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  • Satellite Evolution Group

Innovative new technology harnesses AI and satellite data to help grassland farmers

A world-first technology breakthrough using AI and satellite data that could revolutionise grassland farming has today been announced by technology companies Aspia Space and Origin Digital.

The innovative new tool, developed by Aspia Space, accurately measures the height of grass using Earth observation satellite imaging, enabling the remote measurement of pasture and eliminating a labour-intensive and time-consuming process in the grassland farming sector. In combination with Origin Digital’s expertise, this offers ground-breaking insight for increasing productivity and profitability in the grassland farming and land management sectors.

The new technology will initially launch in Ireland later this year in partnership with Origin Digital as part of its ‘GrassMax’ service. Aspia Space and Origin Digital are planning to expand their breakthrough remote measurement technology to more countries and climates around the world, as well as developing further products that unlock innovative data insights to promote sustainable, profitable farming.

Aspia Space co-founder and Director of AI Dr Mike Smith said: “Earth Observation satellites literally provide an eye in the sky that offer the potential to monitor every single field on a regular basis. Aspia Space’s patented ClearSky technology uses a generative AI algorithm to deliver cloud-free imagery of the ground, making satellite data more reliable, especially for agricultural applications. Through our partnership with Origin Digital, we have developed a new AI solution that uses ClearSky imagery to estimate grass height to within an accuracy of just 1.5cm from a vantage point of nearly 700 kilometres up in space.

“To put it in context, imagine standing in a field in Amsterdam and being able to accurately measure the height of the grass in a field in Dublin. Not only can we map the grass height down to a resolution of 10 metres and see variations across a paddock, but we can also monitor how it is changing over time. This is a great demonstration of how we can combine space imagery with ‘ground truth’ data, magnifying its power. Our algorithms allow us to provide physically meaningful insights that enable better decision making here on Earth. We are proud that this technology is being rolled out in the GrassMax product.”

Kieran Holden, Grassland Digital Specialist at Origin Enterprises and a farmer based in Ireland, added: "As a farmer myself, I’m hugely excited about the ability to measure grass height remotely, because it brings huge benefits to grass management while eliminating what is currently a laborious manual measurement process. This will save Irish farmers around two hours per week, or €1,600 per year, in measurement costs alone.

“The main benefit is in how farmers like me can use this data through the GrassMax app to increase grass utilisation on their farms. It’s remarkable to consider that grass utilisation alone accounts for 44% of the variation in net profit per hectare on dairy farms. In Ireland, each additional tonne of grass utilised per hectare translates to a €256 increase in profit. Integrating this automated grass measurement data into GrassMax will give it even more power to help farmers optimise their grass use, with even a half tonne per hectare increase in utilisation equating to a €10,000 increase in profitability on an 80-hectare farm."

Duncan Robertson, Head of R&D at Origin Digital, said: “This is a game-changing moment for grassland farmers and the businesses that partner with them. For the first time, they can remotely and automatically calculate the quantity of grass in their fields and paddocks, on a regular basis and at scale. This enables farmers to make better-informed decisions regarding grazing schedules, animal nutrition, and silage cuts for example, resulting in less waste and a more stable, sustainable food supply.”

Cloud-free imaging

The latest development follows the launch of Aspia Space’s patented ClearSky service, which brings together satellite Earth observation imagery and generative AI to provide clients with cloud-free imagery of the ground. The service was launched to clients in January 2022.

Breakthrough insights for grassland farming

Aspia Space’s new tool is embedded into Origin Digital’s GrassMax service, which enables the businesses that partner with grassland farmers to track live and forecasted grass yield, how many days animals are at grass in the fields, and a host of other metrics targeted at increasing fertility, yield, and efficiency to sustainably meet the growing demand for milk and dairy products. This insight not only helps strengthen their relationships with individual farmers through a better understanding of their situation, it also provides increased visibility across their portfolio on metrics from overall feed and fodder requirements to key sustainability targets.

The tool can also be applied to help organisations verify sustainability practices in the livestock supply chain, as well as potentially benefiting local councils monitoring grass length and cutting in parks and verges or amenity providers and estates optimising their land use.


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