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ConstellR launches their first agricultural water monitoring system into orbit

German NewSpace company ConstellR have successfully launched their first thermal infrared earth observation system into space for global water monitoring.

03 Mar 2022
3 min reading time

The novel payload - LisR (Longwave Infrared Sensing demonstratoR) - is the first of its kind to be launched by ConstellR and is a precursor to its full constellation of micro-satellites, the first generation of which will be launched at the end of 2023. It was launched from Wallops Island, Virginia, part of the Northrop Grumman resupply mission to the International Space Station.

This paves the way for a scalable, commercial water monitoring service for smart agriculture based on the detection of changes in crop health – days to weeks before current approaches.

Agriculture consumes 70% of the world’s available freshwater and 60% of this water is wasted. due to ill-maintained irrigation systems, inefficient application methods and crops that require more water than their environment allows.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN and the World Wildlife Fund

This is where ConstellR’s technology will be relevant: their coloured land surface temperature heat maps, depicted across a scale of blue, turquoise, yellow, orange and red represent various scales of plant stress and water availability at sub-field level. This level of insight helps in the optimisation of smart irrigation systems, the detection of potential threats to yield and the early mitigation of crop stress.

These kinds of maps and measured biophysical indicators have the potential to disrupt global agricultural practices and could in the future improve weather models, optimise urban planning and drive more effective disaster management.

Marius Bierdel, CTO of ConstellR

Founded in 2020, ConstellR has grown from three founders to more than 25 employees across aerospace engineering and data science, software development and commercial teams. The company draws on a heritage of over 20 space missions and brings critical industry
experience from a range of industry heavyweights including OHB, Planet, MunichRe, Honeywell and Ernst & Young.

The team’s patented space-based technology will deliver high-precision and granular crop health data, allowing the derivation of evapotranspiration and other biophysical factors that help determine biosphere health. This information offers the potential to enhance precision agriculture on a global basis and deliver actionable insights faster and more cost efficiently than existing solutions.

This demonstrator technology provides a first thermal datastream for ConstellR, with the goal that the data will be used by their pilot clients as early as April 2022. The technology will allow the team to understand more about how its thermal infrared system performs in space while allowing agri-analytics customers to pilot the use of a novel, calibrated thermal EO dataset and guide the design of future monitoring products. It represents a first step in ConstellR’s vision to build a deeper atlas of the planet’s ecosphere, driving a better understanding of global resources, more crop per drop and a strong contribution to global food security.

ConstellR anticipates large agri-food companies including Bayer Crop Sciences, BayWa and Ferrero, as well as governments and global agricultural research groups to be among their future clients. For such customers, the scalability and high precision of ConstellR’s data in supporting yield monitoring, prediction and management, will be key.

When plants are in bad shape they wilt and change colour, by which point it is already too late to take mitigative action.

Thanks to the infrared technology with which ConstellR’s satellites are equipped, it will be possible to detect early signs of water stress up to two weeks earlier. This can help prevent long-term crop damage, over-watering and water waste.

- Dr. Max Gulde, CEO of ConstellR

Together with a world class team at OHB, ConstellR is taking on the challenge of scaling down the size and cost of a normally very complex payload while maintaining the very high performance required. This means we can be complementary with large institutional missions, with the added benefit of a higher revisit time.

The LiSR demonstrator is an important first milestone in this technology evolution and we look forward to continuing working together in the future.

- Egbert Jan van der Veen, Managing Director of OHB Venture Capital & Head of Strategy at OHB Group.

About ConstellR

ConstellR is a NewSpace data and services company leading the way in delivering a daily, global water monitoring service. ConstellR provides the fundamental global data for smart crop monitoring, identifying changes in crop health days to weeks before they become visible and enabling farmers to react early to and mitigate for potential crop risks and losses. This allows customers to reduce uncertainty in crop yield forecasting, limiting price volatility, improving logistics planning and increasing transparency across agri-food supply chain.

ConstellR are star alumni of the EIT Food Accelerator network programme

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