Innovation That Matters

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AI and satellites: a new era for urban biodiversity analysis


The tech helps urban planners, developers, and businesses easily monitor biodiversity changes

Spotted: With the UK’s biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation going into effect in February 2024, new developments will have to boost local biodiversity by a minimum of 10 per cent, maintained for at least 30 years. One of the main challenges of enforcing compliance with the legislation is the need for “high levels of monitoring and governance.”

Helping to take ecological surveys and habitat monitoring into the age of big data and deep learning is UK-based Gentian. Gentian uses high-resolution satellite imagery and AI analysis to scale and speed up land surveyance. The SaaS package enables urban planners, developers, and businesses to gather an ecological baseline for a particular location – something that is crucial to understanding biodiversity changes over time.

Rather than relying on on-the-ground analysis, which could vary depending on the method and tools being used, Gentian’s process eliminates uncertainties while mapping a much greater area of land in less time. The satellite imagery provides detail under 50 centimetres in resolution, often down to 30, 12, and five centimetres. And, in partnership with the European Space Agency, the company has also developed AI technology that recognises and quantifies vegetation based on habitat type.

In urban settings, this makes it possible for landowners and governments to track the biodiversity net gains of sustainability measures such as green roofs, tree planting, and micro parks. For more remote and larger areas, Gentian’s aerial analysis helps ecologists and other researchers monitor land use more quickly and cost-efficiently, making it easier to identify illegal activity and prevent substantial environmental damage.

Jamie Rhodes, VP of Business Development at Gentian, told Springwise that the company is working on expanding its market reach and increasing the capability of its technology, including by enhancing its AI algorithms and integrating more comprehensive data sources. Gentian’s assessments already comply with frameworks like the UK’s BNG regulation, the TNFD’s LEAP approach, and European CSRD, but the company hopes its analytics will be used for even more frameworks in future.

Other innovations showcased in Springwise’s library that support biodiversity improvements include large-scale modelling of nature-based solutions and a nature restoration fund that improves degraded land.

Written By: Keely Khoury



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