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German Startup Constellr Pioneers Space-Age Technology for Advanced Crop Monitoring

With €17m in seed funding, Constellr's microsatellites offer daily, detailed heatmaps to detect crop health shifts before they're perceptible on the ground


Throughout the ages, farmers have diligently scrutinized their potato, pumpkin, and pineapple crops, pacing the furrows of their fields to ensure their harvest is healthy. As idyllic as this picture might be, it’s not the most efficient way of keeping tabs on widespread crops, particularly in our expansive modern-day farms. Enter constellr, a pioneering German deep tech startup that’s aiming to transform this ancient practice using space-age technology.

Constellr, an innovative spin-off from the Fraunhofer, the titan of applied science in Europe, is ambitiously developing a revolutionary crop monitoring system. This system hinges on utilizing satellites as ‘eyes in the sky’ for farmers, thereby streamlining crop health surveillance. Having recently raked in a hefty €17m in seed funding, constellr is well-positioned to scale this up and bring this trailblazing technology to farmers worldwide.

The technology that constellr has devised, which they assert to be the first of its kind, hinges on a series of microsatellites. These celestial devices, decked out with advanced thermal infrared and hyperspectral imaging equipment, collect daily, comprehensive data on the earth’s surface temperature.

In a proof-of-concept trial run back in 2022, constellr launched its premier thermal imaging sensors to the International Space Station. With a significant financial boost now backing them, constellr plans to send the first of its compact, shoe-box-sized thermal imagery satellites into the great beyond come 2024.

And the beauty of it? There’s no need for a massive armada of satellites to accomplish the task. CEO and co-founder Max Gulde explains that a mere quartet of these devices in orbit can snag daily images of any agricultural field on the planet.

Once these celestial monitors are in position, their sensors will get to work, harvesting data to compose detailed heatmaps. These maps will indicate plant stress levels and water availability down to a sub-field level, providing a degree of precision far surpassing that of sentinel-3, the principal Earth observation satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA).

What sets constellr apart is its capacity to detect shifts in crop health days or even weeks before these signs are perceptible on the ground. This early warning system could potentially arm farmers with the power to preemptively avert crop failures, thereby safeguarding livelihoods and staving off potential disruptions in global food supplies.

Investor Steven Jacobs of Lakestar, a significant contributor to constellr’s capital, emphasized the crucial role of this technology. “Climate change is the definitive challenge of our generation,” Jacobs asserted, “and as we grapple with its impacts, we must fortify the resilience of our global food and water systems.”

Since its inception in 2019, constellr has impressively amassed about €30mn in private and grant capital, as per Dealroom data. Their most recent funding round, spearheaded by the French venture fund Karista, was announced just last week.

In addition to this, the European Commission and the ESA have recently awarded constellr a €5mn contract to be a part of Copernicus, the world’s largest earth observation program. And in a strategic move this past April, the company acquired Belgian startup ScanWorld, a frontrunner in hyperspectral satellite imagery and analytics, as a step towards constellr’s goal of reigning supreme in the European market for smart farming’s beyond-visual data services.

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