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Mantle Labs to develop new soil moisture-based drought insurance solution

NEWS: Leading remote sensing company signs up to SPRINT to complete a major project to measure soil moisture in crop fields

Will collaborate with University of Surrey on major project, with funding from national SPRINT business support programme

Mantle Labs, a leading 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. This will enable Mantle Labs to become the first remote sensing company in the world to offer end-to-end parametric index insurance products covering the entire spectrum of the agriculture industry right from pre sowing to harvest.

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 extremely cost-effective and affordable index-based insurance to small holder farmers.

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.

Jon Pierre, Chief Business Officer at Mantle Labs said: “Through SPRINT, we are collaborating with leading researchers from the University of Surrey’s space programme. Their expertise, enabled by the SPRINT funding, will help us to facilitate a unique and innovative insurance product, a real market first.

“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 commented: “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.”

Pete Sewell, Partnerships Manager at the University of Surrey added: “We were really impressed to find that SPRINT moved a lot quicker than other funding mechanisms and this support has proven to be very successful in helping the university to service Mantle Labs’ needs in a simple way.

“Mantle Labs has a long-term strategy for working with academia and knew that the University of Surrey has an impressive track record in the space sector. An initial introduction from our Local Enterprise Partnership opened the door and we now see this as a long-term relationship, rooted in the simple funding mechanism delivered by SPRINT.”

SPRINT businesses, Mantle Labs and KISPE are featured in the University of Surrey’s ‘How we work with business’ video, focusing on the Connecting Capability Fund and companies benefitting from its innovation ecosystem