Resources Nature’s Tech Revolution: Harnessing Innovation for a Greener Future

Nature’s Tech Revolution: Harnessing Innovation for a Greener Future

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Dave Caygill

8 May 2024

Just as technology has enabled better healthcare and education, it offers untapped opportunity to secure and improve the natural habitat that underpins everyone’s wellbeing and prosperity. Dave Caygill, Trustee of the Ecosystems Knowledge Network (EKN) and Stuart Robertson, programme designer for the Nature Tech Expo tell us more.

At first sight, the words ‘nature’ and ‘technology’ may not appear to have much in common. But in our nature-depleted world, environmental experts are now looking increasingly to the UK tech sector to enable the monitoring, managing and regeneration of the living world around us.

The last major global summit on biodiversity, COP15, took place in late 2022. Egged on by the large contingent of global corporates in attendance, governments agreed to find ways to secure 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. This is now a herculean task to achieve over just seven harvests. It is urgent around these islands of the UK: much of our territory ranks among the most nature-depleted in the world with 41% of species at risk of extinction.

Experts talk of the need to view land based on all the good things that it does for people. From providing clean air and water to regulating climate and pollination, ecosystems offer invaluable services essential for our well-being. With the loss of nature, these services are disrupted.

Technology is a potent tool, offering solutions at scale to both safeguard nature and enhance societal resilience across our landscapes and marine environments. Take, for example:

  1. Remote Sensing and Monitoring: Advanced technologies such as high-resolution satellite imagery and drones enable comprehensive monitoring of ecosystems, facilitating early detection of environmental changes and informing agriculture, conservation and business strategies. For example Environment Systems based in Wales
  2. Predictive Analytics and AI: Data analytics and artificial intelligence algorithms analyse vast datasets, predicting ecological trends and identifying areas of conservation priority and climate risk to optimise resource allocation and inform decision-making. This AI powered climate risk tool from University of Exeter
  3. Citizen Science Platforms: Technology platforms engage citizens in biodiversity monitoring and conservation efforts, fostering public awareness, and empowering communities to contribute to scientific research and environmental stewardship. The annual pollinator count from Fit Count is a great example
  4. Rapid ground truthing: Data captured remotely will be subject to inaccuracies, so checking data points with what we see physically on the ground is an important, but time consuming piece of the nature tech jigsaw puzzle. Innovative sensors, materials and technology such as eDNA (environmental DNA) are enabling researchers to gain greater insights at scale and pace. These data points help to corroborate predictions and remote assessments as well we provide rich insights into the biodiversity of a specific location.  Check out Guildford based Nature Metrics

In recent years, dozens of UK-based SME’s have been established to harness the potential of nature tech. Some are keen to mobilise increased investment into nature, enabling landowners to be rewarded for regenerating nature through sequestering carbon or creating wildlife habitats. Others are seeking to connect the work of land managers of all types, showing how they can join forces to support the recovery of populations of insects and birds. 

The challenge now is to show how data derived using different technologies can be brought together in ways that are transparent and fit for the purposes of the decisions taken in everything from planning of new built development to investments worth billions of dollars.

In response, EKN is launching the UK’s first event to harness the role of technology in nature recovery and nature-based solutions. It is a place for technology experts and nature experts alike. Whether managing nature-related risks, informing nature positive business strategies and nature-friendly land and marine management, nature tech has a role to play.

At Nature Tech Expo 2024, engage with and hear directly from the innovators and experts who are developing and deploying these technologies; through expert leading speakers, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, demonstrations and networking opportunities.

Interested in how nature technologies could benefit you? Explore our programme and reserve your place now

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