7 ways tech is making the world greener
Sustainability has become an increasingly important concern, brought to a head with this month’s COP26 event taking place in Glasgow. With over half of consumers saying they’re likely to buy sustainable products, and the majority of Generation Z being willing to spend 10 per cent more on products that are eco-friendly, it’s safe to say that incorporating sustainability into our everyday lives has become an imperative across all industries.
While many individuals across the tech industry might feel torn, tech — prior to what you might think — has a significant role to play in the fight against climate change. The shift in collective attitude towards climate change has catalysed the reshaping of the commercial landscape, which in turn has resulted in increased investment into the technological advances that can make the world greener.
From smart AI to electric cars, read on for some of the inspiring ways tech is making the world a more habitable place.
1. Vertical farming: Increases agricultural productivity
Humans will always need agriculture. But as the planet becomes more crowded, it’s possible that the future of modern agriculture could be indoors. While agriculture has traditionally taken up a lot of land, this is set to change going forward — as indoor farms are far more efficient and also significantly reduce habitat destruction.
VertiVegies is a world-leading Indoor Vertical Farming Company. Their smart technology allows them to constantly study, analyse and react to data and profile varieties with bio-sensors. The Artificial Intelligence systems simulate optimum growing conditions that they rely upon to achieve efficacious production on each grow cycle. This enables quality and traceable food production, all year round, in a much more efficient (and sustainable) way.
2. Precision agriculture: Maximises crops
Besides vertical farming, precision agriculture is another area leveraging technology to increase the accuracy and control over farming practices. Precision agriculture uses data sensors, connected devices, remote control tools, and other Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to help maximise crops. The technology allows heightened accuracy which decreases waste and increases yields by giving farmers more control.
One notable example of IoT implementation at farms is called Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software. GIS systems show farmers aggregated data through custom colour-coded maps, enabling a full view on soil condition, crop fertility, insect, or disease pressure. These insights reveal information that could not be gauged with the naked eye. Farmers can use the data to make decisions around soil mapping and crop productivity.
3. Hyperspectral imaging technology: Reduces food waste
“One-third of all the food produced in the world is wasted, in the case of fruit and vegetables, it is 45%. This means that every second two million apples are thrown away,” says Abi Ramanan, the co-founder and CEO of ImpactVision — a machine learning company that applies hyperspectral imaging technology to food supply chains to improve quality and reduce waste.
The system takes pictures of food from a camera mounted above a conveyor belt, which are then processed through machine learning technology programmed to “identify unique patterns in chemical composition relating to food quality.” This can augment or replace the time-consuming, expensive and flawed visual inspections currently used to sort products by ripeness and keep contaminants out of production lines. This allows the supply chain to make smarter decisions in real-time, helping to determine the true freshness of food and reduce waste.
4. Electric cars: Decreases carbon emissions
While the average vehicle sends out 69 tons of CO2e over its lifetime, Electric vehicles (EV’s) are powered entirely by electricity with much lower lifetime emissions as a result. One of the most well-known EV producers is Tesla, which was started in 2003 by engineers who wanted to prove that EVs could be better, quicker and more fun to drive than gasoline cars. Tesla is now accelerating the advent of clean transport and clean energy production, preventing 5.0 million metric tons of CO2e emissions in 2020 alone.
A key feature of EVs is the batteries that enable their operation. Besides in-house battery cell production and sourcing efforts, Tesla collaborates with various cross-industry initiatives, in the quest to improve their supply chain transparency through implementing technology solutions using blockchain. This blockchain platform aims to create a transparent, open and international registry that ensures that all cobalt used in end-products is sustainably sourced.
5. Robot jellyfish: restores coral reefs
Robot jellyfish are being used to help save endangered coral reefs, by performing tasks that can’t be done by human divers. This includes the observation and restoration of fragile coral reefs. Produced by a 3D printer, these robot jellyfish consist of soft, flexible rubber material with tiny strong propellers enabling them to swim.
While they’re deliberately designed to look like typical jellyfish, they can propel themselves ten to fifty times more efficiently than small underwater vehicles. The development of these autonomous deep-sea robot jellyfish is set to increase over the coming years in order to keep pace with offshore developments that endanger marine environments.
6. UAV technology: regenerates forests
Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, and the area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990. A new way to combat deforestation is by firing seed pods directly into the ground. Flash Forest is a Canadian reforestation company using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology, automation and ecological science to do just that.
Using aircrafts with no pilot onboard is the fastest and most effective method of planting many trees at once: it can be ten times faster than manual planting by humans. Flash Forest’s technology maps out the best planting locations and averages a planting density of 1,000 to 2,000 trees per hectare. At full capacity, their aim is to plant 100,000 seed pods on a daily basis.
7. Wildfire detection technology
Climate change has increased the intensity and frequency of wildfires, which have had a devastating impact. Between 2018 to 2020, Australian fires killed approximately 3 billion animals and destroyed 97,000 sq kilometres. Early protection can play a critical role in stopping these tragedies.
Ericsson ONE has been working on a new design that will allow early detection of wildfires in remote areas using network extension, sensors and edge computing equipment. This could replace aerial systems with limited range, and slower satellite-based systems that are unable to sense small fires. It will also allow low-cost deployment of networks and sensors, making it affordable for underserved areas.
Although hearing news about climate change can leave us feeling depressed and overwhelmed, it shouldn’t paralyse you into not taking action. These are inspiring leaps forward are hopefully just the beginning of a new era in regenerating what has been lost.
There is so much innovation coming out of the tech industry — and no matter your job title, you have a role to play in ensuring tech continues to serve our planet, as well as the humans who inhabit it.
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If you enjoyed this article, we think you’ll love our Software Developers guide to coding your way to a better climate.