Breakthrough in cloud-free surveillance provides enhanced crop intelligence
By Dr Matthew Smith, Chief Product Officer
on 26 October 2020
ClearSky's artificial intelligence removes a major barrier to the efficacy of satellite data in agriculture, providing benefits to crop health, yields, profits and sustainability

The University of Hertfordshire's Centre for Astrophysics Research has been awarded £200,000 in funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to develop and bring to market its ClearSky technology in partnership with Agrimetrics, who operate a Data Marketplace for the Agri-food sector.
ClearSky provides cloud free visible and infrared images for the whole of the UK, every 7 days,
ClearSky uses advanced technology to see through cloud cover and predict visible and infrared images of the Earth's surface, through applying artificial intelligence to synthetic aperture radar imaging obtained by the EU Sentinel-1 Earth Observation satellites.

In partnership with Agrimetrics, the University of Hertfordshire project will provide weekly cloud-free surveillance of the entirety of the UK. Satellite data is already being used in food and agriculture to make cost savings, reduce emissions and improve productivity; however, cloud cover has limited its potential effectiveness and applications. Cloud-free surveillance, combined with other Agrimetrics data, will enable users to more effectiveness innovate in a variety of use cases, including:

  • Remote monitoring of crop health
  • Monitoring and predicting crop growth rates
  • Yield prediction
  • Estimations of irrigation requirements
  • Input optimisation
  • Reduction of crop lodging risk
The University of Hertfordshire team will also be using ClearSky to further investigate the impact of climate change on different crops across the UK, providing further intelligence and insights to the UK agriculture market.

Following roll-out in the UK market, the team plan to scale-up the project to provide worldwide coverage, seeking new applications of the technology for the monitoring and prediction of environmental threats such as flooding and wildfire.
    "Astrophysics is the ultimate remote sensing challenge. Here we are applying some of our expertise in analysing and interpreting imaging data across the electromagnetic spectrum to the field of Earth Observation, with a little help from AI. With ClearSky we are hoping to further exploit the great potential of synthetic aperture radar imaging of the ground, and in this project our focus is on supplying intelligence to the agricultural industry. We will provide a week-by-week analysis of every single field in the UK, uninterrupted by cloud.".

    Professor Jim Geach
    Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire
    "There is demand for accurate information derived from satellites across the agri-food sector, which offers the advantages of extensive coverage in space and time and without expensive in-field monitoring. 'ClearSky' promises a level-up in accuracy, by providing cloud-free information. We're super excited to enable the ClearSky team to deliver that information to their end-consumers though our Data Marketplace, which is what it's been made for."

    Dr Matthew Smith
    Chief Product Officer, Agrimetrics
    The Science and Technology Facilities Council funding is part of its Challenge Led Applied Systems Programme (CLASP), a scheme to to support the application and commercialisation of STFC research.
    "It is very exciting to see this project benefiting from support from the CLASP programme. Our aim is always to take the scientific breakthroughs coming out of the STFC research facilities and find ways to have them make a difference outside the lab. We look forward to seeing how the ClearSky team can bring benefits to the agriculture sector in the UK."

    Dr Wendy Carr,
    Senior Portfolio Manager for CLASP, Science and Technology Facilities Counci
    Interested in weekly cloud-free satellite intelligence?
    ClearSky can be quickly and easily accessed via Agrimetrics's Agri-food Data Marketplace, alongside high value data from suppliers including Airbus, NASA, Met Office, and ESA.
    About Agrimetrics
    Agrimetrics is the food and farming sector's Data Marketplace. We enable organisations to safely share and monetise their data, whilst making it easier for data-consumers to access the information they need. Our goal is to help create a more productive and sustainable food system by enabling next-generation solutions as quickly and affordably as possible.

    We are one of four centres for agricultural innovation founded with an initial investment from Innovate UK. Our founding partners are NIAB, SRUC, Rothamsted Research and The University of Reading. We have strategic partnerships with Airbus and Microsoft and are a participant in Microsoft's prestigious AI for Earth programme.
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