GeoWeek 2020: Highlights from the Virtual Industry Track

The GeoWeek 2020 industry track commenced virtually on November 3 and 4, 2020. The industry track is an annual conversation between Group on Earth Observation (GEO) and the EO industry towards promoting productive collaboration between the public and private sectors. The 2020 event was hosted in collaboration with ZASpace Inc., SANSA (South African National Space Agency), and Space in Africa.


Day one:

In his introductory address, Prof Gilberto Camara, the Secretariat Director of GEO stressed on the need for Open source data for Earth observation. 

In his session, the co-chair of the GEO executive committee, Mmboneni Moufhe maintained that the industry partnership will battle basic issues that negatively impact humanity such as inequality, poverty and unemployment. He mentioned as an example; the newly launched Space Infrastructure Hub in South Africa as the basic infrastructure for Earth observation where the government in partnership will gain from allowing reasonable fundings from interested enterprises without barriers. 

Speaking on the critical role of EO in Agriculture, Sven Gilliams, the project manager of Vito mentioned that for the past forty years, the basic questions about agriculture haven’t changed and they are; What, When and Where. Over time, with a lot of new players and EO applications, Earth observation data has increased significantly with more companies investing in Earth observation for its continuity.

To promote EO in addressing these challenges, he referenced vital applications for sustainable development such as: Dynamic Global Land Cover Layer, a Copernicus systematic service that provides dynamic, yearly, and user-oriented product at a global scale with a 100m resolution from the year 2015; WorldCereal, an EO based system global cropland monitoring that takes note of seasons, irrigation and crop type. The company also has platforms in Eastern and Southern Africa where users monitor their fields without visiting it physically. With the EO application, they easily organize the field and manage their time on physically managing said field. 

Speaking on Promoting Skills, capabilities and gender diversity in EO and geospatial industry, Xoliswa Kankana, the chairperson of the SANSA board acknowledged that Space program graduates have been absorbed by other sectors due to the fact that only 10% of these graduates are eventually retained by Space companies. She hammered that the Space Sector, after a lot of fundings for scholarships and conferences will keep losing students if diversity and inclusivity are not encouraged. Also, she mentioned that a shortage of projects and lack of funding for entrepreneurial ventures are obstacles of a diverse workforce leadership and enterprise in the Space Sector, specifically Earth observation. SANSA as a Space Agency engaged about 40,000 young people through science festivals and events from the past year till this year. 

In the company profiling session, companies were given the chance to showcase how they are innovating in the EO Space. The selected companies were PIESAT International (China), Predict Australia, and Swift Geospatial in South Africa. Amongst other discussions in the session, Swift Geospatial which started in 2016, noted some recurring challenges in EO which are: big data, connectivity speed, decision support and data delivery.

Day two:

On Wednesday, November 4, the event was filled with similar activities to that of the first day, including an expert talk on monitoring and sustenance of water resource management, the showcase of the innovations of 3 companies in the Earth Observation, implications and actions of private sectors on deforestation, Panel discussion which centre on reimagining sustainable cities and communities by leveraging EO in the future of work, retail and other sectors, ideation workshop on improving resilience to climate change through space technology and space tech challenge where volumes from some space tech startups in Africa who are solving challenges in Agriculture, conservation, retail, banking and more were discussed.

The speakers for the second-day were; Kamal Ramsingh, Chairperson of ZASpace; Andiswa Mlisa, Managing Director of Earth Observation SANSA, Rebecca Moore, Director of Google Earth amongst others. Likewise, in attendance were various space organizations such as Astral Aerial Solutions(Kenya), LATITUDO 40(Italy), PCI Geomatics(Canada), Smartagriot, Field Dev, Green Aces, Abiri, Sturtium, Hydro Blu, and Upfarm.

The plenary session for the second day started with Andiswa Misa, Managing Director of Earth Observation SANSA, who spoke on growth and inclusivity which is specifically on the views of space agencies in EO. She discussed the various ways in which the agency has been striving to advance the sector, towards driving growth for the space industry.

Torsten Bondo of DHI discussed on water resource management and EO perspectives from DHI. He explained the interrelationship between Hydrology and Earth observation. According to Bondo, Irrigation can be utilized with the use of water licensing. Likewise, soil moisture also links to irrigation which allows for cloud penetration and gives the potential to supplement the soil solutions. DHI, an affiliated organization to the UN is responsible for promoting the SDG goal 6 on water-related ecosystems.

Astral Aerial Solutions represented by Julie Makena is a drone operator and service provider. She highlighted the different problems that have been identified in Kenya are lack of access to quality, up-to-date, actionable data, outdated farming methods and farm processes leading to loss/wastage of farm inputs, while the solutions proffered are the use of drone technology to access crop status and use of precision agricultural spraying drones for precise control of pests, weeds and diseases respectively. Their agri-services are divided into crop inspection and crop spraying. For the crop inspection activities, drone technology is used to access crop issues, produce digital crop health maps, precise identification of affected locations with farms to enable east scooting. For the crop spraying, the drone technology can be used to spray pesticide over the affected areas, precise liquid control and effectively spray areas and/or difficult that is challenging for manual sprayers.

Gaetano Volpe, CEO of Latitude 40, addressed the problem of small cities needing complex systems for data collection and providing a unified data analytics platform to automatically extract information from satellites images.

The session for company profiling ended with the presentation from PCI Geomatics by Kevin Jones. He discussed the Catalyst, a new brand just launched by the organization. The catalyst offers products for geomatics and insights on a new approach to analyze earth observation data.

The virtual event can be accessed via


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