Carbon management mapped with AI technology

An Israeli company is combining artificial intelligence and satellite data in a potentially “game-changing” method to measure carbon uptake on land – and possibly at sea.

Albo Climate, a firm composed mainly of Israeli technology specialists associated with overseas experts in the environmental sector, should contribute to the fight against global warming and climate change by helping to optimize the elimination of carbon from the atmosphere.

The company, founded in 2019 and based in Tel Aviv, uses data from sensors mounted on satellites to create a detailed map of where carbon is stored, allowing landowners and governments to profit by selling carbon. carbon credits to polluting companies.

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To do this, the company gathers real carbon data – it is collected manually, for example by measuring the diameter of tree trunks to calculate the increase in biomass (see below) or by taking samples from soil to have them analyzed by laboratories. It does this each time it attacks a new type of habitat.

Using machine learning, the company is teaching technology to combine data from satellite sensors – which can scan vegetation both above ground and up to 30 centimeters below where the earth is. vegetation and roots – with information from the field, allowing it to identify patterns that can be used as the basis for carbon flux estimates in similar environments elsewhere.

“AI finds correlations that a human wouldn’t find,” said Ariella Charny, COO of Albo.

Part of the Albo Climate team (from left to right): Ariella Charny, Director of Operations, Dr. Jacques Amselem, Vice President of R&D in AI, Prof. Andrei Sharf, Marketing Manager, Sharona Shanyder. (Credit: Moshe Jonathan Gordon Radian)

Every form of life on the planet, from humans to the tiniest of plants, is based on carbon.

For hundreds of millions of years, nature has balanced the carbon going into the atmosphere with the carbon going out and being stored. Breathing, for example, emits CO2, as do volcanoes.

Plants, as well as algae and ocean phytoplankton, absorb it by photosynthesis to make glucose, a carbohydrate. When plants die, they take the carbon with them and eventually turn into carbon-storing materials, such as charcoal.

But this balance was upset with industrialization, which caused carbon dioxide emissions to explode. When coal, or wood, is burned, for example, it releases the CO2 it previously stored.

The world is committed – in principle anyway – to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in order to slow global warming.

Screenshot of an interactive map showing a section of African forest in which red indicates a decrease in aboveground carbon, green an increase, and white no change. (Credit: Courtesy Albo Climate)

For those unable or unwilling to reduce their emissions, emissions trading systems have been put in place, allowing them to pollute and pay for the same amount of CO2 they emit to be stored elsewhere. .

Most of the companies that store carbon and sell credits are environmental companies, whose methods range from conserving forests to using sustainable agricultural processes. Albo’s data gives them reliable insight into how much carbon is being stored and how much can be offset.

Albo is not the first company to try to map the areas where carbon is stored. In 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) published what it considered to be the first global carbon map; other organizations have also released such maps.

But according to Charny, these maps are often too imprecise – unlike Albo’s maps, which can predict the carbon value of an entire forest as well as a patch of just 100 square meters.

The company is currently working on achieving a resolution of 50 square centimeters per pixel.

Among the advantages offered by Albo, according to its founder and CEO Jacques Amselem, are that the process is faster and cheaper than manual measurement methods, that it does not include fragile equipment, that it can measure hard-to-reach places like rainforests and presents results in a visual, graphical form that is easier to understand and often more scientifically accurate than lengthy written reports.

Screenshot of an interactive map showing above-ground carbon stocks in parts of the Pacific Northwest. (Credit: Courtesy Albo Climate)

In addition, the firm can monitor regularly (usually once a year) over time to ensure that the same forest that was storing carbon and earning money for it is not being logged or is did not burn, and did not become a carbon dioxide emitter.

An international company that verifies the accuracy of carbon credits is about to complete its Albo approval process.

Screenshot of an interactive map showing above-ground carbon stocks in parts of the Pacific Northwest. (Credit: Courtesy Albo Climate)

The company has already signed a number of contracts to provide its mapping services.

Among these are the analysis of the Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; verification of carbon-based biomass in soils used to grow corn and soybeans in the US Midwest for US-based Israeli precision agriculture company Taranis; the development of a new voluntary carbon registration system for forestry projects for the Finnish sustainable finance company Likvidi; and biomass monitoring of vulnerable tropical forests in several sub-Saharan African countries, starting with Cameroon, for the Mauritius-based clean energy company Tembo.

Screenshot of an interactive map showing carbon losses and gains over a year in a forest in Kentucky, USA. Red indicates losses, green gains, and white no change. (Credit: Courtesy Albo Climate)

The Congo Basin in sub-Saharan Africa is home to a tropical forest surpassed only in size by that of the Amazon, but which rarely attracts so much attention. According to Mongabay, an environmental information site, the annual rate of deforestation there has exceeded one million hectares in recent years.

Mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Credit: Cai Tjeenk Willink/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons)

It is uncertain whether the money generated from carbon credits will ever exceed the sums offered by fossil fuel, mining and logging companies.

According to Charny, only two dozen companies worldwide currently offer remote sensing technologies to measure carbon, and very few of them combine surface and underground measurements.

Albo is currently working on a tool to measure carbon sequestration in the ocean for initiatives such as kelp farms. The firm is also in advanced talks with an Israeli university for the launch of several satellites dedicated to climate research and data collection.

Currently, most of the data collected by Albo comes from open sources, from existing satellites, using information gleaned from radars, hyperspectral cameras and laser-driven lidar technology.

From right to left: Shelly Dvir, deputy director of Business Roundtable Israel, Victor Weiss, co-director of the Center for Climate Rehabilitation, Perumal Arumugam, leader of the UNFCCC team responsible for developing a global carbon market, and Gideon Behar , Foreign Ministry climate envoy, at Israel’s first carbon sequestration conference, Shefayim, June 30, 2022. (Foreign Ministry)

Last month, Perumal Arumugam, a senior United Nations official involved in drafting regulations for a global carbon trading market, told Israel’s first conference on carbon sequestration that he saw global potential specific in Albo Climate’s product, as well as those of Netafim’s drip irrigation company, which has developed a unique water and methane saving system for rice irrigation.

Initially, Albo Climate aimed to map wetlands that could be dried out to reduce mosquito-related diseases, such as Zika. The company owes its name to the mosquito Aedes albopictus.

After being selected for funding by Techstars, an international investment firm, Albo decided to dedicate her technology to the climate.

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