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Government programme awards funding to Rezatec to develop the use of satellite data in evaluating plant health in UK

Harwell, Oxfordshire, 15th September, 2016 Rezatec, leading geospatial data analysts, has recently been awarded Phase II funding for the development of geo-spatial big data analytics products that can identify and monitor plant health on a large scale. The funding from the Space for Smarter Government Programme (via the UK Space Agency), is the result of a competitive application process through Innovate UK’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), following an initial feasibility project (Phase I) to ensure the commercial value of the products and services under development by Rezatec.

Phase I of this project, known as SAPPHIRE (Space Applications for Precision Plant Health Information, Response and Evaluation), involved Rezatec working with Forest Research (the research agency of the Forestry Commission) to explore the feasibility of differentiating tree species using their typical annual phenological pattern.

Satellite derived geo-spatial analytics for tree count, height and volume
Satellite derived geo-spatial analytics for tree count, height and volume
The Phase I project focussed on mapping the distribution of different broadleaved species within selected study sites that are affected by forest pests and diseases. Rezatec utilised various Earth Observation (EO) sensors (e.g. Sentinel 1 C-band SAR, Sentinel 2 multi-spectral sensor and Landsat 8) to map the distribution and abundance of these species. These EO data sets were complemented with already available ground-based and accessory data (e.g. LiDAR and National Forest Inventory), provided by Forest Research, and integrated using data mining approaches that included random forest classifiers, statistical clustering methods and post-processing classification algorithms.

The results of SAPPHIRE Phase I were excellent. Maps of tree species achieved a minimum classification accuracy of 80%. Rezatec also developed indicators of broadleaved tree phenology to provide baseline information to detect anomalous measures of plant stress that might be associated with forest pathogens.

Following the success of Phase I, Rezatec is continuing its collaboration with Forest Research, to create a series of data products that can identify and classify an expanded set of tree species and their typical annual phenological pattern with specific focus on:

  • identifying limiting issues with optical capabilities and applying radar data to help differentiate different tree species and identify their distribution, for example in linear features such as trees lining roads or rail lines;
  • validating identified areas of tree stress against known scenarios and discounting them against false positives, saving time and cost for the end users of the products; and,
  • employing Sentinel 1 data sets to demonstrate the effective capability of SAR data in monitoring tree phenology, using standard EO multi-spectral imagery to complement the SAR imagery via data fusion techniques.

“Using satellite data to enable more efficient tree-health mapping and assessment holds great promise for landowners in both the public and private sectors, in the UK and abroad,” commented Alison Melvin, Business Development Manager at Forest Research.

“With Phase I of this project we demonstrated the feasibility and commercial potential of using satellite data analytics to provide real insight to the forestry sector whilst delivering previously unseen efficiencies. Now we are looking forward to finalising the development of our forestry data products and bringing this valuable information to market,” said Tim Vallings, Head of Forestry, Rezatec.

The results of Phase II will be market-ready data products that allow users to understand tree species distribution, tree health, tree mensuration (height, count and volume) and tree windblow damage for any area or forest stand. All of these products will be accessible via Rezatec’s subscription-based geospatial data web portal.

Rezatec and John Clegg, a leading provider of forest asset valuation services in the United Kingdom, are jointly presenting the data products developed under the SAPPHIRE programme at APF 2016, the UK’s largest forestry exhibition. John Clegg’s professional services expertise will be complemented by Rezatec’s technology as these new data products come to market.

“Rezatec has proven the commercial applications of Earth Observation data analytics in forestry and we’re impressed with the potential cost savings and accuracy of the data products versus traditional techniques,” observed Mike Tustin, Partner, John Clegg and Co.

Rezatec are launching these new forestry plant health data products to market in 2017 with a preview available at the APF Forestry Exhibition 15/09/2016.

About Space for Smarter Government Programme
SSGP is an exciting and challenging programme operating to educate and inspire public sector to the multiple uses of satellite applications and data as well as dispel the myths that space is too costly, too technical too difficult to understand.

About the Small Business Research Initiative.
Supported by Innovate UK, SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) enables the public sector to tap into new ideas and technologies and speeds up their adoption. It helps government departments connect with innovative businesses to solve the tough challenges facing the public sector.

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