Page Loading

How Ecometrica’s space tech is protecting the planet

08 Nov 2019 • 6 minute read

Ecometrica monitor the earth's health, using data from satellites to create insights for business, government and society

An aerial view of peatland and forest

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 emergency.

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.

From its headquarters in Edinburgh, the company turns the vast and growing streams of data gathered 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.

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 sizeable success in improving forest monitoring, by developing and harnessing advanced uses of satellite data to assess threats to rainforests and help direct conservation resources.

Ecometrica is working with the University of Maryland to process data from NASA, under a three-year deal secured in 2020. Ecometrica's platform will generate maps of the Earth's ecosystems which could help scientists better understand climate change.

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.

A farmer picks over cocoa beans inn Ghana

Cocoa beans in Ghana by Lewis Rattray, GIS and Earth Observation Analyst at Ecometrica

Using information gathered by satellites from the Forests 2020 Project, alongside other insight, Ecometrica has supported the Ghana Forestry Commission with a detailed landscape 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 single 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.

Mapping the water footprint of your crops

Ecometrica is working with the University of Edinburgh and The Data Lab, on a water footprint application that gathers and processes open satellite data to help clients assess the water footprint of their agricultural products. This will help clients make informed decisions on choosing agricultural suppliers based on sustainability potential impacts, like:

  • Water pollution
  • Contribution to water scarcity
  • Contribution to water abundance

And also:

  • Determine where to apply measures to reduce water impacts
  • Facilitate water efficiency and optimisation
  • Report and communicate their water footprint

Read the full story on The Data Lab website opens in a new window  

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 Digital Tech 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 year running, 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."

You might also be interested in

  • Space tech

    Scotland's space industry is booming, with a host of innovative young companies operating in the sector. Historically, the world looked to Scotland for our trains and ships – now, with our dynamic and growing space sector, it’s our satellites and data.

  • Satellite data

    Spire, California-based satellite data specialists, saw big opportunity when it chose to set up in Scotland, finding a ready pool of talent and skills. Like Ecometrica, it's helping governments tackle extreme weather events in this era of climate change.

  • Data science

    Think of an environment bursting with innovation, a well-connected community, digital tech skills on tap, a future-proofed workforce, and competitive locations for startups. Reasons why Scotland is now the place to do great things with data.

Discover what makes Scotland a good fit for your technology business