June 04, 2018
Razorthink published in AI Informed

World Environment Day: How AI is Helping Businesses Protect the Environment

In recognition of World Environment Day, let’s take a look at how major businesses are starting to use AI to help save the environment.


At the end of 2017, on the two-year anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, Microsoft unveiled the next phase of its “AI for Earth” program, pledging five years and $50 million to distribute AI technology to those dedicated to agriculture, water management, biodiversity and climate change.

Microsoft’s first Chief Environment Scientist, Lucas Joppa, has been tasked with the company’s deep investments in artificial intelligence (AI) research and technology, with the goal of globally monitoring, modeling, and managing  Earth’s natural systems.

AI for Earth involves implementing Microsoft’s technical expertise on artificial intelligence (AI) projects for environmental monitoring and modelling. This knowledge can be combined with that of research partners like California based Esri, an international supplier of geographic information system software, and the Annapolis based Chesapeake Conservancy.

This particular collaboration will allow application of deep-learning techniques to convert high-resolution imagery from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Imaging Program into land-cover categories, providing detailed insights into precision conservation needs.  

Microsoft is also teaming with researchers in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University and in Pennsylvania at the University of Pittsburgh to find ways to deploy organisms such as mosquitoes. These insects can be converted into self-powered data-collection devices, creating an AI-powered metagenomics pipeline and retrieving ecosystem information from the animals they feed on.  

Overall, Microsoft is making AI technologies available to more than 35 organizations in more than 10 countries.


A collaborative effort between researchers at the University of Southern California and the Uganda Wildlife Authority is CAPTURE, an anti-poaching initiative. CAPTURE's modeling of poachers provides significant advances over previous models from behavioral game theory and conservation biology.  

iNaturalist & eBird

Observatory applications can help track migrants and species and populations. So far, iNaturalist’s 575,000 members have recorded nearly 7 million observations of more than 128,000 species. The community at eBird is transforming a global birding community’s passion for birds into critical data for research, conservation, and education. Applications range from ecological and ornithological research, to conservation application, to advancing research in the fields of socioeconomics, artificial intelligence, and computer science.

Other initiatives include research by IBM into air pollution and space data powered by AI. Oceanic, atmospheric, forestry, and fishery applications are being readied for launch, as AI systems can now be trained to classify raw data from sensors on the ground, underwater, in the sky or in space.

AI can only save the planet if human scientists receive funding to develop better, stronger, smarter artificial intelligences, but AI is what it will take to rescue an Earth teetering on the edge.