How these companies are using space-tech to enhance agriculture

23 Jun 2023

Image: © reisezielinfo/

Using images and data obtained from space satellites, farmers can make better decisions and in turn, make their operations greener.

Automation and IoT technology are quite widespread on farms these days as farmers are embracing tech as a way to cut costs and reduce labour hours. Drones and IoT sensor devices are very common and a lot of companies operating in these sectors have begun to cater to farmers as a target market.

For example, the Canadian-founded drone tech business ZenaDrone moved into the Irish market in 2021 with the aim to show how its automated drones can perform tasks such as spraying crops and monitoring herds. The company’s founder said that the company picked Ireland to expand into because of its small size and strong track record in agriculture. He saw the potential to cultivate a market for ZenaDrone’s products here.

And it’s not just ZenaDrone. Ireland is the base for a lot of exciting homegrown agri-tech start-ups, including EquiTrace, CropBiome and ApisProtect. Farmers and those in the agricultural business in Ireland – and beyond – are often early adopters of tech tools because they recognise that tech can make labour-intensive jobs such as farming a lot easier.

In recent years, some companies are even turning to space-tech to show farmers what’s going on at their farms using satellite imagery and data. Earlier this month, US company EOS Data Analytics teamed up with non-profit AgGateway to do just that.

EOS Data Analytics combines data retrieved from satellite imagery with AI technologies and proprietary algorithms to analyse crops and forests. In January of this year, the company launched the first of seven satellites which it claims are “designed to support the implementation of sustainable agriculture methods and forestland monitoring” using data and analysis. It plans to have all satellites operational by 2025.

The company has a number of different tools and products based on its satellite data, such as its EOSDA crop monitoring tool, which integrates data like crop health, weather and field activities to help farmers monitor and care for their crops.

As well as the crop and field monitoring tool, the company has tech for forest monitoring, yield prediction and crop classification using remote sensing and a tool that provides data on soil moisture. Besides the fact satellite imagery can be used by farmers to make informed decisions about how they operate, it is potentially an advantage when it comes to sustainability. When farmers are armed with more precise information about their crops, they are less likely to experience crop failure or waste.

There is a lot of scope for tech to make agriculture greener – and that’s across the board from drones to satellite data and beyond. By teaming up with organisations like AgGateway, which provides resources to farmers to make their farms ‘smarter’ using technology, innovative companies can bring their tech to a wide audience. The more farmers that use it, the more the industry as a whole could potentially benefit.

Closer to home, Magherafelt, Co Derry-based start-up CropSafe’s platform lets farmers manage their operations using satellite data and data from weather stations. Recently, CropSafe’s young co-founder John McElhone joined 20 other young entrepreneurs to take part in the Peter Thiel Fellowship. Over a two-year period, McElhone will receive $100,000 and mentorship from the billionaire’s network of tech professionals to develop his business.

The young businessman founded CropSafe along with a friend Micheál McLaughlin in 2019 when they were still in school. Now, thanks to the fellowship opportunity, the company’s US expansion looks set to gain ground – something that can only be good for Irish agri-tech and farmers. Watch this space, as they say.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic