We wouldn’t be UP42 without our partner community. Thanks to our partners, we have a growing marketplace of satellite data sources and processing algorithms for our customers to use. That’s why we’ve launched ‘Partner Profiles’ — our new series dedicated to the people behind the tech. Every interview will introduce one of our partners, tell their stories, and share their visions for the future.
Today, we’re leading with Advait Kulkarni, Co-founder of Vasundharaa—one of our partners providing processing algorithms on UP42. Vasundharaa creates tailored analytics and intelligence solutions for agriculture, urban planning, and environmental purposes and is based in Pune, India.
Above: Vasundharaa co-founders Aditya Tekale (left) and Advait Kulkarni (right). (Credit: Vasundharaa)
What inspired you to create Vasundharaa and why?
While applying for funding during my PhD on antenna design in late 2016, I was also looking at the current state of satellite technology applications in India, specifically in agriculture. This is what got me thinking about satellite technology applications and creating a venture around it catered specifically to the Indian market.
Grassroots technology adoption was going to be a challenge especially with the agrarian sector, but it was a risk I was willing to take. So, after consulting with my mentors and a couple of weeks of brainstorming with my co-founders, Vasundharaa was born.
Where does the name Vasundharaa come from?
Vasundharaa is a Sanskrit word which means Earth, and since all attempts are made to analyze, monitor and generally look at Earth, we call ourselves Vasundharaa.
You deliver complete solutions tailored to client requirements, how important is it to offer specialized solutions?
We can very clearly see that the same data, with the same output, but for different end-users — extracts different intelligence. This is what led us to create more customized solutions.
For example, when we create building footprints, we deliver the output to the forest department, who use this to analyze what impact urbanization has had on the nearby forest areas and how urban sprawl has impacted ecology. Whereas, when delivered to the metropolitan development authorities, they use this to look at how the metropolis region has changed over time and whether zoning planned a few years ago actually worked.
How would you describe actionable intelligence?
Actionable intelligence is a set of outputs that can be directly implemented into field applications, without requiring the end-users to have any domain expertise. For us it means datasets translated to the standards of the end-users, linked to their current datasets, and making sense in their lingo.
At Vasundharaa, you’re a mission to bring advanced remote sensing analytics to sectors such as agriculture, urban planning, and the environment. Which of these are you personally most excited about the future of?
We can’t pick a favorite but our focus is currently more towards urban applications. With more and more urban pockets growing in India, there is a tremendous load on the current urban infrastructure. It is one major talking point and a focus for the administration to improve the urban living environment by having better planning, monitoring, and impact assessment. It’s here that we are providing our cutting edge solutions and delivering actionable insights to the authorities. Nevertheless, agriculture and the environment as sectors are important to us and work is getting done in these areas as well.
Could you tell us about your processing algorithms now available on UP42?
Yes, we have currently six processing algorithm blocks on the UP42 Marketplace with lots more coming soon!
The first of our blocks is the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which enables people to view the current state of vegetation and determine it’s overall health. NDVI is a key analytical point to differentiate between healthy and non-healthy vegetation. Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) is a block that differentiates water bodies more easily from other surfaces — perfect for identifying and assessing areas of low vegetation water content. Our Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI) algorithm detects the health of dense canopies of vegetation, whilst Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI) minimizes soil brightness so that it doesn’t influence results. Normalized Burn Index is ideal for fire impact monitoring since it can detect burnt areas of vegetation. Finally, Moisture Stress Index measures healthy moisture down to the pixel level. It’s a simple and powerful way to predict forest fires, canopy stress, and study ecosystems.
Whether it’s damaged crops, drought, forest fires or fertilizer needs — our processing algorithms tell many stories about vegetation health from space.
Above: Vasundharaa’s NDVI algorithm measures vegetation health in Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 images.
What are your plans for Vasundharaa in 2020?
We plan to be single-point consultants for all major urban development authorities in India, for climate change and the environmental ministry for forest fires and emission estimation. We will develop processes that deliver end users with actionable intelligence throughout the globe, using platforms like UP42. We want to create simple, automated processes that are able to deliver actionable intelligence to a global user base. This is exactly where we see UP42 being our partner, providing an online space for processing and cloud computing.
What brings you the greatest satisfaction in your work?
Touching the lives of people that I have never seen is something that gives me the most work satisfaction. It humbles me to think about the fact that technology today is enabling us to work on areas hundreds and thousands of miles away. Being a part of this tech wave really makes me get out of bed every morning.
What’s your favorite planetary perspective?
Again, can’t have a specific favorite here, but I will tell you what I am excited about. I am really looking forward to high-resolution hyperspectral sensors operating from orbits. I think this will unlock the full potential of Remote Sensing and will make driving analytics truly remote.
The tech has been proven using aerial platforms, but to get that from space, we’re talking about repeatable sensing happening over expansive areas for the widest range of applications. Yes, that is really what gives me goosebumps.
Interested in partnering with us? Find out more here and visit the UP42 Marketplace to explore the partner data sources and processing algorithms currently on offer.