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

Illustration of different data measurements IoT devices can capture, with Prof Tim McCarthy from Maynooth University on Paddy O’Sullivan’s farm in Drumree, Co. Meath. Credit: Naoise Culhane

Test sites will include grasslands, croplands, forestry, wetlands, peatlands, to urban areas



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17 December 2020

Microsoft Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) have announced the co-funding of a €5 million climate change project, Terrain-AI.

In collaboration with Maynooth University, the project will focus on improving our understanding of the impact of human activity on land use and how it relates to climate change. The research will initially focus on test sites in Ireland. Ultimately, it hopes to reduce global carbon levels by sharing insights and models developed with other countries.

Data will be captured from satellites and airborne platforms, as well as in-field instruments, from 14 test sites strategically located across Ireland. To ensure a broad representation of land usage, and to improve our understanding of the interactions between the land and human activities that lead to carbon emissions, the test sites will include all types of land from grasslands, croplands, forestry, wetlands, peatlands, to urban areas.

Research in this area to date has focused on individual land use types, or activities relating to a specific sector. However, this project will integrate insights and data from multiple land types and multiple sectors into a modelling framework that will inform more effective policies to reduce carbon emissions. It will also help to inform future land use practices that will achieve reduced carbon outputs such as, precision farming, carbon sequestration of grassland, and new approaches to public transport, or even tree planting in urban areas.

While the project captures data from land types in Ireland, the intention is to design a cloud platform that can use the insights from the Irish findings and be shared with other countries to help them explore land usage and carbon reduction in their own jurisdictions.

Leveraging the latest multimodal sensing technologies, IoT devices and the Microsoft Azure Cloud, the project will build artificial intelligence (AI) models that can inform more effective and sustainable management practices, leading to significant carbon reduction.

“Terrain-AI demonstrates how academia and industry can come together to tackle the big global challenges,” said Prof Ray O’Neill, vice president of research & development, Maynooth University. “Tackling climate change 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.”

Led by Maynooth University, the project will be conducted in collaboration with Teagasc, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and University of Limerick.

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