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STFC International project awarded top 2019 Newton Prize

14 February 2020

A team of scientists from the UK and China have won an award for making advances in global food security.

They have developed a new way of assimilating land and satellite field survey data to significantly improve the way farmers estimate of how much food they can produce.

The project co-funded by STFC and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, is the first to make use of data from the new Sentinel and Chinese GF satellites and has fed directly into agricultural productivity planning in China.

The Newton Prize award, made to researchers from University College London and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, recognises exceptional impact and research that exhibits the best knowledge exchange and partnership development. 

Dr Hugh Mortimer is a research scientist at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and leads the programme on behalf of STFC. He explained how the project is a great example of the way that space-based data and technology can be used to make a global impact:

“The projects that STFC have supported are helping to create sustainable solutions to the global food crisis and to protect the environment. This joint UK-China initiative will help farmers, food producers and national bodies to manage crop production more effectively and help plan food production accurately. This doesn’t just benefit those in the UK and China but it will go on to help the global community.”

The team used advanced data assimilation techniques to vastly improve accuracy of crop monitoring and crop yield estimates. Accurate monitoring of agricultural productivity is essential for both global food security and the livelihoods of low-income rural regions.

The techniques are now being applied in other countries, including Ghana, Colombia and the UK.

You can read the full case study in the Newton Prize 2019 booklet (PDF, 3Mb).

The Newton Prize is a £1 million fund which supports world-class research partnerships as they take their projects to the next level. It also encourages new international collaborations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

This year over 150 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards applied for the Newton Prize. Three prizes of up to £200,000 each were awarded to winning projects with the eligible countries: China, Indonesia and the Philippines. You can read more about the awards at the UKRI website.


Last updated: 20 February 2020


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