Helping corporations become climate-ready
Tracking physical effects of climate change, such as changing oceans, soil and air as seen by satellites orbiting the Earth, is a key data set to analyse when it comes to engaging in climate action. Laia Romero, scientific entrepreneur, is a co-founder and CEO of Lobelia Earth. The company marries scientific expertise, satellite imagery and data sets of the Earth’s surface to inform large corporations and NGO’s of how they can become climate-ready. This means adopting evidence-based sustainable practices.
After a record-hot summer globally, and having experienced the fourth warmest October this year in 143 years according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), we are witnessing, in real time, the effects of global warming on the climate.
Lobelia works with the application of scientific knowledge to large sets of data taken from satellites of biomass, climate, water, soil, air and additionally ocean facts. This allows those numbers and data snapshots to reach clients in an accessible way. “Until very recently we didn’t have these large data sets that we could use in a climate context,” Romero explains. “We now have a clear picture of the Earth’s resources to share with committed companies, allowing them to make strategic climate-ready decisions.”
Put simply, Romero describes the genesis of the idea as, “Let’s bring the scientific part and the software engineering part together, and with these be able to make operational services that can serve millions of people.”
In 2019 Lobelia Earth was part of the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment CCRI that was launched at the General Assembly of the United Nations that year. It provided a starting point for the company to develop its impact-based aims of sharing the quantification of nature- and climate-related risks to the financial and investment communities, including further afield to administrations and NGOs.
Tracking agroforestry activities, the future extension of highly exposed port infrastructure, and the assessment of new marine protected areas are examples of Lobelia Earth’s recent work. Clients include stakeholders of public policies, environmental services, insurance companies, health conglomerates, and infrastructure leads – ranging from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, to Oxfam and ECMWF (European Centre
for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts).
The small team, of between 20 and 25, has an academic science background, which lends to developing a field of expertise and trusted dissemination of the presentation of Earth data to its clients. “I am an oceanographer by training, and have long been fascinated by how we can apply scientific knowledge to serve actual users,” Romero says. She recognises this as a key contributor to the growth of her company: “Our unique point is our team, our multidisciplinary knowledge and our understanding of the use of observation as evidence for the quantification of the Earth’s resources, which will lead to better management.”
“We have a very high demand for what we have, and that is a very particular expertise, so you cannot hire 20 new people in the scientific team and expect this team to be working like clockwork within a week,” Romero explains. “We have a cohesive and collaborative way of working that takes time to run as a co-ordinated team.”
Currently, Lobelia Earth reinvests all of its profits to “put the energy back into the system in order to ensure that we can continue working with the same energy”. In the next five years it aims to “continue to find these partners that are able to help us maximise the impact of our work, to help us build more stable ground to grow."
When it comes to expanding the company, success lies in the fact that there “is always this tension between the commercial and the scientific,” and playing the middle ground while retaining integrity is a game changer here. Pace can be a particular point of contention for businesses that occupy the sustainability space as scientific processes move slowly – but the reality is that the effects of environmental change move much faster.
With an active presence at COP27, and a presentation of frank, balanced data on this world stage, Lobelia Earth reinforced how important data is in informing climate-positive decision making. The company continued these conversations at the recent Smart City World Expo in Barcelona, discussing the monitoring of pollution in urban areas, followed by talks on sustainable marine ecosystems at the Tomorrow Oceans global summit.
Biography / key highlights
2007 Takes position at Starlab Barcelona in Earth Observation Services
2008 Graduates from the University of Barcelona with a Research Masters in Physical Oceanography
2012 Leaves Starlab for Altamira Information, specialising in oceanography observation, and (from 2015) starts as the director of new business and innovation
2016 Joins isardSAT as its operations and strategy director
2018 Becomes co-founder and director of Lobelia Earth