Dutch team starts development of an agricultural sensor system with Australian nano-satellites

A Dutch consortium with the Delft tech businesses Disdrometrics and Fleet Space Technologies and FactoryLab from Zwijndrecht have been granted a MIT subsidy by the Province of Zuid-Holland to start a revolutionary development in the field of precision agriculture. The team wants to start tracking irrigation systems all over the world using nanosatellites, to improve the yield of the land.

Nanosatellites for smart agriculture

The grant is part of the SME Innovation & Technology programme (MIT) of the Province of Zuid-Holland. It will enable the consortium to be the first to demonstrate a system by which irrigation systems can be tracked worldwide by means of a network of nano-satellites the size of a milk carton. The Digital Rain IoT Platform via Satellite-project ((DRIPS) makes it possible to track irrigation systems in a cost-effective way by connecting weather, humidity and water sensors via nanosatellites. The consortium expects a possible 10% cost reduction for farmers with this system. The satellite link is arranged by Fleet Space Technologies, an Australian company that established its subsidiary in Delft in 2016. At the time, InnovationQuarter assisted the spacetech company in coming to the Netherlands.

“DRIPS will be the first time that we develop a wireless sensor that can be connected worldwide without being dependent on local telecom providers. It will be a ‘one stop-shop’,” explains Els Veenhoven, director Disdrometrics and project leader of DRIPS.
“The use of sensor data increases the efficiency and allows us to make long-term forecasts. This will enable farmers the world over to improve the food production in the vulnerable agriculture,” says Flavia Tata Nardini, co-founder and CEO of Fleet Space Technologies.

DRIPS deployed for the food production

The DRIPS-programme is part of the Fleet Space Technologies demonstration programme, in which two Australian projects have already been started. With this, DRIPS is becoming a part of the growing Internet of Things, where sensors and users are linked with each other by global communication networks. The Internet of Things will cause a revolution in, among other things, the agriculture, the mining industry and logistics. These systems, which can be linked by satellite networks such as that of Fleet Street Technologies, make it possible to tackle problems such as the food production for a growing world population. To feed a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050, 70% more food will have to be produced worldwide.

FactoryLab vision is to create sustainable solutions and cheap connections with LoRa (a communication network to link sensors with each other),” states Gertjan Strietman, CEO and co-founder of FactoryLab. “DRIPS offers us the perfect opportunity to realise this vision and to expand it into the world of smart agriculture. We believe LoRa to be the future of IoT, and combining the LoRa-system with satellite communication is an incredible step forward.”