UW News

April 23, 2020

Smart farming via satellite: NASA profiles UW researcher Faisal Hossain’s tech-based irrigation advisory system for Earth Day

UW News

Fresh water for agriculture is in short supply in India. Noting the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, NASA has featured UW-led research based on satellite data that can help farmers manage water more efficiently.

Faisal Hossain, whose work has been featured by NASA

Faisal Hossain

A team of researchers led by Faisal Hossain, professor of civil and environmental engineering, developed and continues to improve a technology-based irrigation advisory system to give farmers real-time information right on their cell phones.

The system is called Provision of Advisory for Necessary Irrigation, or PANI for short. The work extends to India the earlier development of a similar irrigation advisory system in Pakistan.

It’s an application that uses NASA observations of Earth, such as precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite mission, to help farmers know better, based on resources in their own area, when and how much to water their crops.

The system uses low-cost environmental monitoring ground sensors to help provide advisories on a hyperlocal scale, and for a variety of crops. Hossain’s team tested the system with 150 farmers in northern India in 2018 and 2019 and found it did indeed help improve their productivity and water usage.

See related UW story, “The Future of Farming

See Hossain’s recent study on how hydropower dams affect river temperature in the Mekong River basin.

Now, as part of commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement program has featured Hossain and the PANI system in its blog. Hossain is the first of four researchers NASA selected to profile.

Hossain also worked with NASA-contracted staff to create videos about the PANI system and lesson plans geared for students in third grade, fifth grade, middle school and high school, and to publish a student-focused interview in which he discusses his work.

Separately, NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System also is adding Hossain to its list of data user profiles.

“Knowing when and how much to water crops can empower India’s struggling farmers and help conserve critical freshwater resources,” NASA wrote, adding that research from the UW Civil & Environmental Engineering Department is “critical.”

The PANI project is a collaboration involving the UW and the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Kritsnam Technologies and GeoKno, all of India. It is built on a successful collaboration in Pakistan that is now serving 100,000 farmers and has recently expanded to Bangladesh.

For more information, contact Hossain at fhossain@uw.edu.

  • Learn more about the project in a NASA video: