Companies across a wide range of industries are clamoring for more detailed digital information about their land and water resources world-wide in order to increase sales and reduce costs. Until recently, those resources were monitored by taking physical samples of soil or water, sending them to a laboratory for analysis and obtaining limited information about one or two data points. Blue Water Satellites has transformed that data collection and analysis process and revolutionized the satellite-imagery industry.
“We are taking the lab and moving it into the sky,” says CEO Milt Baker, who co-founded the company in 2009 to commercialize patents licensed from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. The Toledo-based start-up obtains rich spectral imagery of large areas from government and commercial satellites and then uses proprietary image processing to provide high data density on minerals, chemicals, vegetation and biological organisms to customers at a fraction of the cost of laboratory-acquired data. “We take the spectral band information collected by sensors on satellites and are able to cull out the fingerprint for chemical and biological constituents,” Baker explains. “That’s our secret sauce.”
Blue Water Satellite is now partnering with Google and using Google Earth Engine and Maps Engine to automate the image-serving process. “Google found out about us quite by accident and made us a trusted tester to help them develop these image-processing tools,” he said. “We use their tools to process the satellite imagery data and sell that data to our customers. Our relationship with Google will be a great thing going forward.”
Currently, Blue Water Satellite has four major verticals of customers: oil and gas producers, pipeline companies, large environmental engineering firms and power-producing utilities. “Satellite imagery is global, so we see expansion of our customer base everywhere,” Baker says. The company achieved $1 million in sales in 2014, and has a growth target of $50 million in five years. To reach that goal, it needs investments in four platforms of growth and is seeking to an A round of financing of $3.5 million. To date, the company has received $1.8 million in funding from Rocket Ventures, Millstream Angels Group and several individual angel investors.
“Our investors were the ones who urged us to attend the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium in June because it would offer a great opportunity to interface with future investors,” Baker says. “We got help on refining our pitch from MGCS volunteers that was very valuable, and we incorporated their suggestions into our final presentation to investors. The symposium was very productive because we were able to meet with funds and get matched up with people who are interested in our business.” Although no financing deals have been finalized yet, Blue Water Satellite has progressed through the due diligence process with four potential investors. “I’m confident that one of the four will become an investor in our company,” Baker adds.
New industry trends, including the launch of a series of ultra-low-cost satellites in the near future, will expand global satellite coverage and improve the frequency of data collection and transmission. This bodes well for Blue Water Satellite. “We anticipate we will hit $3 million to $4 million in sales by the end of 2015,” Baker says. “Based on that growth track, we plan to return to the MGCS next year to update people on our progress and to see if other investors are interested in our company.”