Thermal Imaging For A Better Picture On Earth

(Photo © Hydrosat)

Silicon Luxembourg talks to Hydrosat Chairman and President Royce Dalby, who has been leading the company’s research and development (R&D) activities out of Luxembourg since 2018. The startup has raised $10 million to develop its first satellite, set to launch with Loft Orbital aboard a SpaceX rocket in 2023.

Focusing on temperature and the “missing part of the data”, Hydrosat is a data analytics company looking to develop “global applications” which will enhance food security, address water scarcity and improve fire risk assesment.

“We are at the cutting edge of R&D and have different proprietary algorithms that take thermal imagery and turn it into applications,” Dalby says, adding that the team includes 5 PhD scientists and 4 software engineers. Next year, the local manpower is set to double in size.

Thermal imaging will have “a strong impact on the environment”, according to Dalby, who points out to food security, the health of plants, agriculture and supply chains.

“What you will be able to do because of our yield forecast is know, two months in advance, if there is a problem. And not only that, you will know where else in the world there are surpluses, so you can also identify the solution,” he adds.

“We are at the cutting edge of R&D and have different proprietary algorithms that take thermal imagery and turn it into applications.”

Royce Dalby

Multiple applications

Through thermal imaging, farmers will better understand the water stress of plants, which saves them money and supports a more sustainable use of the land.

“Using a process called evapotranspiration we can increase crop yields by 20%, no matter what crop. At the same time, we conserve significant amounts of water. Anywhere from 10% to 40%,” he adds.

By creating a tool that will forecast the year yield for crops, the startup aims to also help commodity traders tackle price volatility. “If we can keep food prices from fluctuating as much because of our insight into what the eventual yield would be, that is incredibly helpful for everyone,” he says.

Thanks to applications that combine thermal imagery with near infrared and visible imagery, Hydrosat will also be able to predict droughts and snow melt and to assess wildfire risk.

“We can assess the biomass destruction and how much carbon has been released into the environment” which, Dalby argues, will have a “big impact in understanding how much we have to offset this with other activities”.

“Biggest goal”

Looking to tap into the government space, having already secured a contract with ESA, as well as the private market, for Dalby, “the early adopters” and “real driver” of Hydrosat’s activities will be commercial companies, whereas governments will follow, more slowly, as “big consumers of our data”.

Even though Hydrosat’s first satellite will not launch until 2023, the company’s “biggest goal” is to “start developing commercial revenue” in a move to “be self-sustaining” and support the company’s growth.

“We have something called a fusion hub that we are introducing in February, which will fuse visible near infrared and thermal imagery to create a synthetic product,” which, he says, “will mimic what we will eventually be able to do with our satellites”.

In the long run, Hydrosat aims to have a constellation of 16 satellites.

In the summer of 2022, the company plans to launch “a yield forecast of about 6 crops across the US” as its first commercial product, which will later be rolled out to Europe, Brazil, Canada and the rest of the world.

Editor’s note: This article is brought to you by Luxembourg-City Incubator and reflects only the opinion of the author.

This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Read the full digital version of the magazine on our website, here. You can also choose to receive a hard copy at the office or at home. Subscribe now.

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