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Personal profile

Personal profile

I am a Geographer specialising in the management, development and leadership of spatial research on agricultural systems, food security and their relation to natural resource management. 

My research has focused on how spatial information can be combined with other sources of information to provide better, faster and more detailed data on the "where", "when", "how" and "how much" of agricultural production. I use remote sensing data and GIS models to characterise and monitor crop production situations to estimate crop area, seasonality, production and losses.  Food security is not just about production. I work on accessibility models to determine the cost or travel time between producers, markets and consumers, since physical access is core component of food security assessments. I also work on environmental assessment tools.

My research started in Latin America but I have worked extensively in Asia for the past 8 years, and continue to work in Sub Saharan Africa.  I have also contributed to global mapping projects (population, transport networks, elevation and accessibility). 

My PhD is in Geography from the University of Leeds, UK and I consider Geography to be a licence to study anything anywhere. I have spent most of my career working for international, multi-disciplinary research institutes starting as a junior research fellow in 1996 at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia, then as a spatial analyst in the Development Economics Research Group at the World Bank in Washington DC, then as a scientific officer in the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Italy, and as head of the GIS lab at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.  I have also held various consultancies with UNEP, FAO and the World Bank.  

I now lead the Spatial Agriculture and Food Security research theme in the Department of Natural Resources (ITC-NRS).

Research interests

I have a broad range of research interests related to food security and spatial agriculture. These include areas for PhD research as well.

  • Spatial and temporal analysis of optical and SAR imagery for crop detection and characterisation.
  • Yield estimation from remote sensing and crop simulation models.
  • The use of spatial and temporal data for crop health applications.
  • Detection and mapping of crop management practices and mapping suitability for best management practices (technology targetting).  
  • Applications of remote sensing for crop insurance.  
  • Spatial accessibility models.
  • Environmental monitoring with temporal remote sensing data. 

I chair the GEOGLAM Capacity Development Working GroupI am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. I have editorial roles in three journals, Food Security (Associate Editor), Remote Sensing (Editorial Board member for Remote Sensing in Agriclture and Vegetation Section) and PeerJ (Academic Editor). 



I teach in the Natural Resources Management Specialisation of the ITC Master's in Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation.

Module 4 - Introduction to natural resources management
Module 5 - System analysis for natural resources management
Module 8 - Monitoring of natural resources
Module 11 - Research skills
Module 12 - RS/GIS analysis methods to support food and water security studies


I lead one of the Agricultural pilots in the H2020 e-shape program.

I led a small project on field boundary detection methods within the Geospatial and Farming Systems Research Consortium (GFC) coordinated by Dr Robert Hijmans at UC Davis California.  

I work with colleagues at INRA, Penn State, Cornell University and UC Davis on a global crop health survey to assess the crop losses due to pests and diseases in five major staple crops; wheat, maize, rice, soybean and potato. 

I work with colleagues in Oxford University, Google and the European Commission on accessiblity mapping.  The Global Map of Accessibility characterises the connectedness of the human landscape by illustrating the amount of time it takes to access the nearest densely populated area.


Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Leeds


Master, University of Leicester


Bachelor, University of Nottingham


External positions

Senior Scientist, Head of GIS lab, International Rice Research Institute


Scientist, Head of GIS lab, International Rice Research Institute


Consultant, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Consultant, World Bank


Post-Doctoral Fellow / Scientific Officer, European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute




Research fellow, University of Leeds


Consultant, World Bank




Junior Research Fellow



  • S Agriculture (General)
  • Food Security
  • G Geography (General)
  • GIS
  • Remote Sensing
  • Q Science (General)
  • Spatial Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Andy Nelson is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • 1 Similar Profiles
rice Earth & Environmental Sciences
crop Earth & Environmental Sciences
crops Agriculture & Biology
crop losses Agriculture & Biology
pests Agriculture & Biology
moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer Agriculture & Biology
food crops Agriculture & Biology
time series analysis Agriculture & Biology

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 2000 2019

56 Downloads (Pure)

A global surveillance system for crop diseases: Global preparedness minimizes the risk to food supplies

Carvajal-Yepes, M., Cardwell, K., Nelson, A. D., Garrett, K. A., Giovani, B., Saunders, D. G. O., Kamoun, S., Legg, J. P., Verdier, V., Lessel, J., Neher, R. A., Day, R., Pardey, P., Gullino, M. L., Records, A. R., Bextine, B., Leach, J. E., Staiger, S. & Tohme, J., 28 Jun 2019, In : Science. 364, 6447, p. 1237-1239 3 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
emerging diseases

Analysing Trends in Rice Cropping Intensity and Seasonality Across the Philippines using 14 Years of MODIS Imagery: powerpoint

Boschetti, M., Mishra, B., Nelson, A. D. & Busetto, L., 14 May 2019, p. s1-s28. 28 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherOther research output

Open Access
cropping practice
1 Downloads (Pure)
Open Access
field margin
spatial resolution
agricultural land

Detecting Crop Lodging Stage using SAR-Derived Crop Angle of Inclination

Chauhan, S., Nelson, A. D., Darvishzadeh, R. & Boschetti, M., 14 May 2019. 1 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterOther research output

Open Access
synthetic aperture radar
crop prices

Discriminating Rice Crop Establishment Practices at Field Level Using Multi-temporal Sentinel-1 Intensity Data

Nahdiyatul Fikriyah, V., Darvishzadeh, R., Laborte, A. G., Khan, N. & Nelson, A. D., 14 May 2019, p. 1-1. 1 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic

synthetic aperture radar

Press / Media

The global burden of pathogens and pests on food crops

Andy Nelson


6 items of media coverage

Press/Media: Research

Global map of accessibility

Andy Nelson, Dan Weiss & J. Rozier


6 items of media coverage

Press/Media: Research