7-9 September 2021
Online event 


Registration OPEN

Deadline to register for the event: 24 August 2021



The 2021 UN/Austria Symposium "Space Applications for Food Systems" will take place online from 7 to 9 September. This year's key topic is how space technologies support food systems and thus contribute to activities around the UN Food Systems Summit convened by the UN Secretary General. This Summit is part of the Decade of Action to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, each of which depends to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. 

  "Transforming food systems is crucial for delivering all the Sustainable Development Goals."  
António GUTERRES, UN Secretary-General

The term "food systems" refers to the activities involved in producing, processing, transporting and consuming food. The Food Systems Summit will address the following five action areas:
1. ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all
2. shift to sustainable consumption patterns
3. boost nature-positive production systems at scale to globally meet the needs while operating within planetary boundaries
4. advance equitable livelihoods
5. building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses

The Summit will raise awareness that we all need to work together to change the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. The Summit will bring together key players from science, business, policy, healthcare and academia, as well as farmers, indigenous people, youth organizations, consumer groups, environmental activists, and other key stakeholders. Independent Dialogues formally connect into the Summit process through an official feedback mechanism, proposing recommendations to achieve sustainable food systems.

The 2021 UN/Austria Symposium "Space Applications for Food Systems" will include one of these Independent Dialogues.

Space applications are key tools for a sustainable agriculture and for food security including production, processing and transport chains. Earth observation data and meteorology are essential inputs into analyses and decision-making processes that are critical to promoting food and water security and resilience to crisis. Earth observation notably provides global, frequent, and detailed information about climate, soil, crops, water and land use; the data allows for a better understanding of the conditions for food production with evidence-based assessments. Other space technologies and applications also contribute significantly to global efforts to improve food systems worldwide. For example, farmers use satellite-based geolocation for precision agriculture, to optimise spraying of fertilisers on fields or to track assets such as equipment, livestock and products. Satellite communications make it possible to link data from food producers in remote areas to distribution centres and consumers; it also enables communities to resume activities after a natural disaster impacted other communication systems.

The event aims to bring together academia, scientists, entrepreneurs and many others to discuss and demonstrate how space data and applications support food systems. Users of space applications will present their experience and experts will discuss the role of space data and applications within the food value chain. Several different presentation formats will be used, showing best practices and live demonstrations of solutions and services available, notably for developing countries.

Specific policy discussions will enable exchange of experience and know-how on integration of space applications and tools into the domain of agriculture and food security. The overarching objective of the Symposium is to offer users an opportunity to explore tools, policies, and approaches that could be adopted in their respective regional, national or local context.


The UN/Austria Symposium has taken place in Graz, Austria, since 1994. It is an activity of the Programme of Space Applications of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. Since the first Symposium entitled "Enhancing Social, Economic and Environmental Security through Space Technology", more than 2,800 participants have attended the events. They addressed a variety of themes, ranging from security to youth, as well as the use of space for sustainable development, space accessibility, and international cooperation. The last edition focused on Climate Action.

The Symposia series has provided a forum for discussion between the different stakeholder groups of the wider space community, including the diplomatic community, the private sector and academia, as well as UN entities. The main purpose of the Symposia remains to enable discussions on the use of space tools and applications, with an inter-disciplinary viewpoint, addressing technology development and policymaking.


The Symposium has the following objectives:

  • To promote the exchange of best practices in the use of space applications for specific activities that are integral to food systems.
  • To share experience and explore what services are available and how they can be used to support policies according to national priorities.
  • To discuss how to comply with regulations related to food systems with the use of space technologies and applications.
  • To present available toolboxes that have already been implemented through case studies or pilot projects, with the aim of encouraging the adoption of tested tools and approaches.
  • To discuss the role of UNOOSA in implementing capacity-building activities, especially in developing countries.
  • To raise awareness of relevant space-related activities, services and cooperation programmes among different user groups, in particular government officials, the diplomatic community, UN and international agencies as well as NGOs.
  • To demonstrate how initiatives based on space applications have been successfully developed and how they are being used in different countries, with a view to reporting best practices to the UN Food Systems Summit.

Draft Programme

The programme will include 

  • Keynote presentations:  given by invited speakers;
  • Sessions:  presentations from successive speakers, followed by short questions and answers sessions with the audience;
  • Panels:  speakers give a very short introductory statement or presentation, followed by a moderated discussion among speakers and a question and answers session with the audience;
  • Pitches:  very short presentations in which specific projects or initiatives are introduced, as in an "elevator pitch".

In addition to the above, the organisers are planning to propose interactive ways for discussions online among participants during the Symposium, notably to find common interest and discuss possible partnerships.

The symposium will focus on how space data and applications can contribute to sustainable food systems with the following topics:

  • Land use, waterways and ocean management in view of nature-positive food production
  • Optimisation of food transport and traceability
  • Crops and animals' health, and prevention of epidemics
  • Resilience of agriculture and aquaculture to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses
  • Disaster management and emergency response directed at agriculture recovery
  • The role of space applications in agriculture policies

Presentation of concrete case studies, pilot projects and lessons learnt are encouraged. The outcome of this symposium will be communicated in the form of recommendations to the Food System Summit.

Points of Contact

For additional information on the Symposium, please contact:  unoosa-events@un.org

Dates and Venue

The dates of the Symposium are from 7 to 9 September 2021. The Symposium will be held online via WebEX or a similar tool.

Working Methods

Speakers at the Symposium are requested to deliver an oral presentation or a demonstration of a tool via the web-based communication platform. On Monday, 6 September 2021, presenters will have the opportunity to do a test run of their presentations online. Presentations made at the Symposium will be published on the website of the Office for Outer Space Affairs (www.unoosa.org) prior to the Symposium to facilitate engagement of participants. The event will be recorded and videos of the presentations will be made available to the participants via an online platform after the end of the Symposium.

Sponsorship of the Symposium

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and Austria are responsible for organising the Symposium. It is supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, the European Space Agency, AUSTROSPACE, the City of Graz, the Regional Government of Styria, Joanneum Research and Graz University of Technology.

Target Audience and Expected Participants

The symposium is aimed at members of the diplomatic community, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, research and development institutions, policy and decision makers, senior experts, scientists, engineers and university educators, especially from developing countries.

Representatives from the various permanent missions of United Nations Member States in Vienna will be invited to the Symposium, along with representatives from various United Nations agencies and other international organisations, with the aim of promoting dialogue not only between policy-makers, but also with the private sector and end users. Representatives from the space applications industry are also welcome to attend and present their solutions.

The Office of Outer Space Affairs is committed to support gender mainstreaming in its programmes and advocates for balanced representation from different perspectives.

Language of the Symposium

The working language of the Symposium will be English.

Deadline for Submission of Abstracts and for Registration of Participants

Please note that the application form is available here.

If you would like to give a presentation, please submit the completed application form together with a presentation abstract online by Monday, 31 May 2021 at the latest.

Interested parties who do not wish to give a presentation can submit their application online up to Tuesday, 24 August 2021.

Online participation will be accepted until the maximum technical capacity of the web-based communication platform is reached.

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