THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON HUMAN ACTIVITIES: studying changes in agricultural productivity in the province of Foggia


Motion Analytica was involved – together with Vodafone Italy and numerous industry and academic partners – in RACE to collect and analyze data about the changes in work-related activities in the fields of the Apulia Region (Rapid Action Coronavirus Earth observation).





In the summer of 2020, the EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY (ESA) and the EUROPEAN COMMISSION created the RACE (Rapid Action Coronavirus Earth observation) project. This project, totgether with the relateddigital platform, focuses on monitoring and analyzing numerous environmental parameters and economic parameters to support decision-making during the pandemic crisis in the most effective way.




Both (provided by ESA) in high-resolution (HR, Sentinel 2, 2019 and 2020) and very high-resolution (VHR, Deimos, 2020).



Containing administrative subdivisions and other useful features for identifying the areas of interest for the research.



Derived from telephone cells which were provided by Vodafone Italy.


The dynamics of work in the fields were analyzed according to two main areas in the province of Foggia.

The areas of interest were identified in detail through the superimposition of satellite images and telephone cells, making sure to exclude all the urbanized areas. The use of vegetation indices and other parameters from satellite images allowed to classify agricultural fields based on the prevailing vegetation and to monitor their evolution over time according to seeding and harvesting cycles.

Research in the areas thus defined focused on two main aspects:

The presences of agricultural workers in the summer of the years 2019 and 2020

The mobility patterns of the same workers during field preparation and harvesting.

Two main groups of analysis were defined accordingly:

Quantification and trend of presences with different details, from time slots to single days and monthly aggregations

Development of Origin/Destination (O/D) matrices for mobility.


Users were categorized according to their nationality:

Italians, I.e. users with SIM cards registered with the Italian country code

Foreigners, further divided into:
Foreigners with Italian SIM cards, i.e. users with SIM cards registered with the Italian country code and an additional code that indicates a foreigner user
Foreigners with foreign SIM cards, i.e. users with SIM cards registered with a foreign country code

These profiles were then further enriched with the identification of the worker’s origin in relation to her usual place of residence, resulting in two additional subgroups:

Workers who live in the area where they work

Workers who live in a different area than their work area


The main results of the analyses are related to the design and test of a new methodology for studying the work dynamics and the other aspects involved in the project. This methodology made it possible to assess and quantify the presence and mobility of agricultural workers according to profiles and a degree of detail that could not be obtained otherwise.

This also led to evaluate the impact of restrictions occurred in the spring of 2020 that forced workers to shift their field preparation activities due to the global pandemic. A set of very specific results were also achieved, such as the quantification of the strong growth in the presence of workers in August 2020 if  compared to the previous year, or the decrease of tomato production in 2020.


This study and the platform prepared by ESA demonstrated how the innovative and large-scale use of Earth-observation data integrated with other data such as anonymized mobile phone data can help the timely identification  of social and economic changes caused by sudden and large-scale events such as the Covid-19 pandemic more quickly and with new perspectives.

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