Today, XPRIZE, the global leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, officially launched the $10M Rainforest XPRIZE. Registration is now open for teams interested in participating in the four-year global competition that calls on innovators to create technology capable of identifying and cataloging rainforest biodiversity and develop insights that may lead to a new bioeconomy through standing forests.
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(Graphic: Business Wire)
Rainforests remain undervalued, which has led to their rapid depletion over the past two decades. Having once covered 14% of the earth’s land surface, rainforests now cover a mere 6% of the planet, according to National Geographic. Specifically, the recent acceleration of the Amazon’s deforestation, due in part to illegal logging and mining as well as inefficient agricultural expansion, has added to climate insecurity around the globe. All these factors have elevated the urgency of bringing the importance of preserving these precious ecosystems to the forefront of international discourse. Knowledge of the full biodiversity must be unlocked so that private companies, corporations, governments, individuals, local communities, and indigenous people who have demonstrated a commitment to preserving the rainforests will be empowered to sustain rainforests rather than destroy them.
The Rainforest XPRIZE will reward teams that can develop effective new technology to capture the true biological diversity of rainforests and further layer additional data to show the value of protecting the natural resources within them. The current methods used to identify and catalogue biodiversity, including in situ human-led studies, remote sensing by satellites or radar, or sophisticated spectroscopy, cannot operate to scale and gather the data necessary to understand the full ecosystem wealth of rainforests in sustainable ways. The competition accelerates a new bioeconomy, while also engaging indigenous and local communities, as well as local academic institutions in developing the solution. The Rainforest XPRIZE is a call-to-action to help save rainforests through the development and implementation of transformative, scalable, and affordable technology.
Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE, said, “Amid our 25th anniversary as an organization, it is fitting that we add to our legacy by introducing a prize that will challenge the best and brightest to develop transformative technology to incentivize the preservation of rainforests worldwide, not only for our generation, but those to follow.”
“Despite their importance in supporting life on Earth, rainforests are undervalued because we simply do not yet know everything that exists in this ancient ecosystem,” said Executive Director of the Rainforest XPRIZE Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D. “I’m excited to see the innovative technologies that will emerge from this competition and give us a better assessment of the incredible biodiversity. Our goal is for the Rainforest XPRIZE to provide new understanding and reveal the true potential of the standing forest, allowing local communities to lead the way for all of us to live in harmony with these magnificent rainforests.”
The teams of the Rainforest XPRIZE will develop sophisticated technologies to inventory rainforest biodiversity faster, affordably, and in unprecedented detail in challenging harsh environments, delivering insights to support the sustainable use and well-being of the standing forest. Interdisciplinary teams can use emerging technologies such as robotics, remote sensing, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to survey biodiversity, deal with the challenges of a harsh environment, and demonstrate that these ecosystems are worth preserving.
Specifically, the winning team will survey biodiversity in at least three stories of a rainforest (emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor) in eight hours to produce the most comprehensive biodiversity assessment and utilize this and other data to produce the greatest number of insights in 48 hours. Insights may include, but are not limited to, new ecological dependencies, biodiversity and climate connectivity, anthropological findings, or even sustainable societal interactions with the forest.
The competition includes seven months for team registration and three months for initial technical document submission. A total prize purse of $10M will be awarded throughout the lifespan of the prize, including up to $500K in bonus prizes for innovative approaches to species identification. Milestone prizes will also be awarded equally for up to 10 final teams that advance through the semi-finals.
Throughout the life cycle of the competition and following the grand prize awards ceremony, XPRIZE will work to support and scale the impact of the teams’ work and promote education around rainforest preservation.
The Rainforest XPRIZE originated from Future of Forests Impact Roadmap. The Future of Forests Impact Roadmap identified six areas for breakthroughs that could usher in a preferred future for the world’s forests, one in which forests live in harmony in an environment that balances a healthy ecosystem with humanity’s changing needs, including economic growth, social progress, and political stability.
The deadline for teams to register through the XPRIZE website is June 30, 2020. Beginning July 1, 2020 to September 23, 2020 teams can request late registration, that will be at the discretion of XPRIZE. For more information, and to register your intent to compete, visit rainforest.xprize.org.
XPRIZE designs and operates multi-million-dollar, global competitions to incentivize the development of technological breakthroughs that accelerate humanity toward a better future. Active competitions include the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, the $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE and the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. For more information, visit xprize.org.