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Thought leadership on the most pressing issues of our time
The AI Startups Tackling Climate Change
With climate change affecting nearly every sector globally, it's unsurprising that investors are turning their attention to climate-focused startups. Despite the significant amount of capital invested in these companies, real progress on climate goals remains elusive.
But will the recent — and rapid — developments in AI change that?
From helping to prevent natural disasters to transforming the way we cultivate food, some of the UK’s brightest minds are setting their sights on using AI to tackle climate change.
Over 87% of business leaders in the AI and climate sectors predict that AI will help humans protect the planet from global warming. There’s no one-size-fits-all AI solution, but startups around the world are developing arsenals of machine learning applications to decarbonise our planet.
In this blog, we explore how three leading AI startups in the UK are bringing impactful solutions to the most challenging environmental problems of our time.
Many companies rely on carbon offsets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, with the market predicted to reach $1 trillion by 2050.
However, these offsets can often be of low quality and notoriously hard to verify, calling the effectiveness of carbon offsetting into question.
London-based Silvera wants to change all that. Silvera provides carbon credit ratings and analytics to help buyers assess the quality and impact of their carbon offsetting initiatives. It uses machine learning to analyse satellite imagery, verify carbon offset project claims, and rate their efficacy based on industry standards.
While Silvera is one of the most well-funded early-stage AI startups the UK has seen, it isn’t the only company using AI to evaluate carbon credits. Others include. London-based Treefera, as well as US-based Pachama and NCX.
These technologies hold great promise for environmental conservation. But it's not clear how future regulations will impact the emerging carbon markets. For now, Sylvera — and the myriad other startups like it — rely on corporate giants to take their environmental commitments seriously.
But as regulations tighten around mandatory disclosure and carbon emission limits, the likelihood of governments imposing stricter mandates on carbon offsetting grows. If that happens, offsetting plans will go from a voluntary effort to a legal obligation — presenting new opportunities for companies like Sylvera.
Cutting emissions isn't just about energy—it's also about stuff
In the race to net zero, waste management cannot be forgotten. From food to fashion to building materials, 45% of emissions come from the stuff we use. Most of the world's focus has — understandably — gone to reducing energy emissions, while waste management has received relatively little attention.
A London-based startup wants to lessen its impact. Greyparrot is an AI waste analytics platform for the circular economy. It uses AI-driven computer vision to monitor, analyse and optimise waste streams at the material, product, and brand levels.
It promises to deliver key insights to waste managers, producers and regulators, helping them to enhance sorting, boost recycling rates, and increase accountability in the waste management process. However, as with most AI technologies, success hinges on accuracy.
While Grey Parrot's technology promises to analyse waste with a less than 5% margin for error, it’s not immune to the reliability issues that plague AI as a whole.
This is where human oversight becomes crucial: we must ensure these technologies boost transparency through every stage of the value chain, rather than obfuscating it. Despite AI's vast capabilities, it's still only humans who possess the nuanced judgement required to cement ethical practices.
Livestock is a vital part of our food system, culture, and nutrition. But with over 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from animal culture each year, the environmental bill is steep.
To address this issue, many startups are now harnessing the power of AI to drive more efficient, less carbon-intensive farming, aiming to increase food production sustainably.
However, while most of these startups' value creation comes from improving yield efficiency, high costs often prevent farmers from adopting these technologies. One innovative company is overcoming this by converting waste into sustainable animal feed — with a unique twist.
Better Origin aims to fix the broken food chain by using insects to upcycle food waste into high-value animal feed and pet food. By deploying AI-driven insect farms inside shipping containers, Better Origin promises to make insect farming scalable and accessible to farmers and businesses globally. Their technology is completely automated using artificial intelligence, which monitors the insect’s health and controls feeding accordingly.
Cutting down on global food waste, which causes 10% of greenhouse gas emissions is key to fighting climate change and boosting food security. However, it remains to be seen if technology like Better Origin’s insect farms can be deployed at the scale necessary to make a significant difference in the global food value chain. Nevertheless, this innovative solution showcases the versatility of AI in tackling complex environmental challenges.
What AI can teach us — and how far we have to go
Using AI to tackle the looming climate crisis could bring more harm than good if the right safety measures are not put in place. The resource-heavy processing of AI, alongside data accuracy and hallucination issues, are prime reminders that the technology is still in its infancy.
However, it's safe to say that AI is already transforming the way we lead our lives and interact with our planet. The companies showcased in this story demonstrate the remarkable potential AI has to fight against environmental degradation and human-induced climate change.
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