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Can satellites help us catch the next climate change disaster from space?

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Dr. Genevieve Patenaude, CEO and Co-Founder of Earth Blox, tells PUBLIC about the exponential potential of satellite observations to support a sustainable planet.
  1. What is your startup's mission and why did you embark on this venture?

It is now company folklore that Earth Blox was created after an iPhone autocorrected “UKSA” (for UK Space Agency) into “IKEA”, and we thought, “Hmm. What would it mean to be the ‘IKEA of space data’?”. Alongside Sam Flemming and Professor Iain Woodhouse, we founded Earth Blox in 2019 after recognising that the exponential growth in the use of satellite observations needed to support a sustainable planet was only going to happen when the barriers to accessing the derived insights were removed, the Ikea approach made perfect sense.  

Just like IKEA, we wanted to bring quality products to a huge customer base.  So, Earth Blox was created to allow domain-experts from all professions to access, process and extract bespoke environmental intelligence from satellite data. By removing the  need for coding skills, supporting novice users with pre-built solutions, and reducing costs by providing the user with the tools to build their own solutions, there is now no easier way than Earth Blox to exploit the vast data lakes of Earth imagery that are now available. 

 

  1. What makes your startup stand out from the crowd?

There is no easier way to access satellite data than through our easy to use and intuitive interface. Users can either use the pre-built workflows out of the box, or build their own by dragging-and-dropping the component blocks they need from the toolbox.  These can then be reused, modified or customised for any location on Earth.   It is so easy our customers describe it as “like Lego for satellite data”.  They now have planetary data at their fingertips. 

Earth Blox also works alongside the likes of Google and UNEP to understand the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation. It is also a Google Cloud Partner, helping some of the world’s biggest and most prominent companies and organisations to understand their impacts, improve their operations, save time and money, and help protect our planet. Being driven by Google’s Earth Engine means that users have commercial access to the world’s largest repository of satellite imagery.  Earth Engine hosts more than 40 Petabytes of data -- if you put all that data on DVD discs and stacked them on top of each other, it would be 85km high -- Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Spaceship only flies to 80km.  

 

  1. How will your technology help to achieve netzero targets?

Tackling the enormity of global climate change, planetary environmental degradation and the sustainable development goals, will require everyone to become a part of the solution, and satellite environmental intelligence will be a key part of that.  Opening access to these solutions is therefore at the core of our business.  To this end, there are two strongly-held beliefs that shape our company culture: that everyone, everywhere should be able to benefit from the power of planetary scale satellite data, and that solving problems with Earth Observation should be simple, powerful, and effortless.

 

  1. What are your biggest company highlights to date? 

Our “Strata: Earth Stress Monitor” project in collaboration with UNEP and University of Edinburgh. We built a platform that supports UN in-country teams to make use of geospatial data to understand climate and environmental stresses in order to help inform policy and decision making on climate adaptation. 

We also secured funding from the European Space Agency to develop Earth Blox for use in an education setting, enabling a new generation of Environmental Science students to use Earth Observation for monitoring the planet.

The Tech For Our Planet - Startup Showcase will showcase the leading digital solutions that can help us reach Net Zero. Tickets to the showcase can be obtained via the official COP26 website on 31st October.


Author

Natasha Wren
Head of Communications

Oct 28, 2021