In a world first, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), European Space Agency (ESA) and AI company Marple have this week launched a new demonstrator project that aims to show the potential for remote satellite monitoring of organic cotton cultivation systems.
The project, to be carried out under ESA’s Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS) programme, will train artificial intelligence (AI) to use ESA satellite data to detect cotton fields across India and automatically classify them according to their cultivation standard. By integrating standardised yield metrics, GOTS says this this innovative approach will also enable it to generate realistic estimates of organic cotton yields in specific areas.
Integrated with existing GOTS measures, this project will enable GOTS to further enhance the integrity of organic cotton by developing advanced risk assessment technology for organic certification and preventing fraud from the beginning of the supply chain.
The project’s anticipated impact extends beyond identifying certified organic cotton fields. It is expected to also empower GOTS to recognise cotton fields that have not yet obtained organic certification but possess the potential for a seamless transition to organic cultivation, thanks to their utilisation of traditional and ecologically friendly farming practices. This would enable the organic standards setter to bring a greater number of farmers – particularly those of a smaller size – into the certified organic sector and supply chains, creating new economic opportunities for small-scale farmers and their communities while also helping the textile sector to meet growing consumer demand for organic cotton. The project will run across the distinct cotton growing regions in India, with first results expected by the end of 2023.
The project is co-financed by GOTS and ESA, in collaboration with Marple GmbH, a German software development firm that developed the CoCuRA (Cotton Cultivation Remote Assessment) software with ESA BASS and successfully piloted it in a feasibility project in 2021 in Uzbekistan.