SFI and Microsoft Ireland launch €5m AI climate research project

15 Dec 2020

Image: Naoise Culhane

The Terrain-AI research project led by Maynooth University aims to share insights that could help reduce global carbon emissions.

Microsoft Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) have announced the co-funding of a €5m climate project, which will take data from 14 test sites across Ireland.

The new research project, Terrain-AI, will be led by Maynooth University and will be conducted in collaboration with Teagasc, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University and University of Limerick.

The project aims to give a better understanding of the impact of human activity on land use and how it relates to the climate crisis. Following its initial focus on Irish test sites, the project’s ultimate goal is to reduce global carbon levels by sharing the insights and models developed with other countries.

Terrain-AI will leverage multimodal sensing technologies, IoT devices and the Microsoft Azure Cloud to build AI models that can inform more effective and sustainable management practices, leading to significant carbon reduction.

Informing future land use

Data will be captured from satellites, airborne platforms and in-field instruments from the 14 test sites strategically located across Ireland. The test sites will include a variety of land types, including grasslands, croplands, forestry, wetlands, peatlands and urban areas.

The data collected from these different sites will be used in a modelling framework that could help inform more effective policies to reduce carbon outputs. It will also help inform future land use practices such as precision farming, carbon sequestration of grassland and tree planting in urban areas.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI and chief scientific adviser to the Government, spoke about the importance of research that seeks to address the challenging topic of the climate crisis.

“The establishment of the testbed will create important knowledge that will assist Ireland to meet international obligations for carbon reduction,” he said. “I’m sure the project will create significant impact and knowledge.”

Maynooth University’s vice-president of research and development, Prof Ray O’Neill, added that tackling the climate crisis is about changing everyday work patterns, activities and behaviours. “The Terrain-AI project will collect high-quality data, extract verifiable information and generate the facts to enable society make informed decisions about changing how we manage our climate and environment,” he said.

“We are delighted to collaborate in this landmark project with Microsoft and SFI, and our academic and industry partners, to help inform more effective and sustainable land use practices to decarbonise our economy.”

Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic