Technology firms Origin Digital and Aspia Space have announced a technological innovation that is set to change grassland farming.

The new technology precisely measures the height of grass from space and will be available in Ireland later this year as part of Origin Digital's 'GrassMax' service.

It provides revolutionary insight for boosting farm productivity and profitability and enables organisations and businesses to confirm sustainable practices in the livestock supply chain.

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

“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,” he explained.

With the assistance of their Irish parent company Origin Enterprises and a strong network of farmers and agronomists, Origin Digital was able to develop this ground-breaking measurement technology in collaboration with Aspia Space, a company that specialises in artificial intelligence and earth observation.

Savings on farm

Farmer and grassland digital specialist at Origin Enterprises Kieran Holden is excited about the ability to measure grass height remotely.

He said that this is “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.”

The GrassMax app is said to enable farmers to increase grass utilisation on their farms. Holden also explained that “grass utilisation alone accounts for 44% of the variation in net profit per hectare on dairy farms”.

Each additional tonne of grass utilised per hectare translates to a €256 increase in profit

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

"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," Holden said.

Product manager for GrassMax at Origin Digital Devlyn Hardwick stated: “The businesses that partner with grassland farmers can also benefit through our GrassMax service.

"In particular, GrassMax enables businesses to track live and forecasted grass yield, how many days animals are at grass in the fields and a host of other metrics targeted at increasing fertility, yield and efficiency to meet the growing demand for milk and dairy products sustainably.

“This insight not only helps strengthen their relationships with individual farmers through a better understanding of their situation, it also provides increased visibility across their portfolio on metrics from overall feed and fodder requirements to key sustainability targets,” he explained.

This is a grass height map.

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

“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 700 kilometres 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.

"Not only can we map the grass height down to a resolution of 10m and see variations across a paddock, but we can also monitor how it is changing over time,” Smith concluded.

Later this year, GrassMax will be introduced in Ireland. Origin Digital and Aspia Space then intend to localise their ground-breaking remote measurement technology to more regions and climes around the world and to create additional products that unlock cutting-edge data insights to support profitable, sustainable farming.