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Here’s how we’re tackling climate change with artificial intelligence

Posted by
Katy Henderson
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Artificial intelligence might seem daunting. But it could end up saving the planet.

When we think of artificial intelligence, images of robots and world domination spring to mind. Naturally, combining this with the concept of climate change might not paint a pretty picture. However, recent developments in artificial intelligence could actually make enormous improvements to our effect on the environment. 

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On Monday 2 September, the ‘Winnow Vision’ – a gadget for commercial kitchens said to save around 1.6 million meals worth of food wastage per year – was launched in Dubai. The AI-programmed camera is installed above a bin, and detects the types and quantities of foods being thrown away. Kitchen staff are then able to alter their stock accordingly and reduce unnecessary food purchases as a result. 

Winnow Vision has already been successfully launched in the UK, with the machine present in 23 IKEA stores. However, the success of the launch in Dubai could be even more significant, as the conference resulted in demand from 50 of the UAE’s largest commercial kitchens. 

In an area where eating out is considered ‘a favourite pastime’, the installations are bound to have a huge impact, and the new international demand could change the way the food industry operates for good.  

In an bid to reduce the effects of food waste further, millions of trees are being planted across the globe, with Ethiopia recently setting a record of 30 million trees in a day. But while global efforts to plant new trees are necessary, British start-up Biocarbon Engineering have identified issues. Planting by hand isn’t the most effective; it’s extremely time consuming, and therefore the number of trees that can be planted is limited. This is where artificial intelligence comes in. 

To tackle this problem, Biocarbon Engineering have created a drone which does the hard work for us. It fires seeds in the form of biodegradable bullets, at a pace which could allow a billion new trees to be planted a year. It also allows for a more resourceful use of space; the drones have been used to plant in abandoned mines. The more green space we can create, the better. 

Despite the exciting potential of these inventions, we can’t ignore the fact that we are already experiencing effects of climate change. But thanks to Microsoft, who are funding £50 million towards their project ‘AI for Earth’, we can be better prepared for climate-related issues

Increasingly unpredictable weather conditions are an issue for farmers, who often turn to unsustainable means to guarantee a good harvest. To combat this, Microsoft have teamed with AG-Analytics. Sensors collect soil which is processed to create accessible data for farmers about their plots, allowing them to make more sustainable and educated decisions for their land. 

Microsoft has also teamed with Terrafuse, who use artificial intelligence to collect data such as satellite technology and wildfire history, to identify risk of forest fires in any given area. 

There’s no denying that we have a lot to do to combat climate change. But this is definitely a good start.

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