Wyvern secures $4M to develop its hyperspectral imaging technology

Space data startup Wyvern has secured $4 million from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to develop its hyperspectral imaging technology and tackle the environmental impact of the country's agriculture sector.

The funding from SDTC, a federal government foundation that was created to fund technologies working on economic and environmental challenges, is tied to a three-year project that works towards the launch of Wyvern's DragonEye satellite.

"Somebody needs to make this technology that can contribute to solving the climate crisis, and it's going to provide a big ... change in our ability to monitor what's going on on Earth," COO and co-founder Callie Lissinna told Taproot.

Hyperspectral is an advanced imaging technique that collects up to hundreds of different images in different wavelengths, she said, creating a "three-dimensional data block" that can help detect details that would otherwise be invisible.

The DragonEye satellite will be Wyvern's first equipped with its deployable optics technology, enabling it to collect enough light to take hyperspectral images. The satellite will be able to unfold a telescope in space, which is key to capturing affordable high-resolution hyperspectral imagery including 1m VNIR (visible and near-infrared) and 5m SWIR (shortwave infrared).

Wyvern is hoping its project will help reduce farming emissions by at least 5% across the country. One of the ways it will aim to do that is by figuring out how much fertilizer is on any given field throughout the growing season, which could reduce the amount used overall. Another is by building maps of pests and diseases affecting crops so that farmers can increase their yield.

It plans to use the 2,800-acre Olds College Smart Farm to determine if the factors being measured are correct, from moisture content to soil chemistry.

"Farming is this hugely complex problem. There's so many variables ... weather, the type of crops you grow, there's the soil. And the smart farm is one of the few areas where you can actually know a lot of those variables to a scientific degree of accuracy," said Kurtis Broda, co-founder and vice-president of product for Wyvern.

A piece of farm equipment on a wide, green expanse at the Olds College Smart Farm

Wyvern will be testing its hyperspectral, satellite-based imaging at the Olds College Smart Farm. (Supplied)

Wyvern's recent announcement comes just weeks after it was accepted into the Y Combinator technology accelerator, and raised US$4.5 million.

Wyvern is aiming to be in space in about a year, launching its first three satellites, which are focused on proof of concept. Then the team hopes to launch DragonEye and its advanced optical technology sometime in 2023.

"We are moving faster than we ever have been before. I'm hoping that some of the work we do in the next two months will result in some really big milestones, especially around customers and some of our products we want to demonstrate with clients over the next year," Broda said.

"I can't guarantee anything, but I'm hoping there's some big announcements early this summer."

You can listen to Taproot's full interview with Callie Lissinna and Kurtis Broda on the Feb. 10 episode of Bloom, our podcast about innovation in Edmonton.