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Crowdsourcing AI Solutions for Climate Change: IAEA, ITU, FAO, UNESCO and the World Bank Launch AI for Good Contest for Start-ups


Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, announcing the launch of a new contest, focused on crowdsourcing artificial intelligence solutions to address climate change, at the AI for Good Global Summit 2023 together with representatives from ITU, FAO, UNESCO and the World Bank. (Photo: ITU)

A new contest for start-up companies, launched by the IAEA, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank, aims to advance the development of solutions using artificial intelligence (AI) to address the impact of climate change on food security and sustainable water resources.

The IAEA helps countries adapt to the impact of climate change with nuclear science. For example, isotopic techniques enable farmers to effectively use water resources for agriculture to deal with water scarcity. Nuclear and nuclear-derived technologies have been used to speed up the natural process of plant mutation and create crops better able to withstand diseases and climatic shifts.

Over the years, a large amount of reliable scientific data has been generated around the globe and is being used to help improve soil and water management practices. Thanks to its powerful analytical capability, AI can provide more insight into these large sets of data and be used to develop easy-to-use tools to advance our resilience to manage the impacts of climate change and increase the efficient use of natural resources.

The contest, which was launched on July 7 at the AI for Good Global Summit 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland, and is part of the AI for Good platform, gives start-ups a global stage to promote and help grow their innovative, AI-powered and climate-driven solutions.

AI for Good, which is managed by the ITU in partnership with 40 other UN system organizations including the IAEA, is a digital platform where AI innovators collaborate to identify and develop practical AI applications to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to scale up those solutions for global impact.

Contest winners will be offered opportunities for business matchmaking and mentoring, with the possibility of presenting their innovative ideas to a global audience at COP28.

“This contest marks a significant milestone in our UN system-wide collective efforts to address the urgent challenges posed by climate change,” said Najat Mokhtar, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, at the launch of the platform in Geneva. “The contest will be a launchpad for AI-driven solutions that have the potential to revolutionize our approach to climate change. We welcome start-ups to share their solutions with us”.

Food and water problems in need of solutions

AI for Good partners have identified five problems for contestants to solve in the areas of food & climate-smart agriculture and water resource management:

  1. How can AI help estimate soil properties across large areas? (based on data collected from infrared spectroscopy, gamma spectrometry techniques and satellite imagery)
  2. How can AI help map and monitor soil moisture levels? (using data from cosmic ray neutron sensors and gamma spectrometry techniques, in combination with satellite imagery)
  3. How can AI complement the Earth Map to help users identify water-related challenges in specific areas and provide useful insights on and analyses of water resources?
  4. How can AI help identify water resources vulnerable to climate change and support flood and drought forecasting and early warning?
  5. How can AI be integrated into isotope hydrology studies to support water management and mitigate the world’s water problems?

Contest application and selection process

Phase 1: Start-ups pitch and submit their innovative ideas here. A jury of technical and business experts will evaluate the submissions and select those that will advance to the second phase. Phase 1 deadline: August 31, 2023

Phase 2: Between September and November, the selected start-ups will be invited to live pitching sessions where the jury will evaluate their proposals and select the winners. The winning teams will be invited to present their AI-powered solutions to a global audience at COP28.

More information about the contest and the complete list of problem statements can be found here.

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