TAMPA, Fla. — Private equity firm Antarctica Capital has formed a Canadian optical satellite imagery provider called EarthDaily Analytics, after buying parts of UrtheCast that sought creditor protection last year to avoid bankruptcy.
A company official for New York-based Antarctica Capital, which manages more than $2 billion of assets, told SpaceNews it is in talks about buying other businesses in complementary areas.
It has partnered with space industry advisory firm ArgoSat Advisors to create Antarctica Data Partners, which is hunting for disruptive companies that use data analytics, cloud technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities.
Antarctica Capital acquired UrtheCast satellite designs, its customer-facing Geosys agriculture software business, midstream and downstream processing technology, customer contracts and related intellectual property.
Vancouver-headquartered EarthDaily aims to use these assets to start building a constellation in the middle of this year, aiming to be operational before the end of 2023.
Drawing on a development program that UrtheCast started in 2016, EarthDaily’s constellation data will feed into analysis that Geosys currently provides from third-party satellites.
The Antarctica Capital official declined to comment on the constellation design or suppliers, but said it is optimized for automated processing in the agriculture market.
“Our imager architecture is quite different from the more typical small [Earth observation] satellites that are optimized for spatial resolution in mapping or defense applications,” the official said.
Agriculture customers use Geosys to manage risks and improve profitability for applications including crop production monitoring.
Don Osborne, CEO of EarthDaily Analytics, said in a statement: “Use of technology in the agriculture industry optimizes production and improves sales and profitability and we want to be at the forefront of that expanding opportunity. We are excited to partner with Antarctica Capital to realize the transformative potential of our technology.”
Scott Larson, who co-founded UrtheCast and was once its CEO, formed a Toronto-based company called Alpha Insights to buy the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) assets that Antarctica Capital carved out of its deal.
Antarctica Capital also did not buy the Earth-imaging cameras that UrtheCast had installed on the International Space Station. That is where UrtheCast’s business was originally focused, but it ran into issues as the relationship with its Russian operating partner broke down.
“Our focus is on the EarthDaily business for the provision of high-quality data products and analytics derived from optical imaging, especially for digital agriculture,” the Antarctica Capital official said.
UrtheCast started developing a data and analytics business after buying two Deimos satellites in 2015.
Two years later, while UrtheCast was in the middle of another financial restructuring, it acquired Geosys from U.S. dairy giant Land O’Lakes.
As it struggled to meet payments, COVID-19 helped push UrtheCast into restructuring proceedings in 2020 under Canada’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).
Before UrtheCast filed for protection, it had been trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange since 2013.
While EarthDaily Analytics is a new entity that is not in creditor protection, UrtheCast Corp remains in bankruptcy proceedings in Canada.
Antarctica Capital also did not buy the two Deimos satellites, according to the company.
Chandra Patel, Antarctica Capital’s managing director, said in a statement: “We look forward to providing management operational support and technical oversight by applying the expertise of the Antarctica Data Partners team.
“As we move forward with the company’s new constellation of satellites with state-of-the-art imaging technology, we see tremendous opportunity enabled by combining the company’s software and data analytics platform with the new satellite constellation. This combination will permit the company to offer its customers unparalleled frequency and affordability of data and allow it to expand beyond agriculture into multiple untapped verticals including ESG and Defense and Intelligence.”