How to Detect Deforestation with Satellite

Dimitra Technology
8 min readJan 31, 2023

Deforestation is a leading cause of climate change, as it decimates the world’s forests which are critical to life on earth. If deforestation continues at its current rate, the planet risks having only 10% of forested land left by 2030.

Globally, one of the leading drivers of deforestation is agriculture. To make more room for commercial crops such as soybeans, coffee, cattle, and cocoa, forested trees are consistently removed in large quantities.

In recent years, major governments have responded to this crisis by drafting and implementing new deforestation laws for international food importation. Now nations are actively limiting operators of deforested land from profiting off of exportation.

Inevitable change is on the horizon for farmers and food companies worldwide. As a result, new innovative technology solutions emerge to help them navigate these necessary changes.

Impacts of Deforestation Worldwide

Deforestation is the planned, mass clearing of forested land. Unfortunately, large areas of forest around the world are cleared every day to expand farmlands and obtain materials for commodification. Industrial farming is responsible for 85% of deforestation worldwide — a number that must be addressed and reversed to ensure food security and relieve the effects of climate change.

A 2021 report showed that 3.75 million hectares of rainforest were destroyed in the tropics that year. Some of the biggest consequences of deforestation include high levels of carbon dioxide release, threats to biodiversity, species endangerment and extinction, and soil erosion. This is not a good picture for agriculture or populations around the world.

Many environmental and political organizations have urged leaders of G7 (Group of Seven) — seven of the world’s largest intergovernmental countries — to take responsible action toward combating climate change. In 2022, 141 countries came together and signed a pact to eradicate deforestation by 2030. The EU is one of the first to take serious action.

Europe’s World-Changing Response to Deforestation

Leading a response to the deforestation crisis, the EU is implementing a law that effectively bans products made of the major crops linked to deforestation:

Examples of products linked to Deforestation: Palm Oil, Cattle, Soy, Coffee, Cocoa, Timber, Rubber, Beef, Chocolate, Furniture, Paper

With this new law, trade companies will be required to provide proof that there is no deforestation in their production process after December 31, 2020. This is a pivotal time for CPG companies, global and regional importers, and farmers everywhere — especially those who regularly trade into the EU.

The EU has given companies an 18-month period to adjust, change suppliers, and reverse deforestation ties before facing the consequences. Smaller companies will have up to two years to adjust. Traders and operators are now making efforts to arrange new methods of operation.

It’s important to consider that this change isn’t impacting companies alone. Farmers worldwide that supply these companies with goods must also heed the call to adjust their practices. With increasing mandates to practice farming in more environmentally-responsible ways, there’s no longer room for farms of any size to continue deforestation if they want to remain legally operational.

How are Satellites Used to Detect Deforested Land?

Countries with outstanding deforestation issues, such as Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, and Indonesia, have implemented cross-government cooperatives and farmers’ organizations to collaborate against harmful land practices. National and global organizations turn to satellites to observe forest and land statuses.

Satellites have been used for several decades to monitor forested land changes over time. In 1997, the Global Forest Watch was established as a network of research and non-profit organization committed to monitoring and tracking illegal deforestation throughout the world. Today, satellite imaging has grown more and more advanced. Geofencing software has also become a widely-used tool in land observation. Together, the two effectively capture deforestation activity in virtually any area of the world.

Although satellite and geofencing technology advancements have helped track deforestation on every continent, there has yet to be a tool developed that effectively analyzes, compares, and integrates results with monitor methods such as Track and Trace.

Agricultural technology company, Dimitra, now offers an upgraded solution. In addition to its existing platforms, such as the Connected Farmer Platform, the Dimitra Deforestation Compliance module now produces reliable satellite deforestation certificates. Their mission is timely: make deforestation data and reporting accessible to all as the world responds to changing regulations.

New Deforestation Compliance Monitoring in Action

With Dimitra’s well-standing relationships with agricultural and government organizations, they’ve been working with Brazil to innovate deforestation compliance software — with big results.

The figure below exemplifies a case study of their new deforestation module. This was one of the first results that revealed the deforested area in Parana, Brazil. The yellow spots in the image below indicate deforestation growth between the set date range of December 2020 to December 2022.

Dimitra’s new satellite deforestation calculator helps farmers and buyers around the globe access accurate data about deforestation activity. Here’s how it works.

Historical and current satellite data is processed and labeled. Then, a corresponding machine learning model classifies every pixel of the images as either a forest or non-forest pixel (each pixel indicates 10 square meters of land). The differences between these pixels are calculated and compared between two customizable dates. The interactive platform highlights deforested areas and new forest areas within the farm’s geofence and surrounding perimeters.

Collected satellite data contains terrain and heat map imagery which are used together to generate a visual, color-coded model of farmland. Module users can select a farm’s coordinates to view and compare the following:

  • Dark green: Forest detection
  • Light green: New forest area, meaning forests that are currently present but were not present during the set “start date”
  • Red: Deforested area, meaning forests that are not currently present but were present during the set “start date”

Users can move the toggle to view before, after, and current comparisons as well as overlay images directly within the platform.

A combination of satellite analyses, artificial intelligence, traceable mobile technology, and blockchain technology gives operators the ability to detect proof of deforestation. They can use this platform to prove compliance, reduce the risk of fraud, and verify past and present forest progress on their farm.

Dimitra Deforestation Module: Solutions for Global Agricultural Change

The Dimitra Deforestation Compliance platform allows farmers, traders, and producers to give proof of non-deforested sources of their crops. It’s a key resource for importers and companies to certify their compliance with the new laws if they hope to continue to trade into the EU.

Satellite Accuracy

Using satellite and machine learning, the platform does more than just detect deforestation of a plot of land. It also generates a certificate of compliance written to the blockchain. This secure blockchain report presents an immutable timestamp, preventing counterfeit and fraudulent reports.

Why is this blockchain technology significant? When several countries tried to implement a similar deforestation ban, some farmers would continue to operate and increase deforested land but pretend to follow the law through dishonest measures. For example, they would go to another farm location to ship their product out of, which would wrongfully signal GPS data to avoid a penalty.

With the Dimitra Deforestation Compliance module, certifications can indicate:

  • Whether or not a crop was grown on the reported farm
  • If the amount of crop being shipped was grown on the farm
  • How often the farmer(s) were present on the reported farm, based on mobile GPS data

Greater satellite accuracy, combined with integrations of other AgTech solutions, provide a comprehensive web3 report for certification and compliance.

Request for Deforestation Reports

With this platform, people can request deforestation reports and receive the results for a small price. Farmers or producers can sign up for a monthly subscription to receive and interpret ongoing reports, where all data is written to the blockchain to be shared with organizations or companies.

When Dimitra receives a deforestation certification request from a customer, they collect payment and subsequently pay the necessary government filing fees and expenses. DMTR tokens are used to generate the certificate. Relevant transactions are processed to the blockchain using the Dimitra App. Tokens are then burned, and the entire process is recorded on the blockchain-based platform for compliance.

Additionally, if someone orders a report but wants an official interpretation from our PhD agronomists and forestry experts, Dimitra can evaluate the report and produce a final reading with explanations.

GPS Track and Trace

The Dimitra module also does Track and Trace — an ideal solution to verify vehicle, shipment, and other logistical farming activities. Track and Trace is required to prove compliance with the new EU regulations, as it shows proof that a product came directly from the farm. In addition, it shows where exactly a product was registered and certifies the report itself came from the farm’s location.

This software-based tracking model can determine whether or not reports are honest and reliable. Effectively, this eliminates those who attempt to work around the regulations by farming or shipping from unreported neighboring areas.

Certifications

Deforestation Compliance certificates show a color-coded image of the geofenced farm. Colors indicate the following:

  • Tree cover loss (red)
  • Tree cover gain (light green)
  • Total tree cover (green)

The certificate also shows necessary compliance details, including:

  • Verified GPS location hits
  • Crop compliance percentage
  • Total hectares of land registered
  • Connected Farmer app usage

Each certificate has a blockchain hash and QR code for easily sharing deforestation information.

Reports can be drawn for each shipment of every crop. Farmers can submit other relevant reporting details such as timelines for the exportation of their crops or product, instances of natural disasters such as floods or fires, farm measurement adjustments, and tree loss due to pests or disease.

All these details are vital for accurate reporting and certification, as new regulations allow zero deforestation associated with reported farms.

Preparing for Compliance: Next Steps for Farmers and Producers

As leaders in the agricultural space, Dimitra recognizes that farmers should not need to go out of business. That’s why they’ve dedicated their mission to helping farmers have a way to substantiate their operation. And if there’s any way to improve farming practices or protect the land from deforestation, now is the time to start making essential changes. Fortunately, Dimitra offers plenty of viable digital solutions that help.

“This is one of the most impactful environmental legislation events in history. We’re working hard to create balance and opportunity for consumer goods companies, traders, operators and farmers — it’s always been one of our goals.” — Jon Trask, CEO & Founder of Dimitra

To better prepare for the future of food and farming, contact Dimitra about its satellite-data technologies. You can learn more about the Dimitra Deforestation Compliance platform at www.deforestation.dimitra.world.

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Dimitra Technology

Our mission is to partner with developing nations to make agricultural technologies more accessible to farmers. https://dimitra.io