IrriWatch delivers daily information to farmers on crop conditions including leaf and soil temperatures, soil moisture, water use and agricultural production. Credit: Hydrosat

SAN FRANCISCO – Hydrosat, a Washington-based thermal data and analytics company, announced the acquisition June 8 of IrriWatch, a Netherlands company that delivers daily climate, crop, soil and irrigation updates to farmers in 62 countries. Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Hydrosat plans to begin gathering thermal and multispectral infrared data via satellite next year. At its core, though, HydroSat is not a space company but a climate-technology company, Hydrosat CEO Pieter Fossel told SpaceNews.

“With this IrriWatch platform, we’re able to make on-the-ground impacts around climate metrics for the first time,” Fossel said. “We can point to examples of how customers using this product based on thermal satellite insights are able to reduce water use. And in a lot of parts of the world, reducing water use means less electricity for pumping water out of the ground and operating mechanized center pivot irrigation systems.”

Hydrosat President Royce Dalby said in a statement, “Hydrosat’s research on farms over three continents has demonstrated that by using thermal imagery to guide irrigation decisions, growers can increase crop yields by as much as 50 percent while consuming 25 percent less water.”

Daily Updates

IrriWatch was founded in 2019 by Wim Bastiaanssen, an expert on remote sensing and water resource management. The company feeds imagery and data, much of it provided by thermal sensors on government satellites, into proprietary algorithms to gauge leaf and soil temperatures, soil moisture content, water consumption and agricultural production. IrriWatch also measures leaf nitrogen content to improve fertilizer management, provides carbon sequestration analysis and delivers “hyper-local” weather forecasts to farmers every morning, Bastiaanssen said.

When Hydrosat thermal data begins flowing into the IrriWatch platform, “I will have more frequent, better quality thermal pictures,” Bastiaanssen said. “With that, I can do better calculations.”

Bastiaanssen also is enthusiastic about working with Hydrosat’s marketing, communications and client-satisfaction personnel.

“I do not have the budget to hire those kinds of people,” Bastiaanssen said. “We’ll have a very strong field staff to be really connected to the end user.”

That connection is vital, Bastiaanssen said, because farmers need data and guidance.

“You can have a fantastic soil-moisture product, but if the farmer is not looking at it or is interpreting it the wrong way, you fail,” Bastiaanssen said. “We absolutely need to guide farmers, guide irrigators and guide the whole supply chain in the agricultural sector.”

Significant Milestone

Hydrosat announced $20 million in investments and government grants in April.

“Hydrosat’s acquisition of IrriWatch marks a significant milestone in the continued growth of our company and enables us to accelerate the delivery of real solutions that fulfill our mission to increase global food production with less water,” Fossel said in a statement.

Hydrosat was founded in 2017 to provide thermal data as well as products for data customers.

“Water stress in agriculture and water stress as it relates to climate change is so close to our core vision and mission as a company that it’s always been our intent to build out those solutions,” Fossel said. “With IrriWatch, we have an opportunity to do that alongside a really phenomenal team and a great founder who has spent his entire career working with thermal infrared data and applying it to to agriculture.”

In addition, both Hydrosat and IrriWatch “share a common vision of delivering geospatial-based insights to the agriculture community to help farmers grow more food with less water,” Fossel said.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...