Challenge Incubator 2022

The Challenge Virtual Research Incubator will run between 15 November to 31 January 2022 online.  Teams will participate in webinar sessions on topics that include the problem areas (Carbon Sequestration and Coral Health), training sessions on Planet and Allen Coral Atlas portals, as well as data analysis tools like QGIS.  Teams will learn about Design Thinking, Rapid Prototyping, User Validation, and building prototypes.

Challenge partner Planet will be providing satellite data to help with their solutions and Consegna will provide AWS data storage and cloud computing tools.  Mentors and advisors will be available to help teams progress with their projects. The incubator programme is designed to help prepare the teams for their final submissions on 31 January 2021.  Applicants get a chance to be selected as finalists for the pitch and demo session on 18 February 2022.  Grand prize winners receive cash prize up to $30,000, as well as more data and mentorship to implement their solutions.


Challenge Grand Prize Winners

Not Basic           Newlands College, Wellington NZ

In our world, the biggest challenge faced by coral reefs is bleaching events, a phenomenon that is growing increasingly more common due to increasing global temperatures. In order to prevent the bleaching of corals before it starts, our team has delved into machine learning. In doing so, we do more than simply observe bleaching as it occurs, but instead predict bleaching before it can happen, giving power to change-makers and enterprises across our world. 

Our aim is simple - to take action against coral bleaching in our world before it is too late to make a change.


Yadrava na Vanua (Environment Watch)          Suva, Fiji

PSIDS IPCC carbon stock inventory (mangroves, forests and single trees outside of forests)

"Yadrava na Vanua" in Fijian means to watch over the environment thus environment watch aims to develop a Measurement, Monitoring Reporting and Verification (MRV) set of tools to improve estimations of rates of carbon sequestration. The prototype has six unique advantages:

1) Combining field data collection with remote sensing

2) Measuring carbon sequestration from a range of carbon pools including mangroves, forests and trees outside of forests   

3) Developing a baseline trend through assessing 10 year baselines in line with carbon project requirements

4) Drawing on earth observation datasets for area and potential project site selection

5) Integrating within national inventories, combining IPCC default emissions factor values with remote sensing insights 

6) Visualising and reporting results on a dashboard and website  

The team includes students and researchers from the Universities of the South Pacific (USP) Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), Fiji National University, University of Fiji, University of Western Australia, University of Canterbury and The Australian National University. 

Yadrava is made up of three sub-teams including a mangrove and coastal carbon team, forests and trees outside of forests team and a remote sensing, GIS and MRV team. This includes a diverse and interdisciplinary team with expertise across the fields of remote sensing, GIS, climate science, forestry, mangrove, marine science, carbon sequestration, carbon sequestration verification and ecology. The team has experience in developing forestry and mangrove inventories for a number of Pacific Islands and supporting national inventories in other countries using a range of programming languages, machine learning and softwares. The team includes diverse ages and cultures. 

Nicholas Metherall coordinates the diverse team. He has committed to this project as a part of his PhD thesis. His thesis focuses on holistic and integrative monitoring of river catchments in Fiji with a particular focus on riparian vegetation, mangroves and forests. The thesis will rely on both field data collection as well as remote sensing and GIS approaches. 


Challenge Finalists

Cashmere Space Club           Cashmere High School, Christchurch, NZ

The Cashmere High School Team consists of five students in Years 10 to 13 who are keen members of the Cashmere Space Club. We are excited by the possibilities that Space provides and have made rocket-powered cars and come up with a lightweight "cubesat" amongst other fun activities.

The Space for Planet Earth Challenge is a great way to combine our love of Space-related technology with our concern for the environment.

We plan to use space technologies through free satellite image sources and present an innovative solution that improves coral health. Our submission recognises that coral health is an accumulation of many different stress inputs that negatively impact the health of the coral ecosystem.

Our aim is to monitor the destruction of mangroves due to shrimp farming and determine their effect on coral reef ecosystems. Also, we plan to develop an education program to help influence decision-making around coral ecosystems.

Christ’s College           Christ’s College, Christchurch, NZ

Coral reefs are an important part of our global environment.  Endangered by global warming, it is important to find a way of tracking their health. As a high school team, we are passionate about using satellites and our idea to help track and trace the health of the coral reefs globally.

Lidar Team           Brisbane, Australia

Estimating Aboveground Biomass with Quantitative Structure Models and Multi-sensor fusion 

Accurate measurement of above ground biomass provides essential insight into the condition, habitat quality and carbon sequestration potential of forest and shrubland ecosystems. Above ground biomass is challenging to scale from the plot to the region as it is often poorly quantified in individual trees using traditional allometric assessment methods, leading to inaccurate estimations over large areas. The primary objective of this study is to use novel approaches for measuring above ground biomass in individual trees and shrubs using Laser imaging, Detection and Ranging data, termed LiDAR, from ground based terrestrial laser scanning instruments. Above ground biomass per tree will be computed from terrestrial LiDAR point clouds obtained within a range of forest types across Australia. Scaling these estimations to the regional scale will next be undertaken through the fusion with a new space-borne orbital LiDAR program known as the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation. Vegetation spectral responses from both Planet Dove and Sentinel-2 multi-spectral satellite imagery  will be further tested to determine their ability to accurately predict above ground biomass.  By using such novel data combined with proven fusion approaches for scaling plot level measurements, this study hopes to improve the accuracy of above ground biomass mapping within Australia and establish new methods for above ground estimation globally.

The HEAL Initiative  Auckland, NZ

Spatiotemporal measurement of carbon sequestration through machine learning and satellite imagery for cyclic climate change mitigation.

The HEAL Initiative was founded by Carl Abi Nakad, Lillian Chen, Yen-Kai Chen and led by Mikhael Sayat, four University of Auckland students who share a common passion for space and sustainability. Their shared expertise in physics, biology, engineering, machine learning, and satellite development led to the creation of the HEAL Initiative, a data-driven solution to measure carbon sequestration using satellite data. The four members met when they co-founded a space club at the University of Auckland, an association that aims to raise awareness of Auckland and New Zealand's presence in the global space industry. They are currently pursuing their respective degrees and aspire to contribute to the growth of the New Zealand space industry.


Other Incubator Teams

Space Kiwis           Auckland Grammar School, Auckland, NZ

We are Space Kiwis, three year 13 students from Auckland Grammar School who are fascinated by the space scene in New Zealand and around the world. As high school students, we always relish the opportunity to realise meaningful impacts that benefit the communities around us. After researching the Allen Coral Atlas, we found a number of potential improvements and felt that the impact of sediment outflows and coastal pollution were not well reflected in present data. Our proposal aims to include these data points to better estimate and project coral reef health around the world.

Rowdy Rocketeers           Camberwell Grammar School, Camberwell, Australia

We are a team of STEM and climate science interested secondary school students with the idea to monitor coral reef health with the use of Artificial Intelligence. Through the use of image recognition we aim to output the health of coral reefs from satellite image data and predict their future health. 

Sub 56           Selwyn College, Kohimarama, NZ

Euan McCauley, Toby Low and Matty Poppelwell are three year ten students from Selwyn College, Kohimarama.  

We have decided to use probes to non-invasively monitor temperature, pH, and carbonate levels to look into both the causes and effects of bioerosion utilizing satellite remote sensing technology. 

We plan to look at how pollution has affected the radiation levels of coral communities and reefs. After this, we would like to compare them to previous remotely sensed images of the same reefs and communities. 

To define what is the largest pollutant, we will be testing coral's reactions to different materials/pollutants such as plastic and oil. This research will be carried out in a tank specifically designed to replicate the habitat of this particular coral. 

GEOTeS PNG           Lae, Papua New Guinea

Geospatial Biomass Inference Model (GeoBIM) for tropical carbon sequestration measurement

We propose the idea called the 'Geospatial Biomass Inference Model' (GeoBIM) for tropical carbon (C) sequestration measurement to support REDD+ implementations in the case for Papua New Guinea (PNG). The purpose for measuring tropical C sequestration is due to the fact that tropical forests house the maximum sequestered C in any region of the world so measuring forests in this category would provide an overview estimate of actual regional C sequestration range where other lesser C sequestration pools may fall within. The GeoBIM is fundamentally, a systematic procedure for tropical C sequestration measurement using space-borne technology fusion on an integrative platform. The concept of GeoBIM is an algorithmic workflow that will automate (1. the estimation of C stocks (sequestered C) on forested and vegetated areas and (2. the assessment of these C stocks on a pre-defined temporal period in order to actively measure changes in C sequestration on land and in coastal areas using the fusion of Optical Satellite and LiDAR data.

Team GEOTeS PNG specializes in multi-disciplinary Geospatial Technologies and IT Solutions in Papua New Guinea with the aim of improving open access and innovative geospatial strategies for real-world problems. Our idea of effective C sequestration measurement is through biomass inference as biomass is the tangible phenomena that can be measured to show increasing or decreasing C sequestration on land and in coastal areas. 

Lynker Analytics           Wellington NZ

Modelling rainforest biomass and carbon sequestration in the Solomon Islands

How effective is tropical rainforest in the absorption of carbon dioxide?  How do we protect these vital ecosystems in the combat against climate change and biodiversity loss?  What is the true extent of commercial logging in the Solomon Islands and what impact does this have on local communities and the environment?

This study sets out to answer these questions.  Our team will use state-of-the-art deep neural networks, advanced AI training systems, geospatial analysis and carbon accounting to determine forest cover, biomass and carbon sequestration of tropical rainforest in the Solomon Islands.  This research includes several novel elements including the use of GEDI data as the ground truth for canopy height, eight band Planet SuperDove satellite images where possible, and finally exploiting the very latest convolutional neural network model architectures.

We will report on two time periods to measure change and calibrate known data on rainforest carbon sequestration.  This work will provide valuable and detailed information on the extent and sequestration rates of rainforest in the Solomon Islands but also help in our understanding of the significant pollution, environmental devastation and food insecurity problems caused by commercial logging.

Earthbanc           Melbourne, Australia

Scaling Earthbanc's NCS carbon & finance marketplace with AI-driven MRV technology and 0% loans

Earthbanc's mission is to revolutionise carbon Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) for accurately measuring carbon sequestration through open-source satellite imagery and remote sensing AI technology. We solve existing problems in the inaccuracies in carbon reduction & sequestration measurement, trust in carbon markets by increasing accuracy; including smallholders via our carbon markets app, and bringing much-needed transparency with our audited ratings.

Our executive team combines experts with generalists and ensures that fundraising, partnership-building, communications, strategy, operational efficiency, tech development and delivery, project finance, and carbon sales happen in parallel. The executive team is very diverse culturally, ethnically, and gender-wise, bringing together a great combination of perspectives and experience needed to succeed in the global carbon markets. It also matches the diversity of project developers, reflected in the excellent partnerships we have developed.

Incubator Speakers

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