Data is becoming as precious as water in precision farming, and Hydrosat aims to help equip both with a new set of Earth observation satellites. The company has raised a $20MA round, including $5 million in non-dilutive funding, to launch its first two thermal infrared satellites into orbit.
The company’s mission is to provide customers from agribusiness to government with real-time thermal infrared data that can be used for solutions from drought forecasting to ecosystem monitoring to disease vector mapping.
“The ability to track water stress and climate impacts in real time is a critical pain point for Hydrosat’s agribusiness, financial and government clients,” Pieter Fossel, CEO of Hydrosat, tells australiabusinessblog.com. “This need is only felt more acutely with the increasing rate of extreme weather events due to climate change and increasing instability in global food supply chains due to geopolitics and the war in Ukraine.”
Hydrosat is currently developing crop yield forecasts and irrigation management solutions based on open Earth observation data sets. But those datasets are updated relatively little and usually have a somewhat low resolution. So Hydrosat’s next step is to develop its own 16-satellite constellation that will provide constant, high-resolution thermal images from space to improve solutions for customers.
Led by Statkraft Ventures, with additional participants including Blue Bear Capital and Hartree Partners, this funding will “accelerate the commercial go-to-market of Hydrosat’s two core analytics solutions,” says Fossel, with a nod to crop yield forecasting and irrigation management tools.
But it also goes toward the launches of VanZyl-1 and VanZyl-2, the company’s first fully operational commercial satellite missions. Both missions will launch next year, with VanZyl-1 securing a flight with Loft Orbital. With the funding, the company will build $15 million from 2021.
“Hydrosat flew a prototype thermal infrared mission on a stratospheric balloon at an altitude of 20 kilometers in January 2021 with support from the US Air Force Space Test Program. That prototype mission successfully flew and captured high-altitude images,’ says Fossel. “The stratospheric mission served as an important risk mitigation milestone for Hydrosat’s first two missions to orbit and paved the way for subsequent funding and development.”
Once operational in orbit, the satellites will provide “scientific-quality analytical data from the entire Earth,” Fossel said. And that data will provide even richer insights for Hydrosat’s growing customer base.