CGI has been awarded a contract by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a reconstruction of the Earth (known as a Food System Digital Twin Precursor) as part of ESA’s Digital Twin Earth programme. A prototype will be developed demonstrating its scientific value in understanding and improving the productivity and resilience of global food systems.

ESA’s Digital Twin Earth (DTE) is planned to be a dynamic, high resolution reconstruction of the Earth and its complex processes to support advanced science-based decision making at an unprecedented scale. It will enable enhanced prediction and simulation to respond to the environmental challenges facing the planet as well as explore improvements in routine monitoring. This will allow the possibility of regular seasonal progress review, responses to crop shortages due to extremes and assist in long-term policy development.

Advanced technologies for pressing challenges

CGI will build the reconstruction using its digital data platform technology incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques. A complex model integration will bring together multiple data sets including socio-economic and physical measurements to demonstrate how powerful these advanced technologies can be for solving today’s most pressing challenges.

Food systems are subject to unprecedented environmental and social pressures that call for highly complex policy trade-offs and decisions.  Population growth, changing diets, extended supply chains, climate change, land use change, economic measures, ecosystem dynamics and global events all impact food supply, food security and overall sustainability. The Digital Twin Earth precursor will aim to provide decision makers with a comprehensive, science based decision support system with built in quality management.  It is aimed to become an important tool to provide support at a range of space and time scales. These range from short-term agricultural management of food supply through testing of crop improvement schemes to longer-term measures to optimise agricultural production by using climate adaptation measures.  It also allows for scenario-based assessments including the environmental extremes expected to arise from climate change.

The outcomes that can be expected from this exciting project include greater resilience of food supply for an increasing population balanced against the need to work towards net zero emissions and ecosystem sustainability. This is another excellent example of technology being harnessed for a better future.