UK tech company launches biomass assessment service to promote investment

Ecometrica, the sustainability, mapping and reporting software company, and Scotland’s Rural College have created the Biomass Market Assessment Service to model farm behaviour and energy crop production under different scenarios.

A UK technology company has launched a new service for the UK’s biomass industry that could help investors analyse the sector as a potential investment destination.

Ecometrica, the sustainability, mapping and reporting software company, has teamed up with Scotland’s Rural College to create the Biomass Market Assessment Service (B-MAS) which models farm behaviour and energy crop production under different pricing and policy scenarios.

The tool can be used by a range of different players including potential investors, power companies, farm suppliers, debt providers and crop producers, Ecometrica’s chairman Richard Tipper told Agri Investor. “People anywhere in the supply chain will find this useful,” he said. “It’s a forward-looking tool predicting likely output in terms of megawatts supplied, based on probabilities.”

Tipper hopes that the new technology will help fire up the UK energy crop industry and unlock tens of millions of pounds of new investment.

“The potential market for UK biomass is estimated at around £1.6 billion by 2020, but investment in biomass power plants is being held back because of uncertainty over whether farmers will produce enough bioenergy crops,” he wrote in the statement. “By providing sophisticated models of farmer behaviour and crop production under different scenarios, B-MAS will de-risk investment decisions and, therefore, improve confidence in the supply chain. It will be used to inform the location and size of biomass plants in the UK, allowing this sustainable and carbon neutral form of energy to develop in the UK to its full potential.”

The technology comes at a time when there is a strong desire to increase biomass production domestically, Tipper told Agri Investor. This is not surprising considering one UK biomass plant consumes 60 percent of US wood pellet exports. “Policy makers must also be interested in this model,” he said. “There is some contention about the sustainability of UK biomass policy if it is dependent on imports. We should be supporting our own farming industry so there is likely to be a limited appetite for more biomass energy if it involves us funding other countries.”

Ecometrica has also recently launched another product relevant to the agriculture sector: Cube+, a satellite image analysis tool. The technology enables sequential images taken by satellites to be built up layer upon layer, providing detailed information about changes to agriculture, forests, coasts and urban areas.

The technology is aimed at government departments to enable them to analyse complex satellite data without the need for supercomputers for the first time, according to Ecometrica.

“It’s a move towards getting observation data from satellites for use in a more mainstream, long-term way,” Tipper told Agri Investor. “We can now process things immediately that previously would have needed a two week study to produce. You can look over a whole region or country and add specific themes to it such as bioenergy.”

“It will provide significant cost savings and improvements in scalability across a wide range of sectors which are now using satellite data to enhance their understanding of the world they operate in,” he added in a statement.

Investment into satellite imaging for agricultural use has crept up in recent months. Last month, the Series C round of funding for Planet Labs was increased to $118 million surpassing its $98 million target and becoming agtech’s largest venture capital fundraise.