AI to map NZ deforestation

Lynker Analytics wins government grant for AI project

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The Ministry for the Environment has awarded a consortium led by Wellington based geospatial data and AI company Lynker Analytics a contract to determine the extent of forest loss in New Zealand over 2017 and 2018.

The ministry assesses deforestation in New Zealand every two years to meet international reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

The consortium — which includes UAV Mapping NZ and Carbon Forest Services — will take aerial photography of every district in New Zealand and input the imagery into a machine learning algorithm for land cover analysis that will determine how an area has been used.

Lynker Analytics managing director Matt Lythe said the process would generate detailed land cover information that could be used to make final determinations of overall land use at a block level.

“The detail and consistency of the information from the modelling will make the final land cover class very data driven and defensible,” he said.

Carbon Forest Services’ forestry expert, Ollie Belton, said the approach would enable the consortium to implement land-use classifications that align with both domestic and international rules on land-use, land-use change and forestry. 

“We will be able to accurately assess whether or not each block has been re-planted, is naturally re-generating, has suffered natural damage or has been converted to grazing or another purpose,” he said

A press release announcing the contract win, which came from Carbon Forest Services, Lynker Analytics was described as a “start-up.” However it is a subsidiary of US based Lynker Technologies and opened in February 2019.

In the announcement of that event, Lynker said: “Based on [a] growing need for analytics Lynker initially considered Silicon Valley as a likely location to establish a team but instead turned to New Zealand, and specifically Wellington, as the ideal location that brings together creative people, a culture of innovation, and a national focus on the environment.”

Lynker Analytics managing director Matt Lythe said the mission of the new company was “to unlock insights and relationships from complex environmental and business systems through advanced analytics.”

Lynker Analytics said it was developing a suite of deep neural network models that could be used to predict the future state of systems – environmental, organisational or infrastructure.

“This suite of models is informed by a set of fundamental geospatial data layers that describe the environment such as climate, land use, topography and more … [that] can simulate and predict the future condition of an external data set such as a power grid, water network or customer portfolio based on geospatial inferred relationships.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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