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First to market with new soil moisture-based drought insurance solution


How the University of Surrey collaborated with Mantle Labs to assist the company’s Earth observation measurements

Mantle Labs is a leading remote sensing company, providing digital agriculture solutions related to crop monitoring. The company has over 20 years’ of experience in remote sensing, petabyte scale AI and streaming data analytics.

To complete a major project to measure soil moisture in crop fields, Mantle Labs signed up to SPRINT to collaborate with remote sensing experts from the University of Surrey. The project was aimed at integrating Earth observation satellite data and hydrological modelling to inform on field-specific soil moisture.

Discovering a solution for drought insurance

The University of Surrey provided Mantle Labs with research expertise on hydrological models to complement the company’s Earth observation measurements. This soil moisture information was then integrated into Mantle Labs’ existing insurance platform to develop a new soil moisture-based drought insurance product.

Following the development of this product, Mantle Labs is now the first remote sensing company in the world to offer end-to-end parametric index insurance products covering the entire spectrum of the agriculture industry, from pre-sowing to harvest.

Mantle Labs can now provide insurers with historical satellite data, complemented by near real-time in season analysis, giving greater clarity of crop conditions on the ground.

Outcomes of the SPRINT project included:

  • Accelerated development of insurance-linked product from 18 to just four months, to make it the first product on the market
  • Reduces uncertainty from soil moisture by up to 18 per cent
  • Enables insurance companies to offer extremely cost-effective and affordable index-based insurance to small holder farmers
  • Co-supervising University of Surrey PhD research student

Enabling a real market first

Jon Pierre, President at Mantle Labs said: “The SPRINT project was an excellent example of a successful academic and industry collaboration. We were able to leverage the remote sensing expertise and leading-edge research capabilities of the University of Surrey to find a promising way of identifying field parameters for soil moisture.

“The University of Surrey’s expertise, enabled by the SPRINT funding, helped us to facilitate a unique and innovative insurance product, a real market first.

“Previously, due to a lack of historical agriculture data, crop failures caused by different perils were not covered by insurers in a cost-effective manner. This meant that the estimated 500 million smallholder farmers throughout the world couldn’t get access to insurance. We can now access soil moisture readings at a very granular level, helping farmers to access more affordable insurance and credit.”

Jon Pierre, President, Mantle Labs

Getting new product ready for commercialisation

Dr Belen Marti-Cardona, Lecturer in Remote Sensing and Hydrology in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the University of Surrey added: “Soil moisture products do exist but their footprint is too large for informing of conditions in individual fields. By integrating remote sensing data with soil moisture modelling, we have helped Mantle Labs to create new field moisture product that can be accessed in near real-time for commercial exploitation.”

Dr Belen Marti-Cardona, Lecturer at the University of Surrey

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