How Ecometrica’s space tech is protecting the planet

How we use data around the world is changing. Ecometrica is a pioneering example of an innovative Scottish tech company helping to tackle global challenges, like deforestation and the climate crisis.

Scotland's making a difference

Ecometrica monitor the health of the earth, using data from satellites and drones to create insights for business, government and society.

The Edinburgh-head quartered company turns the vast and growing streams of observation data from space, air and land into actionable insights for business, government and society. This helps their clients not only improve their performance, but crucially also to become better corporate global citizens.

"It’s estimated that improved monitoring systems, which enable a more targeted approach, could help prevent the loss of four to six million hectares of forest over the next decade: that’s an area more than half the size of Scotland!"

Dr Richard Tipper, Executive Chairman of Ecometrica

Responding to the challenge

Ecometrica leads the Forests 2020 programme, on behalf of the UK Space Agency's International Partnership Programme (IPP), which has been set up to help protect and restore up to 300 million hectares of tropical forests. The IPP brings together British space knowledge, expertise and capability to provide a sustainable, economic or societal benefit to undeveloped nations and developing economies.

Working with others

Working with partners in Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya and Mexico, the team has achieved considerable success in improving forest monitoring, by developing and harnessing advanced uses of satellite data to assess threats to rainforests and help direct conservation resources.

Measuring outcomes

Dr Richard Tipper, executive chairman of Ecometrica, explains:

“Earth Observation platforms will ensure threats such as fires and illegal logging are detected sooner and make the response on the ground faster and more cost effective. It’s estimated that improved monitoring systems, which enable a more targeted approach, could help prevent the loss of four to six million hectares of forest over the next decade: that’s an area more than half the size of Scotland!”

Sustainability boost for Ghana’s cocoa farmers

Ecometrica is deploying its satellite data gathering technology to help African Governments and the world’s cocoa companies in their battle to end deforestation caused by their supply chains.

The Ivory Coast and Ghana are the world’s biggest producers of cocoa. With over two million small-scale farmers growing cocoa in the region, it's proved difficult to track sources of cocoa beans, piling pressure on suppliers to end unsustainable practices.

Cocoa farmer - Photo on Pixabay

Using satellite-derived information from the Forests 2020 Project, alongside other insight, Ecometrica has supported the Ghana Forestry Commission with a detailed landscape-level map to enable cocoa companies to securely plot their supply chain and assess their impact on protected areas.

Supply chain mapping

“The Ecometrica Platform will allow organisations to plot their own commercially confidential data onto the forest maps we are already creating with Forests 2020,” explains Richard.

“This will offer a unified insight into what is happening near known suppliers, especially where legitimate farms border protected forests.

“It will therefore play an important role in helping companies and governments to sensitively tackle the complexity of ensuring supplies come from sustainable sources.”

The tricky business of tracking cocoa beans

Despite commitments from the cocoa supply chain to eliminate deforestation, action has proven hard to implement due to the lack of available, robust data. Cocoa is a shade-loving crop. As it’s grown under the forest canopy, it can be difficult to spot from traditional satellite monitoring.

Tracking individual batches of cocoa beans poses a significant ongoing challenge, alongside the need to balance the livelihoods of millions of smallholders while preserving their natural environment.

Seeing the unseen - Ecometrica’s tech solution

Ecometrica is planning to add a further layer of information to the system in the coming months, using aircraft equipped with LiDAR, a method that can see through foliage to give a detailed 3D impression of a forest’s health and possible crops growing under the canopy. This will allow the project to further support the Government of Ghana in its commitment to the Cocoa and Forests Initiative.

One of Europe’s fastest growing tech companies

In October 2019, Ecometrica was named Fastest Growing Small Business in the Scottish Business Insider SME Awards, which followed the earlier SME Digital Technology Business of the Year top spot in the prestigious ScotlandIS DigitalTech Award.

The awards are the latest in a long line of recent accolades for Ecometrica, which include the GP Bullhound "Tech4Good" Award, a place on the Financial Times’ FT1000 list of the fastest growing companies in Europe for the third consecutive year, and a spot on the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100.

With more than twenty employees based in Edinburgh, Ecometrica exports its services to over a dozen countries from Mexico to Indonesia. The company also has offices in Canada, Mexico and the United States, alongside London and its Edinburgh HQ.

It operates across almost all industry sectors, working with over 250 companies and government organisations including Aggreko, Pearson and National Express.

Comprehensive business support and funding

So, how are we supporting Scotland’s tech companies to find effective solutions to today’s global challenges to ensure a sustainable, brighter future for all?

Ecometrica has benefited from our wide-ranging support over several years, taking advantage of various Scottish Enterprise events, including workplace innovation workshops for staff development and training.

We’ve provided guidance to Ecometrica on a range of business decisions, given advice on business infrastructure and a possible move to new premises - including property searches. We’ve also helped the company find new investors for growth and replacement capital.

Adrian Smith, its Chief Finance Officer, shares what that experience has been like for Ecometrica.

“Since Ecometrica's early beginnings, Scottish Enterprise has been a key partner. The SE team has taken the time to understand our business, objectives and challenges, supporting innovation through SMART funding and helping us to build what has become one of the world’s top sustainability and EH&S (Environment, Health and Safety) brands."

"As a truly international business, headquartered in Scotland, the support provided by Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International continues to be a a valuable contribution to Ecometrica’s success, as we pursue a strategy of profitable growth and world-class innovation.”

Adrian Smith, Chief Finance Officer at Ecometrica

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