Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Satellite that was too expensive for Jerez

Since the recent defeat of Mariano Rajoy’s government we now have a new one under Pedro Sánchez. The new minister for science and technology, Pedro Duque, was perhaps an obvious choice as he was Spain’s first astronaut. Back in 2007 he visited Jerez where he signed a butt at Fundador “Tecnología espacial para un vino especial” (space technology for a special wine – it works better in Spanish). The reason for his visit, at the behest of the Consejo Regulador, was that he was promoting Deimos Imaging, a company specialising in observing Earth from a satellite with multiple applications to benefit agriculture and vineyards by monitoring things like disease, ripeness and soil humidity. He gave a presentation to bodegueros and growers at the Consejo, but the cost of using the system was, well, exorbitant, and nobody could afford it at a time when Sherry was still enduring its long crisis and the world financial crisis was just beginning.

The Deimos 2 satellite launched 2014

The project was never going to work in Jerez. It cost 30 million euros for the satellite, its launch and a reception station on earth, so for a vineyard of between 20 and 100 hectares the price for a report varied between 3-5,000 euros - and two were needed per season. Despite a special introductory offer price none of the bodegas signed up. The satellite was eventually launched in 2009 and provided information for other wine regions and crops. In 2014 a second satellite was launched which had to offer a more comprehensive range of services as by now drones were available at much more affordable prices. Pedro Duque left the company in 2011.

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