Project to measure soil moisture in crop fields


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03 November 2020
Project to measure soil moisture in crop fields

MANTLE Labs, a remote sensing company, has signed up to the national SPRINT business support programme to complete a major project to measure soil moisture in crop fields. SPRINT funding will enable Mantle Labs to collaborate with the University of Surrey on a project that will integrate earth observation satellite data and hydrological modelling to inform on field-specific soil moisture. 

The University of Surrey will provide Mantle Labs with research expertise on hydrological models to complement the company’s earth observation measurements. This soil moisture information will be integrated into Mantle Labs’ existing insurance platform to develop a new soil moisture-based drought insurance product.

Mantle Labs will now be able to provide insurers with historical satellite data, complemented by near real-time in season analysis, giving greater clarity of crop conditions on the ground. This will enable insurance companies to offer more cost-effective and affordable index-based insurance to small holder farmers.

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The project will be funded by a grant from the £4.8 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to the University for Surrey’s space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Chief Business Officer at Mantle Labs, Jon Pierre, said: “Previously, due to a lack of historical agriculture data, crop failures caused by different perils were not covered by insurers in a cost-effective manner. This meant that the estimated 500 million smallholder farmers throughout the world couldn’t get access to insurance. We will now be able to access soil moisture readings at a very granular level, helping farmers to access more affordable insurance and credit.”

Dr Belen Marti-Cardona, Lecturer in Remote Sensing and Hydrology in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the University of Surrey said: "Soil moisture products do exist but their footprint is too large for informing of conditions in individual fields. By integrating remote sensing data with soil moisture modelling, we can help Mantle Labs to create new field moisture product that can be accessed in near real-time for commercial exploitation.”