For some time now, technology corporation Microsoft and the National Geographic Society (NGS) have provided financial support to innovators for research on global issues such as climate, agriculture, water and biodiversity conservation. The funds are awarded to research teams and organizations that work globally to explore and advance scientific methods to counter environmental challenges using artificial intelligence (AI).
This year’s instalment will award 11 organizations, amongst them a Kenyan firm – Stephanie Dolrenry, US/Kenya, Biodiversity: LINC – an AI-powered Collaborative Database for Lion Identification and Inter-Organizational Research. The AI for Earth Innovation Grant offers between $45,000 and $200,000 to support projects, as well as Microsoft Azure and AI tools and affiliations with the NGS Labs.
“The National Geographic Society is committed to achieving a planet in balance, and in joining forces with Microsoft on the AI for Earth Innovation Grant program, we are providing incredible potential to drive fundamental change through our unique combination of expertise in conservation, computer science, capacity building and public engagement,” said Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist of the Society. “We look forward to seeing these talented individuals create solutions to some of the most challenging environmental issues of the 21st century using the most advanced technologies available today.”
The Kenyan organization was picked amongst a pool of more than 200 applications. Microsoft and NGS say that successful teams presented high-calibre projects that prompted them to increase funding from $1 million to $1.28 million.
“Human ingenuity, especially when paired with the speed, power and scale that AI brings, is our best bet for crafting a better future for our planet and everyone on it,” said Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer at Microsoft Corp. “The calibre of the applications we received was outstanding and demonstrates the demand we’ve seen for these resources since we first launched AI for Earth. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with the National Geographic Society to support these new grantees in their work to explore, discover and improve the planet.”
The recipients’ list also features two Ugandan agriculture-based firms: Ketty Adoch that uses AI tools for change detection and land cover mapping, and Torsten Bondo that focuses on improving crop water efficiency using machine learning tools.