Satellite Monitoring

How satellite monitoring can prevent deforestation in the palm oil value chain

Great progress has been made in recent years in the sustainability and traceability of palm oil. But there is much more still to do, with new solutions being constantly developed. One such technological advancement already helping with deforestation prevention and wildlife protection is satellite monitoring.

This technology is helping to fill the gap between what happens day-to-day on the ground in palm oil plantations, and what is reported officially by producing companies. This helps to ensure that claims made by farmers and producers are backed up by evidence, and that ultimately, customers can have greater confidence when buying products containing palm oil.

What is satellite monitoring?

Specialist companies have created images of the earth’s surface using satellite mapping. They now have global coverage of the palm oil supply chain, and because palm oil is no longer the main cause of deforestation globally, they now monitor cocoa, rubber, soy and other commodities too.

They use satellites which can see through clouds (important in countries such as Indonesia which have long rainy seasons) and combine this with local on-the-ground intelligence and machine learning to create a comprehensive picture of forests and land use. This gives much higher levels of scrutiny of the industry than ever before.

How does satellite monitoring help prevent deforestation and protect wildlife?

Satellite monitoring offers real-time alerts of forestry changes to the companies in the palm oil supply chain (growers, traders and manufacturers). They can then act on the alert and investigate the changes in that area and intervene if necessary.

Thanks to satellites – some operated by NASA – the industry now has accurate records of the condition of forests globally going back to the 1980s – so they can track trends, and help companies to implement science-based responses to the challenges they face, and have better insight into the risks they face. The technology can also be used to monitor forest fire risk and flooding problems, too – and they are working on developing the capability to forecast deforestation before it occurs.

Satellite monitoring in practice

Watch this video to see how one of our particpants, Bunge, is using satellite monitoring to ensure sustainable palm oil practices.

Small step for a man, giant step for mankind

But satellite monitoring is just one important tool in a whole array of measures being used – including government policy, public awareness and pressure, local help and artificial intelligence capabilities. All of these play their part in ensuring that our palm oil farmers and producers keep progressing towards fully deforestation-free, sustainable palm oil.