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Calgary’s Next Economy: Strato Earth combines satellite imagery and data analysis for researchers

Strato Earth co-founder Michael Farrelly said they’re lowering the barrier to entry for scientists to commercialize their research.

He and co-founder Kiril Kirov are doing it by combining their expertise in web development and cloud architecture, for software that collects, processes, visualizes and shares geospatial data.

The pair met working with an Alberta-based forestry company that was using remote sensing to conduct a forest inventory using LIDAR point clouds and satellite imagery.  That helped the company understand the species of trees they had on their properties, plus examine susceptibility to forest fires and damage from insects.

Farrelly said that remote sensing can also be used in agriculture and has been used to track military movements in Ukraine. It could also be used in mining.

“What we realize is remote sensing as a methodology is really exploding right now,” he said.

“We saw an increased demand for support to help those scientists who are developing the science, the algorithms, to analyze that aerial imagery and take that science, take the r&d, and turn it into a product and that involves a web platform, that involves data processing in the cloud in an automated fashion.”

Farrelly said this kind of work isn’t something that can just be done simply on a scientist’s computer.  

They’ve built a system that can gather satellite imagery, implement a scientist’s algorithm (or multiple sequential ones), and then process the data and provide it visually. Done using a cloud-based system, any updates are done in an automated fashion so you can do the computations at scale.

“The configuration of that is executed in a single command,” said Kirov.

“They execute a single command, and they get everything hooked up.”

Their position in the satellite value chain

Kirov said there are different parts to the typical value chain with satellite operations. There are those collecting the data, others that process it, and still more that provide the interpretation. The Strato Earth system brings those pieces together.

“It’s very cost-optimized and at the same time, time efficient,” he said.

Farrelly said that their unique skill combination is a competitive advantage when working with researchers.

“We help them do that orchestration piece where they take their different programs and put them all into one, what we call a pipeline, that can run on-demand in the cloud, and pulling these inputs and it can run against massive amounts of data,” he said.

Farrelly said their work in the Alberta Catalyzer – Velocity program, they’ve learned how to think more like businesspeople and less like tech people. That’s been a challenge, he said.

“I think it’s really helped us clarify some of our strategy and thinking of what we should be focusing on,” he said.

Right now, Strato Earth is industry agnostic. Moving forward, one thing they’ll look at is further market validation – whether to keep it generic, out-of-the-box, and tailor it to specific users, or make it industry specific.

Still, the premise is the same.

“It’s a barrier to entry for some of these scientists to start a business or to try to commercialize their research,” Farrelly said.

“We’re lowering that barrier to entry by providing a lower cost solution that doesn’t require them hiring 10 cloud engineers.”