in real time. The advantage of using this technology is that it is passive. Non-invasive, so it does not damage the “product” and is reasonably priced. Its application will help reduce climate change and support agriculture by increasing production efficiency.”
Ammonia may pose a threat to human health

Atmospheric ammonia pollution is a concern of agricultural and atmospheric scientists around the world. When ammonia is combined with other pollutants in the atmosphere, dangerous particles are formed, which may pose a threat to human health after inhalation. As global leaders try to take steps to mitigate human impact on nature, international goals are introduced along with practical measures to try to reduce ammonia emissions. “Our preliminary scientific and technical assessments show that we can use our proposed instruments to detect and monitor ammonia,” Professor Ellison said. “Now we need to assess the accuracy of the method and compare its performance to the alternative to get the most out of it.”

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