Monday, 18 November 2019 10:01

NZ firm to monitor global lakes

Written by  Nigel Malthus
A SLIMS screenshot of Lake Ellesmere. A SLIMS screenshot of Lake Ellesmere.

A Christchurch company has won a major technology contest with a satellite-based remote sensing solution that could monitor the water quality of every lake globally.

Seequent’s Lake Indicator Modelling System (SLIMS) takes satellite imagery data, and models and visualises it through time to detect lake health changes as they occur.
The system has been awarded the grand prize at the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge 2019, in which entrants had to present new methods of harnessing satellite and unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) data to improve detection of agricultural pollution.

The runner-up to Seequent was New Plymouth-based Drone Technologies, for its real-time model measuring water health along rivers and streams.

The event was run by ChristchurchNZ with aerospace multinational Airbus and other partners. 

The organisers said satellite and drone technology offered “huge” opportunities in tackling the two major challenges facing agriculture globally: reducing water pollution and maintaining soil health. 

Daniel Wallace, Seequent general manager for civil and environmental, says water quality and the health of our lakes sustains our way of life. 

“It’s not economical to visit all lakes to monitor adverse environmental impacts, but with satellite remote sensing every lake can be monitored virtually. 

“Algal blooms, sediment events and other adverse changes in lake health, which could otherwise be unseen and unknown, suddenly emerge with our new monitoring solution. 

“Subsequently these lakes could be visited to further investigate the health degradation,” said Wallace.

Seequent says only 2% of lakes are now monitored by established methods, but SLIMS could effectively and economically monitor the health of all New Zealand’s 3820 lakes.

Wallace says commercialisation is “a way off” but Seequent is discussing pricing and bundling the system in ways that make sure the value is sound for authorities in New Zealand and overseas.

The winning team included collaborators from Lincoln Agritech and the Waterways Centre for Freshwater Management, and had support from Environment Canterbury and the University of Waikato. 

They received a cash prize of $30,000, over $15,000 of Airbus data vouchers, $2500 of legal support and an offer of commercialisation support from Xstart, a tech incubator at the University of Canterbury’s Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Andrew Mathewson, managing director Airbus Australia Pacific, said the Challenge demonstrated that space technology and sustainability are converging in new and exciting ways. “There is so much opportunity to use satellite data to better manage agricultural activities, but also to combat global environmental challenges like climate change.

Seequent’s solution is a great example of this type of innovative and practical technology to enable better management of our environment.”

The judges included Valentin Merino Villeneuve, head of Airbus Defence & Space Australasia.
“Seequent’s winning solution demonstrated the potential of commercialising existing satellite data to monitor environmental challenges on the ground.

It is these tangible solutions that will drive innovation and change in how we research and respond to our changing world,” he said.

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