Venture Southland enterprise projects manager Robin McNeill
(left) and CGC project engineer Stuart Watkin stand outside
Planet-Labs' radome at the Awaura Satellite Ground Station.
Photo by Leeana Tamati
A commercial agreement between Venture Southland and an
international space information company may result in farmers
being able to access up-to-date satellite images of their
A 5m antenna has been constructed inside a 7m radome on
Venture's Awarua property as part of the agreement between
the Southland organisation and Planet-Labs, based in San
The antenna is one of only two in the world which will
download satellite images as they are taken by spacecraft
orbiting the earth, and send the images to Planet-Labs'
headquarters in San Francisco.
Venture enterprise project manager Robin McNeill said as part
of the agreement, Venture Southland had rights to the images
downloaded, which could be utilised by farmers to see a
bird's-eye view of their properties.
''We want to use the images for primary production industry
in Southland - farmers could have a much better understanding
of how much feed is in their pasture, what forestry is going
on, what logging is taking place and what potentially could
However, it would be several months before the antenna and
satellite spacecraft were operational, and even longer before
it was decided what to do with the images, Mr McNeill said.
''There is quite a lot of water to go under the bridge. This
is a fledgling industry. We are having discussions with a few
people about what to do next.
''Will the images be as good as we need them? We won't know
until we see them.''
Planet-Lab's goal was to have satellites capturing images
every minute of the day, essentially taking new photos of the
entire Earth each day.
''What these guys are doing is a new way of earth observation
The questions are: is it going to work, is there a market for
it, and is it financially viable? It will be interesting to
see,'' Mr McNeill said.
There was potential for the citizen space information company
to be involved with humanitarian issues, as well as search
''They are still thinking and we are still thinking of
different ways to use this technology.''
- by Leeana Tamati