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WATER4AGRI Report Summary

Project ID: 783989

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WATER4AGRI (Securing water for food and safety with the world's most advanced soil moisture information derived from satellites)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2018-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

European agriculture is facing important challenges in the coming decades linked to our changing climate. Periods of droughts and floods will further increase which threaten production and require a smart usage of our vulnerable water resources. Climate change also stimulates crop disease, which causes farmers to use more pesticides and in turn endangers water quality and impacts people's health and the environment. Satellite Remote Sensing has a crucial role to play in tackling these challenges. At VanderSat we have developed a method to provide accurate high-resolution images of soil moisture, at any place on Earth 24/7 a year. Soil moisture is a key indicator for the physical status of a plant, and has a strong predictive value with respect to crop yield and weather conditions including flooding and droughts. By combining microwave data obtained from different satellites – including the ones in the Copernicus Sentinel constellation – we are revealing a revolutionary data set that can be used to retrieve key information about the water availability for crops at field level. This data is crucial for improving the accuracy of Agricultural (Ag.) models that are the backbone of modern agribusiness. Through the WATER4AGRI project we want to lift the technology to TRL9 by: (1) scaling VanderSat soil moisture for implementation in Ag. models and, (2) demonstrating the effectiveness of VanderSat in the two most widespread Ag. models.

Three important goals are the heart of our WATER4AGRI project. The first is to develop a scalable software solution that will facilitate short lead times for future implementation of VanderSat in Ag models. Secondly, we will demonstrate the effectiveness of VanderSat soil moisture in two of the most widespread models in agricultural production. Hereby empirically demonstrating the predicted power of VanderSat for customers to understand the true value of VanderSat. The last goal is to take the final steps in commercialisation.

Objective 1 - Scale VanderSat soil moisture for further usage by our customers: The key in this objective is to scale and enhance our backend system that serves the data. Our main goal is to scale our products for future usage in models all domains. E

Objective 2 - Demonstrate the effectiveness of VanderSat in the two most widespread Ag models: VanderSat will be integrated within two of the most widespread modelling frameworks: one model on plant disease & crop protection and one on drought modelling related to crop yield. The crop protection demo is set to be executed in cooperation with Bayer. Based on test sites provided by Bayer in Europe, we want to validate that the model driven by VanderSat data predicts the risk of disease in crops more accurately. This subsequently reduces crop protection requirements. For drought modelling we will evaluate VanderSat soil moisture products for a set of European locations provided by Swiss Re. The sites will include notoriously dry regions in Eastern/Southern Europe.

Objective 3 - Success in commercialisation strategy and final business plan development: Implement the presented marketing and commercialisation strategy. After testing and validation, we aim to commercialize VanderSat across the AgriFood value chain.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

As described in Deliverable D1.3 and D1.4 we have made great progress in our API and calculation system. DifSat has been updated, improved and sped-up, the DamSat database has been enhanced and made suitable for a number of cloud services. Thus our system is now extremely scalable and operation costs can be reduced. The system is now serving a number of clients operationally and the API has proven to be stable and scalable (API 1). The viewer (API 2) is fully operational and is used by all clients. After moving our service to the Google Cloud Computing Engine we are now able to supply a full service to our clients starting as low as €10500 eur for a yearly fee, well below the original target of €25000.

The cooperation we have with the companies Bayer and Swiss Re has been very successful. For both companies a Beta Program was executed, where VanderSat satellite data products were extensively validated for several test sites. For Bayer, specifically, different test site locations in Europe, Canada and Brazil were defined, and a large database with ground data was compiled. The VanderSat satellite database was set up for the test site locations, and VanderSat satellite data products were then extensively tested using the scientific validation standards as demonstrated in several scientific publications.. Within this service contract Bayer is currently integrating the VanderSat data into their existing disease modeling frameworks. Within the Beta Program with Swiss Re we 1) established an optimal connection between the VanderSat and Swiss Re API’s, 2) analyzed the link between rootzone soil moisture and crop yield applications, 3) performed an in-depth drought sensitivity analysis for Ukraine and Poland, and 4) linked VanderSat data to the SwissRe crop yield database. Correlations of r>0.8 between VanderSat datasets and crop yields were found for several region and crops. Therefore the customized Beta Program with Swiss Re was found to be very successful, and resulted in an intensified collaboration between Swiss Re and VanderSat:
Partnership: Swiss Re and VanderSat signed a multi-year deal. See Upscaling activities: Unique VanderSat Drought Index Products were developed and tested for different crops and over different regions of the world, including Russia, Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Morocco, China, and South Africa.

We have attracted a substantial amount of new business partners and customers. VanderSat has used the last nine months to test its go-to-market model and has started replicating our model across all verticals. We are in the process of incorporating a detailed commercialisation plan, while at the same time already putting things into practise with positive results. We have reached around 70% of our target customers (top ten players in all verticals). We plan to use the remaining SME time to further sharpen and automate our proposition.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

VanderSat offers an unprecedented resolution for satellite images by increasing the resolution to 100 x100 meters and predict vegetation growth two months before anyone else can, 1.000 times cheaper than prediction by means of ground sensors and, 62.500 times more precise than the current satellite based products.

We provide accurate data on the physiological status of vegetation at field level. Enabling precision farming, efficient use of water resources, reduction of pesticide usage and improving crop yield predictions.

We provide daily satellite observations with actionable results, delivering images to users 24/7 in near real time within 4 hours after a satellite has passed (i.e. existing solutions often only provide historical data). and cover the entire world.

Using microwave sensors, we see through clouds and fog without the hassle of having to place thousands of ground sensors or scanning areas visually.

Furthermore we compare data with 38 years of historical satellite data. No competitor can do this.

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