‘We can combining satellite technology with local knowledge and give people information fundamental to improve their world.’ – Wim Bastiaanssen

By using remote sensing satellite technology and mathematical algorithms, Wim Bastiaanssen has been able to create smart pixels that allow farmers to understand how to use water in their fields most productively.

Pixel Intelligence Mapping is the ability to capture and read the carbon dioxide output, water evaporation and temperature of the leaves from a satellite as it passes overhead. The data can be interpreted and accessed by the farmer, who can consider the ‘water spend’ for areas as small as individual fields, to the whole sweep of a river basin or irrigation system.

Within a year, this data will be available in the field direct to smart phones. Scientific information, combining with the farmers’ local knowledge to increase crop yields and improve water efficiency.

The goal is to keep the cost of the data to farming communities low and ensure the data is accurate and easily available, so that this ‘water spend’ analysis of agricultural land becomes routine work to all farmers.

Smart Phones Smart Farming Slide Share

Watch Wim Bastiaanssen's presentation here.


Wim Bastiaanssen wanted to be a farmer, but as the youngest of 10 children, he was last in line when it came to taking over the family farm. He turned instead to engineering, retaining his respect for the work and skills that a farming life require.

While working at the National Agricultural Research centre, Bastiaanssen became interested in the visualization power of satellite images and the stories they tell about what is happening on our planet. As a research scientist at Wageningen University he developed a set of interpretation tools that convert the raw data from satellite images into information that can be used to understand water use and crop management on a field-by-field basis.

In 2000 he decided to commercialise these tools, and founded WaterWatch, a spinoff company of the university. He believed that if his tools were to be used where they are most needed, the academic theory needed commercial application. After 10 years of undertaking projects for World Bank and United Nation organizations, he demonstrated that there is a commercial market for boosting geo-spatial products. He is a co-founder of eLEAF, which is new commercial vendor that will upscale the production of intelligent pixels and make it available for millions of people.

Bastiaanssen enjoys the balance that living with one foot in academia, and one in the commercial world affords: the opportunity to influence research programmes, and to enthuse young people, while working on products with real world applicability and benefit.

Wim has a PhD from Wageningen University and he is a professor at Delft University of Technology, as well as at University of Kwazulu Natal. Wim is the CTO of eLEAF and scientific director of the WaterWatch Foundation.

IdeasLabs are a unique format presented at World Economic Forum meetings around the world. In each IdeasLab, leading thinkers from the world’s top academic institutions present their current thinking, and the audience and their colleagues interact on their ideas.