Quickbird - New ESA BIC Harwell Incubatee Interview

Rising populations, global warming and land shortages present very real challenges to modern society. Agricultural production must be increased to prevent food shortages and one way to do this is through new advanced technology to make farming more efficient.

We chatted with Ash and Vlad from Quickbird about how they intend to achieve this.

Tell us about Quickbird and the service you offer?

Vast amounts of data can be collected from satellite imagery and data analysis of arable fields. Key measurements such as the temperature, humidity and locations of pests and diseases provide a valuable insight to the farmer.
In addition to this, in-field sensors and data from farming machinery give the farmer access to even more data including nutrients levels and atmospheric gas composition.

The level of data you can collect is extraordinary but there is no real way to process it and turn it into useful information.

Faced with an incomprehensible amount of data and only basic, outdated and inefficient current farming software to make sense of it, the farmer ignores the vast majority and operates on their own judgement leading to inefficient farming and mistakes.

At Quickbird we are hoping to develop the next generation of farming software that will totally change the industry. The software will analyse huge amounts of raw data from a number of different sources and add value to it through analysis, enabling us to offer innovative solutions and advise the farmers. The long term goal is an automated system in which the farm machinery delivers customised levels of nutrients depending on the environment in specific areas of farm land.

In the meantime we are working with hydroponic farmers growing crops without soil. These large greenhouses are full of different sensors detecting changing factors such as humidity, temperature, nutrients, water acidity and conductivity. They require systems that can process the data from the different sources and inform the automated system of relevant actions that need to be taken.

In the short term, this project is the perfect way to allow us to develop some software which we may be able to scale up to larger outdoor farms in the future.


How does it work?

The software collects the data from the different sensors and processes it so that it can be seen on a basic dashboard. This can be incorporated into a phone giving the farmer real time monitoring with the added function of an alarm too just in case any of the mechanisms fail.


What’s the space connection?

As we take the software from the hydroponics farms out into the fields the space connection will come from the satellite imagery we will use to collect data and understand what we are looking at. With farms covering vast amounts of land it’s impractical and expensive to use ground sensors.

In the hydroponics project we also use Global Positioning System (GPS) to help us monitor time and ‘timestamp’ our readings. GPS satellites contain multiple atomic clocks that give very precise time data to the GPS signals. GPS receivers decode the signals and synchronize to each other to deliver very accurate time.

Time is important to us in the complex system of sensors because when an automated action is required the time must be accurate. Using an ordinary clock is not as accurate and overtime the system becomes unsynchronised.


Who’s the target market?

Currently the target market is greenhouse hydroponics farmers but soon we hope to target arable farmers.


How did you find out about the ESA BIC?

We came across the ESA BIC a few times through friends who knew about the scheme. Word of mouth spread fast and we soon made the decision to apply.


Why did you decide to join ESA BIC Harwell?

Our plan to use satellite imagery of farms and extracting data from the images fits perfectly with the ESA BIC and we haven’t worked with satellite imagery before, therefore it seemed a great place to come and learn more.

Access to the Satellite Applications Catapult and other facilities on the campus including the free business support workshops will help strengthen our business skills and make the ESA BIC an attractive prospect.


What do you hope to achieve at ESA BIC?

During our time at the ESA BIC we want to perfect our product to fit the market. We hope to develop our ideas and work out precisely what areas we need to focus on that will bring the most benefit to our business.

You can find out more about Quickbird on their website here (link opens in a new window)

  CREDIT: Dreamstime

© 2017 Science and Technology Facilities Council - All Rights Reserved.
The ESA BIC Harwell has an open call for proposals, which means that applications can be submitted at any time.
ESA BIC Harwell video
Find out more about incubatees are benefiting from the facilities at Harwell.