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Nasa’s Space Shuttle flies for agriculture

May 23rd, 2009

While everyone focusses on important space missions, we have put NASA’s space shuttle to work for agriculture thanks to our colleague Alain Gachet.

During its’ revolution around the earth, the space shuttle is scanning the earth surface with a radar which penetrates down to 30 meters under the earth surface. Then these images are analyzed and worked on with sophisticated softwares. Alain, is an engineer from the Ecole des Mines de Paris, explorator and geologist who has found petrol for Elf/Total during 20 years. He knows about the earth morphology better than anyone. The imagery of the shuttle helps him to peal literally the earth like an onion, displaying all its layers.

Thanks to this work we can find water for the farmers.

For our project in Peru, in Lambayeque, to reabilitate a desertic land which has been worn out by years of ill agricultural pratices and overgrazing, this technique has brought back water in a sustainable way :

sasape-imag-satelite-bajaHere is the 30 000acres domain on the surface satelite image.

Perou_SASAPE Water2

Then we come to the radar satelite image to understand the geology of the place and how water organises itself : where are the water collector bassins, in which direction and where exactly they go; the exact GPS points where to dig and at which deapth can we go without hindering long lasting reservoirs.

Here we take into account only the sustainable reservoirs which are apermanently affluent. We do not touch at all the permanent reservoir which could fear any danger of disappearing and caus a long term catastrophy in case they disappear.

Perou_SASAPE Water2On the above image we are following water underground. At the surface, on the photo below, nothing shows.

sasapesurfaceDeeper, we go minus 30m meters underground.

Perou_SASAPE relief2

By using this technique which he developped Alain has found water for the refugees in Darfour. the United Nations by the director general of Unesco have just officialy thanked him for saving more than 300 000 réfugiés in Darfour. From now on the Pentagone is preparing with him missions to find water in Irak, Afghanistan, Somalia…

Concerning agriculture the images treated by Alain also allow us to understand how the soil functions : to understand all the erosion process going on.

Example in Argentina : her we see South America from the space shuttle.

pampa-grande-argentina-location-mapThe dark squares are apparently sites that the army doies not want us to see. Lets get closer to where we work :

salta-zoomed-area-landsat-3d2Closer. Her we have targeted a little to high; we arrive just in the lake where goes all the water of the estancia we are advising.

coronel-mandes-synclinorium2Lets get closer and play with the image so that we can understand the geological process, teh different rocks and the impact of water on the spot. First an image to get a global view on the whole region.

pampa-grande-argentina-location-map1-2This image shows the climat impact on the domain.

All the water comes from the Amazonia. Our destiny is totally dependent on the fate of the forest. All the Eastern side of the mountains are green and our land is on the boarder with the desert. Our position is very fragile; therefore we have to find all the buffer solutions possible against climat change. This image points it clear, it should be our utmost priority. We must bring back this land to green, which on the satelite it is not for the moment. Plant trees and better management of the water ressources.

Lets get closer.

fond-landsat-7-4-2-et-transectsThis land is dreadfully less green than it should be. Far less than the spaces untouched by man. What has happened?

fond-topo-couleur-et-transectsToute l’eau du domaine se dirige vers B’ et l’on dirait que rien ne pousse là.

Etudions les coupes de terrain que nous fournit la navette depuis l’espace :

coupe-abThe whole land is in total erosion. We have here alluvions which are all taken aay by the river: look at the cross sections to better understand the process :

coupe-cdWhat on the ground seems flat is absolutly not in reality. Giving the fragile composition of the soil, at long term everything can collapse to become a canyon. We must protect the sites which already shows sign of transformation in canyon. Avoid all kind of treading by the cattle in some area. lets get closer:

zoom-pampa-grande-landsat-transectscoupe-ab1If we do not act, everything is going to collapse gently. We must avoid all kind of chemicals, forbid glyfosate, stop weeding. In order to prevent erosion we must count on any plant possible to retain the soil.

Without any ground experience we would not be able to understand things that way of course, but the images from the shuttle, the knowledge of Alain and his imagery, allow us to set our priorities. We are experiencing a true revolution for agriculture and sustainable development.

The Space Shuttle is comforting us in our choice for natural agriculture the way Masanobu Fukuoka used to do it : to understand nature by all means and turn it into an ally to cultivate and feed man.

Agriculture design assignment: Argentina 1 / study of the soils with radar satellite

March 18th, 2009

North West Argentina, not far from the Chilean and Bolivian border.

Les foodingues are heading for an agriculture design consulting on an a 100 000 acres domain. planpgcontour

The purpose is to study the soil with the bioindicator plants, give advice on cattle breeding, 7500 calves and 500 horses, as well as to suggest diversifications. The objective is not to over exploit the place but to bring it back to an economical balance so that it dont looses money. The place has been bought 4 years ago after a long period of errance.

Our first step : check the possible hydro and metal ressources of the under ground.

From Tarrascon in France we consult the data base of the radar satellite of the NASA with our partner geologist : 3 little streams of water, small traces of copper, not much on this side. Underground, nothing viable.


But Alain, the geologist, lead our attention on the other side of the valley… “Have you seen the other side? I have never seen so much water !” A paradise for agriculture.


On the spot it is the absolute contrary : what seemed a dry land, what we are consulted fo, is in fact a green and fertile meadow. But on the other side of the mountain, the vale with the extraordinary water ressources… is a desert.

montagnesacreeseche See the mountain in the back of the panoramic photo? This is what the other side of the mountain looks like.

What happened? Considering the evolution of nature itself, no difference. It is an impressive water collector for which the geologic evolution has been very similar on one side of the mountain and the other.

The only difference seems the use man has made of it. This place has always been well communicated and cultivated by man. Prehispanic caves are all around.

The site has been desertified by a lousy managment of the soil by man:

  1. Agriculture : the cultivating practices of the indians : burn the vegetal covert. turn over the soil, sow, harvest and start all over again. When the land is dead, start all over further down. Let the ground rest a while, but the rain has already taken away the organic matter, the ground is now only laterite, dead.
  2. Cattle breeding : With colonial times lama and alpaca breeding, species that select their menus while preserving a good vegetal covering, these are replaced by cattle and mules for the army, transport and mining. Trees are cut down to get more forage. The amount of cattle increases every day. Overgrazing. The vegetal coverture disappears. The ground is eroding itself. It collapses and you have now a wonderful canyon for tourists.

One more example to show that there is not a single desert in the world which has not been created by man. If you know one please, tell me.