ESA title

Messium Nitrogen Estimator

Data Segment
  • Data Analytics, Insights & Applications
  • Data Processing & Visualisation
  • Product Development
Messium Ltd. is a UK-based technology start-up addressing problems in the agricultural sector using cutting-edge hyperspectral satellite technology. Through ESA InCubed, we are building the Messium Nitrogen Estimator, allowing farmers to optimise the amount of nitrogen fertiliser they apply each year, helping them to increase yields, make cost savings and create a more environmentally friendly farming sector in the UK and beyond.
Objectives of the Product

The Messium Nitrogen Estimator addresses a critical challenge faced by farmers – uncertainty in determining the optimal nitrogen application. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient, playing a critical role in farmers’ ability to influence yield and profitability, accounting for 57% of total fertiliser use and 35% of the average wheat farmer’s costs. Despite this, farmers and agronomists rely largely on guesswork and intuition when determining how much fertiliser to apply and when. Existing technologies are inaccurate, costly, time-consuming and labour-intensive, thus non-scalable.

The Messium Nitrogen Estimator, powered by cutting-edge hyperspectral satellite constellations launched in 2023, is a step-change improvement. The product provides farmers with weekly insights into nitrogen concentration at a high spatial resolution, with insights offered to optimise fertiliser application. By using the tool, farmers can increase crop yields, enhance crop quality, and thus increase their farm revenues. Conversely, if they currently over-apply, the tool will help them reduce their nitrogen use, resulting in significant cost savings, a more profitable farm and less environmental harm. Our SaaS model facilitates quick adoption of the product. Starting in 2025, we offer per-hectare-per-year subscriptions. We gain market access through partnerships with farming groups, fertiliser producers, and agronomists in the UK and beyond.

Customers and their Needs

Our end users are farmers and agronomists who directly interface with the product and its application in their daily activities. Secondary customers, such as farming groups, fertiliser producers, and agronomists, are the intermediaries within the distribution chain. They play a pivotal role in getting the product into the hands of the primary customers, through their well-established sales channels and access to the market. Messium sells both directly to primary customers, as well as to secondary customers through revenue-sharing partnerships.

Farmers and agronomists require visibility of the crop nitrogen concentration and nutritional insights for optimal fertiliser application to ensure neither over nor under application. With nitrogen costs sky high, contributing to over 35% farm costs, and a crackdown by governments on nitrate leaching causing environmental harm, farmers are looking for an intuitive, accurate, frequent and cost-effective solution that necessitates minimal behaviour change.

During this activity, farmers actively participate in the trials we conduct. These farmers play a crucial role as our early adopters, benefiting from discounted subscription costs when the product is launched. Their involvement not only contributes to the refinement of our solution but also establishes a mutually beneficial relationship that fosters trust and loyalty within our user community.

Targeted customer/users countries

United Kingdom, Australia, US & Canada initially.

Product description

Hyperspectral satellites represent a transformative advancement in remote sensing technology, offering a comprehensive and detailed perspective of Earth’s surface. Unlike conventional satellites that capture imagery across a broad spectrum of wavelengths, hyperspectral satellites break down the electromagnetic spectrum into numerous finely spaced bands, allowing for a highly nuanced analysis of materials and environmental conditions. Our innovation utilises cutting-edge hyperspectral satellite technology to assess wheat crop nitrogen status remotely, addressing sub-optimal nitrogen use in farming. Our primary focus is on developing and implementing a novel wheat nitrogen management system, representing a step-change improvement over current approaches. We merge existing and new research to translate imagery data into actionable insights, offering nitrogen concentration and optimal application insights. We’re building the world’s largest spectral library for wheat nitrogen, accounting for various wheat varieties and soil types across growth stages, matching satellite imagery with ground truth through custom data pipelines. Our machine learning models gauge top-of-canopy wheat nitrogen concentration, which is fed into plant nitrogen calculations and nutritional insights. The project yields actionable nitrogen concentration insights (quantity & timing) and early warning alerts for when crops are becoming nitrogen deficient via an intuitive, live, customer-facing frontend solution hosted on the Messium website. These outputs empower farmers to optimise nitrogen use, cut costs, and meet regulatory and environmental demands, addressing the need for efficient nitrogen management in agriculture.

Architecture Diagram

Added Value

The Messium Nitrogen Estimator drives significant nitrogen cost savings for farmers, with annual potential savings or yield boosts in their tens of thousands for most farms. These savings empower farmers to allocate funds more effectively, whether investing in productivity-enhancing technology, increasing employment or addressing personal financial goals.

From an environmental perspective, Messium stands to make substantial contributions to reducing toxic nitrous oxide emissions and mitigating nitrate runoff into drinking water sources. With targeted and precise applications, Messium can maximise nitrogen use efficiency and minimise nitrogen leakage and loss. This aligns closely with governmental regulations being introduced across Europe to better manage nitrate run-off and nitrous oxide emissions.

Compared to other solutions, our product is:

  • More accurate – hyperspectral is a step-change improvement over existing multispectral or NDVI-based solutions.
  • More frequent – hyperspectral constellations offer weekly data refresh, versus monthly for existing satellite-based solutions.
  • Less labour-intensive – data retrieved remotely, requiring little to no farmer input, critically necessitating minimal behaviour change to existing operations.
  • More cost-effective – the cost per hectare is less than the amount they are able to generate or save using the product

Current Status

The Messium Nitrogen Estimator activity was kicked off on Thurs 30th November 2023. The work is currently in progress, focusing first on further developing the requirements of the product, including the creation of the first version of UI designs, and starting the initial infrastructure and development setup. The next milestone, Requirements Review, is scheduled to take place on 31st Jan 24.

Prime Contractor Company
Messium Ltd.
United Kingdom Flag United Kingdom
Contractor Project Manager
Peter Jupp
Flat 2 23 Frognal Lane, London, England, NW3 7DB
Tel.: +44 7720 945594

ESA Technical Officer
Albin Lacroix

Current activities