Screenshot of Pachama Logo from Pachama introduction video.

Pachama Protecting Forests With Machine Learning

Restoring Nature to Contribute to Solution for the Climate Crisis

In the last few days I have been looking intermittently at the developments at the Coronavirus in relation to AI or the how AI can be used to address another crisis that will not disappear anytime soon. The climate crisis and the global increase in carbon emissions is a dire issue, although many may not realise it this crisis is causing many death around the planet — it will worsen in the coming time. Thus with my #500daysofAI project writing a new article every day about artificial intelligence I thought to better understand startups working on solutions in the field of AI that addresses the climate crisis.

Today I found Pachama.

The stated purpose of Pachama is to protect our living planet. Their mission is to restore nature to solve climate change.

I am not sure whether it is related to Pachamama, a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes AKA the earth/time mother. Yet it makes me think that may have been part of the thought in creating the name!

I did some more digging and I found their old Squarespace site confirming my suspicions.

“We named the company Pachama, in tribute to “Pachamama”, the goddess of Mother Earth revered by the indigenous people of South America. In Andean mythology Pachamama represents fertility presiding over planting and harvesting, and more deeply the idea that all living beings are deeply interconnected in one web of life, “one spirit”. We hope to honor this idea in our mission and our ways of doing things.”
-Pachama (old Squarespace site)

Pachama is encouraging us all to invest more in forests through monitoring and buying offsets → through planting more trees.

Image from Pachama showing their main idea of restoring forest and offsetting carbon

In early 2019 Pachama raised a seed round of capital from several prominent Silicon Valley investors. According to TechCrunch this investment was in the order of $4.1 million to create a marketplace where companies can support carbon offset projects.

The stated uniqueness by Pachama relates to their close partnership with developers around the world doing conservation projects following verified strict protocols. In addition to this they have developed machine learning algorithms analysing satellite images alongside monitoring tools accompanied by a dashboard.

An estimated 15% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from deforestation (World Wildlife Fund). Pachama argues their technology allows verification to be carried out essentially in real time.

Satellite imagery used by Pachama’s algorithms

However Pachama is not only a technology company it is also a carbon credit aggregator and retailer — in doing so it is mainly focused on validating projects. Investors can feel more secure about sequestration benefits (capturing carbon in trees).

Pachama’s AI algorithms scan images like these to offer an estimate of the carbon sequestration of a forested area that are within 1% of estimates made by manual surveys.

This is an interesting effort and certainly a fascinating contribution to keeping our forests safe through technology.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 289. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. My current focus for 100 days 200–300 is national and international strategies for artificial intelligence. I have decided to spend the last 25 days of my AI strategy writing to focus on the climate crisis.



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Alex Moltzau

Alex Moltzau

AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.