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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 currently co-Chair the CODATA Roads Task Group for global roads data development and I am on the Advisory Board for the FP7 ERMES project. I am a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. 



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 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 Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

crop Earth & Environmental Sciences
rice Earth & Environmental Sciences
crops Agriculture & Biology
crop losses Agriculture & Biology
moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer Agriculture & Biology
pests Agriculture & Biology
food crops Agriculture & Biology
accessibility Earth & Environmental Sciences

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

Research Output 2000 2019

Discriminating transplanted and direct seeded rice using Sentinel-1 intensity data

Nahdiyatul Fikriyah, V., Darvishzadeh, R., Laborte, A. G., Khan, N. & Nelson, A. D., 2019, In : International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation (JAG). 76, p. 143-153 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

management practice

Remote sensing-based crop lodging assessment: Current status and perspectives

Chauhan, S., Darvishzadeh, R., Nelson, A. D., Boschetti, M. & Pepe, M., 19 Mar 2019, In : ISPRS journal of photogrammetry and remote sensing. 151, p. 124-140 17 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

remote sensing
Remote sensing

The global burden of pathogens and pests on major food crops

Savary, S., Willocquet, L., Pethybridge, S. J., Esker, P. D., McRoberts, N. & Nelson, A. D., 4 Feb 2019, In : Nature Ecology & Evolution. 3, 3, p. 430-439 10 p., 10.1038/s41559-018-0793-y.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

food crops
27 Citations (Scopus)

A global map of travel time to cities to assess inequalities in accessibility in 2015

Weiss, D., Nelson, A. D., Gibson, H. S., Temperley, W., Peedell, S., Lieber, A., Hancher, M., Poyart, E., Belchior, S., Fullman, N., Mappin, B., Dalrymple, U., Rozier, J., Lucas, T. C. D., Howes, R. E., Tusting, L. S., Kang, S. Y., Cameron, E., Bisanzio, D., Battle, K. E. & 2 othersBhatt, S. & Gething, P. W., 18 Jan 2018, In : Nature. 553, 7688, p. 333-336 4 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

travel time
sustainable development

Assessing the global burden of pathogens and pests on major food crops : poster

Nelson, A. D., Savary, S., Willocquet, L., Pethybridge, S. J., Esker, P. & McRoberts, N., 18 Oct 2018. 1 p.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterOther research output

food crops
food security

Press / Media

Global map of accessibility

Andrew Darren Nelson, Dan Weiss & J. Rozier


6 items of media coverage

Press/Media: Research