by Lilia Guan

Microsoft injects funding into Aussie AI projects

Apr 18, 2019
Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft has offered support to six Australian artificial intelligence projects, taking its AI for Earth funding initiatives to US$50M around the world.

The latest round of funding is being shared between Monash University, Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, InFarm, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and Bush Heritage Australia under the software giant’s AI for Earth program.

AI for Earth is designed to use technology in a bid to combat climate change, ensure resilient water supplies, sustainably feed a population rapidly growing to 10 billion people and stem the ongoing catastrophic loss of biodiversity.

The program’s participants will receive a mix of Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources (including AI tools) and data labelling services. They will also gain access to training on Microsoft’s data science, machine learning, and visualisation tools to support the areas of climate change, agriculture, biodiversity and water.

Lucas Joppa, chief environmental officer Microsoft, said the world is seeing rapid advancements in cloud and AI solutions, unlocking new possibilities to solve the world’s most challenging problems.

“The uptake of those solutions to understand and protect the planet is proceeding slowly,” he said. “We are essentially flying blind when it comes to understanding how our planet is changing and how to best solve environmental challenges — AI can change that.”

Joppa believes “time is too short” and “current human resources” are too few to solve urgent climate related challenges without the exponential power of AI.

“By putting AI in the hands of researchers and organisations we can use important data insights to help solve issues related to water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change,” he said.

Australia’s need for rapid action has been reinforced by recent environmental challenges including; extended drought; dry-lightning triggered bushfires in Tasmania and Victoria; record high temperatures across the nation; Townsville’s flood; and the devastation wrought to agriculture across the top end by a combination of flooding rains and overnight low temperatures.

Aside from the monetary benefit of AI for Earth, Microsoft is also offering open source API solutions to help organisations everywhere scale their impact.