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How monitoring everything from biodiversity to algae blooms from space can help fight climate change

earth with satellite
Image Credit: Kuva Space

Right now, Kuva Space, a startup out of Espoo, Finland, has three microsatellites floating in Earth’s orbit, with two more on the way this year. The purpose of these satellites is Earth observation, and by 2030, the startup aims to have an entire constellation of 100 satellites among the stars.

Fit with a hyperspectral camera, these microsatellites, can, as the startup claims, “distinguish nearly any material on Earth and its condition” through what’s known as a spectral signature. This is a wavelength ratio of radioactive energy that provides key information about everything from plant and animal life to rocks necessary for climate action. For example, when it comes to algae blooms — the overgrowth of algae in water that can impact human health, aquatic ecosystems, and the economy — these space images can localize, track, and better understand a threat.

And the usage of this technology isn’t limited to algae blooms.

According to Kuva, they also monitor crop types, plant health and biomass, biodiversity, soil conditions, seaweed growth, and marine chemical pollutants at scale, for its customers, just to name a few. The information gathered from its microsatellites then enables its customers, from companies and commercial operators to government agencies, to take appropriate climate action.

hyperspectral image illustration
Image Credit: Kuva Space

That’s why, as announced last week, the startup raised €16.6 million ($17.72 million) in funding to further accelerate its tech, double the size of its team, and launch an artificial intelligence analytics platform that transforms the wavelengths of real-time data into insights, whether its customers are working to combat food insecurity, monitor the health of a specific marine environment, or determine the validity of carbon sequestration credits.

The round was co-led by Voima Ventures and Nordic Foodtech VC. The Singapore-based Earth VC also participated along with several Finnish private investors.

According to Jarkko Antila, CEO of Kuva Space, they also plan to use the money to help expand into new markets, especially in the United States, possibly even tapping the Department of Defense with its marine monitoring environment capabilities.

According to Kuva, its constellation is the “world’s most (and first) extensive and advanced,” but it’s not the only one launching satellites into space to measure climate action and the potential to take even more.

In fact, as there’s been increased urgency to monitor emissions, prevent wildfires, monitor polar ice cap melting, coral bleaching, and more, small satellite demand is taking to the sky, and is expected to rise from $11.35 billion market in 2023 to $18.75 billion by 2028. The number of startups in the field and satellites in space reflect the demand, with over 1,000 Earth observation satellites estimated to be up there.

This includes those from the United Kington-based company, Aspia Space, working to give farmers a closer look at crops, India’s GalaxEye, which is working to launch the “world’s first multi-sensor earth observation satellite” which captures multiple types of data at once, all to increase the specificity of its insights, and Los Angeles and Bangalore-based startup, Pixxel, which recently caught the attention of Google.

satellite constellation illustration
Image Credit: Kuva Space

Nevertheless, according to Kuva, what separates the company is its ability to deliver daily hyperspectral observations based on its customer’s requests.

Over 50 years ago, the first artificial satellites were launched into space during the Cold War era. Since, it’s been used to gather valuable insights into prevalent diseases like malaria, provide intel for national security, produce the first television footage of weather patterns from space, and now they’re being used to fight the climate and biodiversity crises from monitoring species movement to geological indicators of climate change.

“Our growth funding campaign was oversubscribed in less than three days,” Antila said in a statement. “We are extremely excited that our investors share our mission to improve life on Earth. We firmly believe that quality and timely spaceborne insights will empower communities to make informed decisions and create a sustainable future.”

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