A world-first technology breakthrough that could revolutionise grassland farming and grass measuring has today (Tuesday, July 18) been announced by technology companies Origin Digital and Aspia Space. 

Launching in Ireland later this year as part of Origin Digital’s ‘GrassMax’ service, the new technology accurately measures the height of grass from space.

The companies claim it offers groundbreaking insight for increasing farm productivity and profitability, while also enabling organisations and businesses to verify sustainability practices in the livestock supply chain.

Duncan Robertson, head of research and development (R&D) at Origin Digital, said: “This is a game-changing moment for grassland farmers and the businesses that partner with them.

“For the first time, they can remotely and automatically calculate the quantity of grass in their fields and paddocks, on a regular basis and at scale.

“This enables farmers to make better-informed decisions regarding grazing schedules, animal nutrition, and silage cuts for example, resulting in less waste and a more stable, sustainable food supply.”

GrassMax app

Kieran Holden, grassland digital specialist at Origin Enterprises, added: “As a farmer myself, I’m really excited about the ability to measure grass height remotely, because it brings huge benefits to grass management while eliminating what is currently a laborious manual measurement process.

“This will save Irish farmers around two hours per week, or €1,600 per year, in measurement costs alone.

“But the main benefit is in how farmers like me can use this data through the GrassMax app to increase grass utilisation on their farms.”

Grass utilisation

Holden explained that grass utilisation alone accounts for 44% of the variation in net profit per hectare on dairy farms.

In Ireland, each additional tonne of grass utilised per hectare translates to a €256 increase in profit.

The companies claim that integrating this automated grass measurement data into GrassMax will give it even more power to help farmers optimise their grass use, with even a half tonne per hectare increase in utilisation equating to a €10,000 increase in profitability on an 80ha farm.

Devlyn Hardwick, GrassMax product manager at Origin Digital, said: “The businesses that partner with grassland farmers can also benefit through our GrassMax service, which uses this game-changing new technology alongside the on-farm decision-support app to build a real-time picture of aggregated farm insight.

“This insight has many applications, from helping businesses and farmers achieve sustainable growth to verifying sustainability practices and scope 3 emissions on farm, and enhancing supply chain security and sustainability.” 

Through Irish parent company Origin Enterprises, Origin Digital said it has unique access to a vast pool of ground-truth and field-trial data alongside a strong network of farmers and agronomic experts, which has helped it build this breakthrough measurement technology in partnership with earth observation and artificial intelligence (AI) experts Aspia Space.  

Aspia Space co-founder and director of AI Dr. Mike Smith said: “Earth observation satellites literally provide an eye in the sky that offers the potential to monitor every single field on a regular basis.

“Aspia Space’s patented ClearSky technology uses a generative AI algorithm to deliver cloud-free imagery of the ground, making satellite data more reliable, especially for agricultural applications.

“Through our partnership with Origin Digital, we have developed a new AI solution that uses ClearSky imagery to estimate grass height to within an accuracy of just 1.5cm from a vantage point of nearly 700km up in space.

“To put it in context, imagine standing in a field in Amsterdam and being able to accurately measure the height of the grass in a field in Dublin,” he added