DEFRA uses satellite technology to monitor disease in key species throughout England

DEFRA (the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs) has begun a nationwide project with geospatial data analytics company, Rezatec, to map the key species of ash and oak and monitor for diseases such as ash dieback.

The project covering over 130,000 sq. km will identify and monitor oak and ash trees, looking specifically at any change in health. Initially this will identify the species and map them, with then a disturbance layer to be added that provides the government with details of the change in health status of the identified trees up to the most recent complete season (2018). A successful pilot was completed in Devon, looking at the landscape in 2017. Rezatec is unique in its ability to provide these solutions to the degree of precision that DEFRA has determined necessary.

Sam Grant, Statistician, Plant Health at DEFRA comments “Following a small-scale trial Defra has asked Rezatec to identify woodland ash and oak and monitor them for disease. Using satellite data analytics allows us to optimise our resources, as well as enabling us to be more pro-active in combatting tree disease and increasing our public spend efficiency. DEFRA is pleased to be taking a lead in using the latest technologies to address the issues we face.”

Monitoring England’s ash and oak tree health is important in forest and woodland areas, with many trees being affected by an invasive fungal disease. For example, ash dieback is lethal to European ash trees and arrived in the UK naturally through wind-blown spores and via the movement of infected trees, some years before it was first identified.

The costs to DEFRA and county councils to deal with the issue is not insignificant and this work will go a long way to maximise the efficiency of the highly skilled, but limited resources available. By using satellite technology to accurately identify and locate affected trees, government can optimise the deployment of ground teams, sending them directly to the source of the problem. They can also remove affected trees that may become a hazard to the general public.

Tim Vallings, Chief Commercial Officer at Rezatec comments As a result of our initial project, we have demonstrated to DEFRA an evidence-based approach to accurate and cost-effective monitoring, over a wide area focusing on species identification and tree health by specific species. For the first time, species maps can be used as a reference for targeting areas of most need and we are pleased to be expanding the project nationwide, providing DEFRA and the wider community at county council level with this ability”.

Rezatec works with forestry owners and operators around the world providing a range of forestry services including tree species mapping, harvest volume metrics, early detection of pest and disease, storm damage and burn severity mapping.

Why Canadian forestry companies are one card short of a royal flush

It’s been a tough year for the Canadian forestry industry. A combination of factors has seen both the price and demand for lumber drop, leading to the closure of several mills and a significant drop in output.

This can be seen, in part, as a strategic move by the timber companies owing to the unique way in which the Canadian timber market operates and their liability to the Crown.

In difficult market conditions, regular and accurate data is the missing card to a winning hand.

The Canadian Timber Market

The vast majority of forested land in Canada is owned by the Crown. Timber companies typically lease this land on a long-term cycle, allowing them management and harvesting rights. In return, the timber companies pay the Crown stumpage fees (calculated at the start of the lease period and fixed for the duration), as well as face a quota on how much timber can be cut for the duration of the lease, known as the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC).

In the situation where the price of logs or lumber falls and crown stumpage fees remain unchanged, this will lead to lower margins – even losses – and, so, decreased viability. The natural reaction is to reduce operations and wait for the price of lumber to stabilise; however, this means reduced revenue, inefficiency and the loss of livelihood for employees.

What’s causing the fall in lumber prices

There are a number of factors that have adversely affected the price of Canadian logs and lumber in the first half of 2019:

US housing market
There has been a drop in demand for lumber due to a slowdown in the US housing market. Fewer houses are being built leading to a decrease in demand.

Tariffs
Canadian lumber is subject to US tariffs, making it more expensive to sell into the US market. Additionally, the escalating trade war between the US and China has had ramifications for lumber prices across the whole of North America. With less US timber being exported to China, there is greater domestic supply.

Low inventory
Log inventories have been adversely impacted by wildfire-related logging curtailments, particularly in the Pacific North West. Wet weather and pest have also had adverse effects.

How to beat the dealer

One option would be to sit it out and wait for the price of lumber to increase but, with AAC quotas to meet and shareholders to report into, this is not an attractive proposition for most forestry leaders.

A more beneficial solution is to improve your hand and find a way to operate profitably through even the toughest of market conditions, and maximise margins using new technology and better data.

Satellite data and machine learning algorithms are providing valuable new insights into forestry operations. Having up-to-date data on forest inventory; being able to accurately forecast 5-year cycles; and mitigate the risk of fire, pest and disease allows forestry leaders to improve the efficiency of their operations and identify the most profitable parcels of land for harvesting and acquisition.

Rezatec’s forest monitoring and management data services enable improved margins, enhanced competitive advantage and optimised forest management. Many of the leading forestry companies are already adopting this technology and capitalising on the insights it provides. Those that don’t risk being left in the dark.

Why forestry leaders need to meet an army with an army (but get high first)

For many forestry leaders bark beetle can feel like an army marching across the forests of Northern Europe, causing devastation, and reducing timber prices and margins in its wake. Each successive year seems to threaten more damage than the one preceding it. According to Landskogsbruk in Sweden 17% more timber has been harvested than during the first five months of last year, primarily due to the army of beetles, and of course, we’re seeing timber prices drop in response to the surplus.

It’s hardly news that warmer seasonal temperatures driven by climate change is one of the biggest contributing factors to this growth. But what’s especially worrying is that entomologists are noting that with the increase in beetle populations, and the requirement of this army to feed, they are increasingly targeting healthier trees as opposed to rotten ones. Another impact on margin.

What’s to be done? Well despite those first two paragraphs of doom, don’t panic. To beat an army, you just need to think and act like one.

That process starts by recognising that modern warfare is a balance of the tried and tested ancient techniques developed hundreds of years ago by military leaders such as Sun Tzu, combined with the modern machinery of warfare, and that’s where the gap appears.

For many foresters, conducting ground surveys hasn’t really changed since the early 1900s, with the welcome exception of GPS referencing to improve it’s location accuracy. Teams go out into the woods, armed with tape measures, pencils, and a pad of real paper… They inspect the trees health in several small sample plots and use those estimates to gauge the entire forest.

We’re seeing the same ‘sampling’ approach with spruce beetle. One Nordic newspaper reported recently on the forester who is training his dog to sniff out bark beetle, we’ve met organisations that have bulk purchased drones and are hiring students to operate them across thousands of square kms of forest. It’s not that any of this is wrong, but it’s in danger of being the approach of a bunch of guerrilla troops – not an equipped and disciplined force.

Now, before anyone gets too offended, we think the brutal reality of bark beetle, and other invasive pests, is that Foresters need to assemble an army – with all the weapons and troops at their disposal. That might include dogs, drones and even, perhaps spy beetles able to penetrate enemy ranks and pass back messages on their movements. The key isn’t in whether they’re old or young, big or small, tried and tested or cutting-edge – they key is in how and where you choose to deploy them.

However, before you deploy your troops, as a great general you need to able to survey the battlefield. That means gaining the best vantage point. You need to get high. That used to mean hills, helicopters or planes. Today that means frequent satellite surveys. Anyone not regularly using satellite to identify spruce beetle outbreaks as close to when they start as possible, is risking reputation and margin. Yes, we would say that, we’re the leader in satellite-derived data analytics for forestry, but we still meet foresters who don’t trust satellite data, or use an annual snapshot (or even less frequently) to map an army who moves in weeks not months – and certainly not years. They are either too low, too little or too late.

Once you’ve surveyed the battlefield then you can decide where to send the dog, the drones and the teams. The key is focus and speed. Deploy your expensive resources exactly where you need them based on good intel, not where you think you might need them based on an outdated espionage technique.

It’s the combination of intel and resources that makes the difference to protecting profitability. Spotting beetle quickly, and deploying teams effectively can rescue lumber value, and may even help control disease spread.

The fundamental rules of battle haven’t changed in thousands of years, all that has really changed are the tools to wage it with. But above all, in the battle against the effects of Spruce Beetle, our message is clear – meet an army with an army.

Satellites vs. Lidar for Forestry Management?

Traditionally, monitoring and managing large forests has been a very costly and labour-intensive activity; involving ground teams to walk and observe a representative sample of forest. In recent years however, two new forms of forest analysis have emerged: Lidar and Satellites. Each offers new levels of data and insight not previously available to forest owners, but each with different characteristics.

Understanding the features of each method is crucial to identifying how and when to apply them to best effect.

In this blog post we look to unravel the two technologies to help foresters to gain a deeper understanding of both.

Lidar Data

Lidar (light detection and ranging) is an optical remote-sensing technique that uses laser light to examine the surface of the earth. Benefits of Lidar data include having high accuracy and good detail, however there are several drawbacks. Firstly, due to the labour-intensive process of collecting the data the costs are very high, this would typically include aircraft, employment costs and equipment. Then the price of obtaining the Lidar data isn’t the only thing you’ll have to pay for… The data will have to be processed by a highly skilled analyst and presented in a way that’s understandable showing the commercially important insights that were gathered.

Another disadvantage of Lidar is the gap between data updates, which can often be 5 – 10 years. By the time you’ve got your set of data, paid for someone to analyse it and are ready to use it, it could be out of date and your forest could look completely different. There could have been an infestation of beetles, or even fire damage! You’ll then have to wait up to 10 years to go through the whole process again and recapture a new set of data.

Realistically Lidar is only used to look at a portion of the forest, rather than a tool to manage the entire forest.

Satellite Data

Satellites can provide both optical and radar data across your entire forest. The refresh rates are also much higher with satellites typically passing overhead every week (cloud cover permitting). This frequency of monitoring allows for a much faster response to events, as well as temporal analysis – monitoring change over time.

The combination of both optical and radar data also affords a much wider range of applications. For example, you can determine tree species, mensuration and health analysis. The continuous management of forests using such up-to-date information means there are fewer chances to miss environmental and health changes. This can play an important factor in ensuring insurance claims are valid, by detecting things like fire and storm damage much quicker.

Satellite data has other advantages over Lidar; it is much less weather dependant as synthetic-aperture radar (a form of radar that is used to create two-dimensional images) can penetrate cloud cover, whatever the weather.

Image: Rezatec portal showing tree species distribution 

How to use this data?

Whichever method of gathering data you use, you’ll soon realise the biggest percentage of forest management costs arise from ground truthing, to make the data you’ve captured useful. With satellite data the need for ground-based manual data collection can now be minimised with the use of machine learning algorithms. This can reduce the amount of validation required and improve ground-based efficiency and targeting. So you only visit the relevant areas, hugely reducing costs.

Summary

Both Lidar and satellite data provide useful insights and can be used to complement each other. Rezatec’s GIS platform can incorporate Lidar as well as a number of other data sources, but satellite data is unique in its versatility, frequency of updates and ability to monitor very large areas.

By using earth observation satellite data, you get a continuous large-scale view of your forest. You can pair this with existing Lidar data you already have to enrich your view or use the satellite data as your stand-alone forestry management analytics.

Want to find out more? Download our guide: ‘Satellite-derived forestry intelligence’ or request a demo.

British Columbia Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society confirms successful completion of forest regrowth mapping project with Rezatec

Since March 2018, Rezatec has worked with British Columbia Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society (BC OGRIS) to map vegetation regrowth across a significant area of 80,000 km2 in NE British Columbia, Canada to support Caribou habitat restoration efforts.

Working with local partner Forsite, Rezatec has successfully demonstrated its geospatial data analytics in use as a cost-effective solution to support the assessment of vegetation regrowth along man-made features such as access roads, pipelines, legacy seismic lines, and well sites over very large areas. This capability provides an effective and affordable means to estimate vegetation regrowth at a landscape level – such as ground survey efforts – that have been prohibitive due to the size and remoteness of the areas of interest.

By applying its geospatial artificial intelligence technology, Rezatec has been able to model vegetation height across the 80,000 km2 target area. This can be used to provide detailed canopy information, showing major disturbances, vegetation patterns and larger linear clearings. Where this analysis identified canopy heights of less than five meters, it was used as an indicator that vegetation regrowth may be insufficient and restoration work may be required. This analysis has narrowed the area requiring detailed restoration assessment work in NE British Columbia, as well as provide a robust platform for estimating vegetation height across the whole area on a repeatable basis.

Dr. Steve Wilson, lead researcher for BC OGRIS’s boreal caribou research envelope, remarked, “Rezatec worked professionally and efficiently throughout the project and the data we have received as a result will help us identify areas to focus our restoration efforts. In addition, BC OGRIS will share the findings with its members and stakeholders as the model accuracy in the mid-height range is very encouraging as a tool for managing British Columbia’s natural resource land base.”

Cameron Brown, Strategic Planning Forester & Team Leader at Forsite commented: “We look forward to continuing our partnership with Rezatec to provide repeatable, scalable and innovative forestry services to our clients using the application of Earth Observation data.”

Tim Vallings, Vice President of Global Resources, at Rezatec stated, “As a result of our project, we are very pleased to have provided BC OGRIS with a proven solution that can provide a quick and accurate quantitative assessment of forest areas that indicate successful versus insufficient regrowth. We are now looking at how we can apply other geospatial data products to benefit other parts of their operations”.

Rezatec aims to provide its estimated vegetation regrowth analytics to other areas in Canada where Caribou populations are being actively managed as well as looking at other indigenous species such as wolves and owls.

To learn more about this project or any of Rezatec’s services, please call +44 (0)1865 817 500.

Identifying Spruce Beetle infestations earlier using satellite data

Spruce Beetles have become an increasing threat to the forestry industry over recent decades. Outbreaks used to be episodic but are now at epidemic levels in many parts of the world.

Once an infestation is identified, it is a race against time to contain the outbreak and salvage affected timber before it loses its commercial value.

Rezatec, leading providers of geospatial data analytics for the forestry sector, have produced a guide: ‘Identify Spruce Beetle Infestations Earlier Using Satellite Data’, which examines how beetle infestation affects timber quality over time, the challenges of identifying infected trees using traditional methods, and how multi-spectral satellite data can help to identify affected stands before they lose much of their commercial value.

By assessing multi-spectral bands such as infra-red to measure more subtle indicators of plant health, infestation can be detected up to three months earlier than when using purely visual methods.

Tim Vallings, Vice President, Global Resources at Rezatec commented: “Identifying diseased trees as early as June allows foresters to validate, plan and fell in the same year, and thereby sell the timber as much as a year earlier than traditional methods allow to obtain a better market price.”

The key benefits of using satellite data to identify Spruce Beetle infestations are:

  • Regularly monitor subtle changes in tree health across entire forest
  • Identify outbreaks up to three months earlier
  • Salvage and sell timber up to one year earlier

Rezatec have produced a number of other guides relating to the application of satellite data for effective forest management including: tree species identification from space and a comparison of the benefits of satellite and lidar data for forestry analytics.

To learn more about how regularly updated satellite data could help you to better manage your forest or woodland, email info@rezatec.com or call +44 (0)1865 817500.

Funding

Rezatec completes follow-on investment led by Harbert European Growth Capital to underpin continued global expansion

World-leading geospatial data analytics company Rezatec has announced a follow-on investment to its 2018 £2m Seed Round equity financing round, with Harbert European Growth Capital now providing a substantial growth debt facility to the Company.  This new facility will lend additional financial support to Rezatec as it continues its rapid rate of new customer acquisition across North America, Africa and Asia Pacific. Rezatec is seeing particularly strong demand for its geospatial data analytics in the Forestry, Infrastructure and Water sectors worldwide. This financing round follows on from a financial year that saw Rezatec subscription revenues grow by 7x from Q1 FY18 to Q4 FY18.

Rezatec plans to significantly expand its portfolio of proprietary geospatial technologies in the coming months. This expansion of Rezatec data science, machine learning and software tools will serve to meet new customer demand in existing vertical markets and beyond. The Company anticipates completing a substantial Series A transaction in the period ahead to finance this expansion of the business and its operations.

Patrick Newton, Chief Executive Officer at Rezatec stated, “We are very pleased to have secured the support of Harbert in building the Rezatec business. Their focus on high growth, innovative technology companies makes them an ideal fit for our business.”

Fahad Khan, Vice President at Harbert European Growth Capital said “We are delighted to partner with Rezatec’s strong management team and give them a global network in addition to capital to help support their growth ambitions. We are pleased to bring our close relationships within the European and American technology sector and welcome Rezatec to a portfolio of over 70 high growth companies”.

Rezatec delivers accurate, cost-efficient, highly valuable and scalable satellite data analytics to optimise the use of natural and man-made assets in the Forestry, Water, Agriculture and Infrastructure sectors.

Tree species mapping from space – it’s revolutionary!

Whether you’re the owner of a small private woodland or a forestry company responsible for millions of acres, Rezatec have created a free, useful guide on identifying and mapping tree species distribution.

Understanding what tree species you have and where they are is critical for effective forest management and commercial decision-making. The ‘Earth Observation for Tree Species Mapping’ guide, available here, explores the common challenges of identifying species using traditional aerial technologies and how satellite data can be used to quickly, accurately and cost-effectively identify and map tree species distribution.

Tim Vallings, Vice President, Global Resources at Rezatec commented:  “It shows you what’s going on in the entire forest, not just small parts of it, giving you a complete and accurate picture of tree species and their location.”

Rezatec presents the data in an online portal which makes it easy to understand for any stakeholder as well as taking the risk out of commercial ventures and supporting informed business decisions.

Tree species identification from satellite data requires calibration plots of less than 1 per 100 acres. Compared to other methods, this represents a significant saving in operational time and money.

The key benefits of using satellite data in tree species mapping are:

  • Savings of up to 80% in operational expenditure,
  • Refreshes up to every week,
  • Tree species accuracy up to 90%

So far, Rezatec have mapped tree species distribution to meet a variety of requirements across an expanding list of locations around the world, including the UK, US, Europe, Canada and Australia. Their robust methodology enables an ever-growing number of species to be classified with 80 to 90% accuracy, supporting informed commercial decisions. Rezatec can apply confidence limits for risk assessment, and as a result can create data suitable for a range of users.

To find out more about how your business could benefit from the detailed tree species insights they can provide using earth observation data contact Rezatec on +44 (0)1865 817500 or email info@rezatec.com . In the meantime, you could also learn more by reading their case studies on forested asset decision support and forest mapping in British Columbia.

Rezatec and Eden Project partnership secures ESA funding to promote benefits of Earth Observation (EO) data for small-scale land owners.

Global leaders in geospatial data analytics, Rezatec, working in partnership with the Eden Project, an educational charity, have successfully been awarded funding from the European Space Agency’s Business Applications to demonstrate the benefits of Earth Observational data as part of a major public exhibition.

Invisible Worlds, a new permanent exhibition at the Eden Project, introduces the interconnectedness of life and the Earth’s varied environments at all scales, exploring how life shapes, and is shaped by, an invisible ‘Life Support System’. The joint activity involves the curation of an area within the exhibition, dedicated to the impact of geospatial analytics. The exhibition aims to highlight how the interpretation of Earth Observation data can provide innovative and alternative landscape intelligence, with a particular focus on forests and agricultural land.

“Eden is pleased to be working with Rezatec and this project will serve as a great opportunity to bring the good work that is being done by ESA and Rezatec to the forefront of public consciousness. The exhibit will serve as a great shop window and has the potential to inspire further action both commercially and within the public sector.” explained Gabriella Gilkes, Project Lead, The Eden Project.

“Rezatec is really excited to be working with such an inspirational organisation as the Eden Project made possible through funding from ESA’s Business Applications. Satellite-derived data analytics is highly relevant to addressing global challenges in response to increasing demands being placed on land and its efficient use, which are being fuelled by growing populations, water and food security challenges and more efficient natural resource management,” commented Tim Vallings, VP Global Resources, Rezatec.

Rezatec and the Eden Project, drawing upon their respective areas of expertise, will explore how the analytics generated for the exhibit could benefit individual growers or forest owners with small areas under management, by providing commercially valuable and actionable decision support tools accessed via a self-service, digital platform. In addition, these analytics could also be provided as an operational service to other creative installations at relevant institutions and organisations around the world.

To find out more about the Invisible Worlds exhibition at the Eden Project, visit: https://www.edenproject.com/visit/whats-here/invisible-worlds-exhibition.

rezatec

Rezatec extends its global reach into Canada with its geospatial data analytics for the forestry sector

Rezatec, the leading provider of geospatial data analytics to the Forestry sector, today announced that it is to provide its forestry attribute data products to the BC Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society (BC OGRIS), the not-for-profit society enabling research to inform environmental matters related to oil and gas exploration and development in British Columbia.

In the area of interest, there is an extensive history of anthropogenic disturbance, particularly from oil & gas and forestry activities. Knowledge of the state of vegetation regrowth on features such as seismic lines, abandoned pipeline corridors, roads and well pads is required to prioritise restoration treatments where the rate of regeneration is currently insufficient.

Working closely with local partner Forsite, a leading provider of forest management services to government and industry in Canada, Rezatec will map the estimated tree height and density of canopy cover across a vast study area of over 80,000 km2.  The resulting map will cover all anthropogenic features of interest and also the surrounding forest to provide a comparative reference of regeneration status. Existing methods to estimate regrowth in this area have provided only a coarse classification of regeneration status; the Rezatec approach will provide greater detail while also establishing a repeatable method that can be used to refresh the inventory in future years.

Rezatec algorithms process optical and radar satellite data with ground-based sensor data to deliver predictive and dynamic monitoring analysis to its customers.  Access to data is provided via an annual subscription model and Rezatec’s automated and scalable products deliver substantial payback for customers across areas of interest that range in size from a square mile to millions of acres.

A BG OGRIS spokesperson said, “The joint industry-BC government research team funded by BC OGRIS are keen to utilize the latest in satellite derived intelligence to understand the state of vegetation recovery on disturbed sites in northern BC. This technology has the potential to focus our restoration efforts and ensure investments achieve maximum benefit to caribou habitat.”

Cameron Brown, Strategic Planning Forester & Team Leader at Forsite commented: “Forsite is really excited about the innovative capabilities that satellite data can now provide to the forestry sector and with Rezatec as our partner, we can enable our clients to be more productive, more efficient and more profitable.”

“Rezatec is now the world’s number one provider of geospatial data analytics to the forestry sector and our expansion into Canada continues to support our growth and industry proven tools”, stated Tim Vallings, Vice President of Global Resources, at Rezatec.

In the forestry sector, Rezatec also provides geospatial data services for species identification mapping, mensuration and forest inventory management, forest health monitoring and wind blow mapping. Rezatec users also include major utilities, agribusinesses, large forestry groups, consulting partners and governments worldwide.