Santa Fe startup has its mark on the world

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Anyone can explore the far reaches of earth using Google Earth, but Santa Fe company Descartes Labs has created innovative technology. They’re zooming in on things you’ve probably never looked at on Google Earth.

“Our goal was to better understand the planet by looking at the images that are taken everyday by satellites,” said CEO Mark Johnson.

In the summer of 2014, Johnson met a team of scientists at Los Alamos National Lab working on deep learning artificial intelligence to better understand large data sets.

That led to Descartes’ mission, which starts in space with the satellites looking down on all of us.

“As you look at pictures of the planet, things change over time,” Johnson said.

“We focused on agriculture because it’s a really important problem. Trillions are in the ag market. This is how we feed the planet,” he said.

Satellite imagery reveals a lot about crops.

“Is that a field?  Is there corn growing there? And how much corn is growing in that field? It turns out, you can learn all of that just by watching corn grow from space,” he said.

That data, for example, could help end hunger.

The GeoVisual search engine can zoom in on infrastructure like airport runways or solar farms or wind turbines to study energy.

“Over the entire United States, I just found the top thousand wind turbines,” Johnson said.

Ben Cloutier, Director of Communications for the New Mexico Economic Development Department, said, “A Descartes Labs or any of the startups here in New Mexico could be the next Apple, Microsoft, Google.”

“We think there are a lot of great opportunities to make New Mexico a hub for that kind of entrepreneurial growth,” Cloutier said.

“We have an office in San Francisco. We have an office in New York, but we are solidly a New Mexico-based company,” Johnson said.

So far, Descartes Labs has received $8.3 million in out-of-state funding. Right now the company has 30 employees and hopes to double in size by the end of the year.

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