Objectives of the service
The DryGro SEIA project is developing new ways to produce an alternative to soybean meal on dry land. Soybeans are currently one of the world’s four most-produced crops, and are the single crop expected to expand land use the most globally. Traditionally, soy expansion has often come through deforestation. The development of sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives to meet industry needs is critical to feed the world of 2050.
DryGro is building a solution to this challenge that we believe can satisfy those criteria. Our product is Lemna, part of the duckweed family of aquatic plants. When produced using DryGro technology, Lemna has the potential to viably fill this animal feed protein market gap – grown 8x faster than soybeans, using 99% less water, and produced on otherwise arid or semi-arid land.
The DryGro SEIA project brings together DryGro, BuildX, RHEA, and Hyper Collective, using a combination of engineering, plant science and space asset expertise to further demonstrate this technology and prepare it for industrial scale implementation.
Users and their needs
As DryGro’s product serves as a direct replacement for soybean meal, several distinct customers are applicable. These customers range in scale from individual farmers, local feed mixers, national level feed mixers, through to multinational agricultural commodity traders. Our customers have several major requirements:
- Consistent quality product
- High protein content
- Consistent shipments (quantity) of product
- Strong product performance in animal / aquaculture feed trials
These customers are found world-wide, but there are certain markets where our technology and business model have a more sizable advantage.
DryGro is currently operating in Kenya and the UK.
Service/ system concept
DryGro’s technology relies on a combination of active and passive climate management systems that allow us to maintain optimum growth conditions, even in harsh environment like Kenya. These systems rely on a steady stream of data which we aggregate from terrestrial sensors, earth observation data, weather forecast products, and data added manually by our team.
This combined stream of information helps DryGro to make important decisions relating to such things as:
- plant care,
- nutrient application rates,
- climate control,
- error detection,
- harvest strategy
Space Added Value
Sensing local ambient conditions throughout our systems is critical to the underlying technical viability of this agricultural approach. The environments where DryGro will operate are defined by particularly harsh weather patterns and often limited existing infrastructure. Growth units are impacted by temperature, downward radiation, humidity, and precipitation. Thermal management decisions must accurately account for real-time conditions while deploying weather forecasting to optimize long-term conditions and avoid overheating, chilling, moisture issues, nutrient precipitation, and a range of other issues.
The pilot will demonstrate the DryGro technology with 6 growth units, covering approximately 45,000m2. However, DryGro’s ambition is for installations covering up to 8 Km2, where Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO) data can bring significant gains in terms of
- Site selection
- Better local weather forecasts
- Improving climate monitoring when only sparse in-situ measurements are possible
- Providing measurements that would be expensive or unreliable from terrestrial sensors
- Identification of possible water/moisture leakage and/or damage to the units
SatEO will be used for four main purposes in the pilot:
- To support site selection for a new site
- To support monitoring of the units external environment
- To support monitoring of the units’ internal environment
- To investigate possible leakage/damage (e.g. using hi-resolution data)
DryGro has made significant progress over the last six months, completing acceptance testing and inoculation of the first growing unit at the M2 facility in Kenya. The team’s focus has shifted toward operations, in preparation for product quality evaluation as well as the integration of DryGro’s Data Platform into the processes underway on site. A new plant science technician will be added to the team next month, increasing capacity to collect and analyse data from the growth system to boost the data platform validation process. The team has also begun receiving real-time environmental monitoring data from site. The Critical Design Review was held on 02 March 2021 and the Operational Readiness Review is planned for September 2021.