Our Work

We are defined by the partners we work with, the quality of the work we produce, and how we work together with customers to build our products.  Here are a few of the projects we are currently working on.
Starboard Maritime Intelligence

We’re building powerful software, based on sound science, to help tackle complex challenges in the maritime domain.

Starboard helps analysts and decision-makers:

  • Detect non-reporting or ‘dark vessels’ and gain insights into illegal fishing;
  • Identify potential vectors of COVID-19 transmission through vessel history analysis and the detection of non-reporting small vessels; and
  • Identify biosecurity threats before vessels reach a nation’s territorial waters.

Learn more about Starboard >

Starboard has been developed with the generous support of Aotearoa’s Ministry of Primary Industries, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund, and the French Embassy in New Zealand’s Pacific Fund. 


We’re working towards a prototype monitoring tool that would allow regional councils to measure water quality attributes from space. This tool will complement the extensive work that council ecologists are already doing, by providing reliable monitoring at more frequent intervals, over more lakes, at an affordable cost.

Contact us if you’d like more information >


We partnered with Auckland Council to develop Changewatch—a product that automatically detects new building sites from space. Changewatch supports council staff in their mission to improve building practices and reduce the negative environmental side effects of construction.

Learn more about Changewatch >

Matariki—Quantifying environmental resources through high-resolution, automated, satellite mapping of landscape change

This MBIE Endeavour Smart Ideas funded project will combine rigorous surveying methods and advanced computer-vision to generate accurate high-resolution topographic maps that can be used to detect often subtle but important surface elevation changes affecting New Zealand’s landscape. The project is led by the University of Otago, in collaboration with GNS Science, Land Information New Zealand, Meridian Energy and Xerra.

As key researcher and leader, Dr Dave Kelbe is responsible for designing the computer-vision software to automatically match points between multi-temporal image acquisitions, enabling the automated creation of previously unavailable land surface data.

Forest Flows—Hyperspectral analysis of health and water distribution in forest canopies

The Forest Flows project, a $13.7M research programme led by Scion, with support from the Universities of Auckland and Waikato, NIWA, Xerra and other international institutions will determine the impact of planted forests on our Aotearoa’s waterways.

Dr Robert Schafer will develop methods to measure the biophysical state of forest canopies using multispectral and hyperspectral sensors. These measurements will guide development of a hydrology model that will predict catchment-scale water storage and release. This model will enable better planning of water use and understanding of the benefits of afforestation to downstream users.

Eye on Lakes—Improving detection of cyanobacteria blooms in lakes using satellite data

This MBIE Endeavour Smart Ideas funded project is working to improve the detection of cyanobacteria in lakes using satellite remote sensing. It will allow the monitoring of cyanobacteria blooms over time and across hundreds of lakes throughout Aotearoa. Dr Moritz Lehmann is key researcher on this project, working with colleagues at the University of Waikato and Cawthron Institute.

Published papers and presentations:

Lakes Resilience—Enhancing the health and resilience of New Zealand’s lakes

The purpose of this MBIE Endeavour Smart Ideas funded project (2015-2019) was to increase the capability of decision-makers and managers to achieve favourable outcomes for lake health and resilience at a national scale and to raise the level of knowledge about how lakes respond to environmental pressures and management solutions.

Dr Moritz Lehmann is continuing the legacy of this programme by co-developing a sensor for autonomous hyperspectral light measurements in collaboration with international colleagues at CSIRO. This instrument allows for real-time monitoring of important water quality attributes and facilitates improving algorithms for satellite-based methods.

Published papers:

ACIX II—The second atmospheric correction inter-comparison exercise

In collaboration with the University of Waikato, NASA and the European Space Agency, we are gathering data in Aotearoa that helps the development of methods to remove the effect of the atmosphere when gathering insights from satellite data.

This is part of a global project, the Atmospheric Correction Inter-comparison Exercise (ACIX) II, to improve calibration and exploitation of satellite imagery for environmental monitoring and a range of agricultural and commercial applications.

NASA PACE science mission

Xerra senior scientist Dr Moritz Lehmann is a member of the NASA Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud and ocean Ecosystem (PACE) early adopter programme, along with scientists from across the globe in order to advance research of global ocean colour, biogeochemistry, and ecology.

Using data from the PACE mission, Dr Lehmann and collaborators from University of Waikato and Cawthron Institute, will be able to determine the extent and duration of harmful algal blooms in Aotearoa’s coastal waters and large lakes, in ways that have previously not been possible.

More about PACE >

NASA ECOSTRESS science mission

Led by Dr Dave Kelbe, Xerra is a calibration and validation partner for the NASA ECOSTRESS science mission. ECOSTRESS is an instrument on the International Space Station that measures the temperature of plants and uses that information to better understand how much water plants need and how they respond to stress.

The New Zealand calibration and validation partnership brings together researchers from University of Waikato, Manaaki Whenua–Landcare Research, and NIWA to provide ECOSTRESS with essential ground measurements from New Zealand.

More about ECOSTRESS >