Photo courtesy of Soraya Hidalgo Hidalgo of Semifinalist Team Providence Plus
DAVOS, Switzerland (June 28, 2022) – Today at the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, XPRIZE, the global leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges, officially announced the $10M XPRIZE Rainforest Semifinalist teams working to improve our understanding of the rainforest ecosystem.
Sponsored by Alana Foundation, the five-year XPRIZE Rainforest looks to identify solutions that will accelerate the innovation of autonomous technologies needed for biodiversity assessment. These solutions will provide new wisdom about the rainforest as well as inspire new investment and exploration in that area of the world, revealing the true potential of the standing rainforest and encouraging the development of new sustainable bioeconomies.
“The XPRIZE Rainforest competition is instrumental to reshaping the narrative around environmental justice and conservation between key stakeholders in the environmental industry,” stated Peter Houlihan, Executive Vice President of Biodiversity & Conservation at XPRIZE. “Partnering and collaborating alongside Indigenous Peoples and local communities work toward shared goals of solving challenges associated with rainforest biodiversity to help ensure future equitable access to technology and innovative solutions.”
The Semifinals testing will take place in spring 2023 in Singapore, chosen based on the city’s conservation efforts and its support to harness science to address biodiversity in an urban landscape. Singapore's Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said, "Singapore is honoured to host the Semifinals of the XPRIZE Rainforest competition. We are a small city-state. Because of that, we have always had to be disciplined in our long-term city planning and stewardship of our land and natural spaces. We aspire to be a City in Nature, by weaving nature more intensively into our urban fabric, so that the city and nature can thrive side-by-side. The National Parks Board, which manages Singapore’s natural heritage, and the National University of Singapore are developing and using new technologies to carry out nature conservation and research. The autonomous technologies that the XPRIZE teams are developing for rapid biodiversity assessments can help to enhance our collective understanding of rainforest ecosystems, both in Singapore and around the world.”
Additionally, the proximity of Singapore’s rainforests to the resources and of the city will be a critical asset for teams at this still early stage of testing. It’s vastly different from the typical field sites where autonomous technologies like the ones being developed in the prize will be most useful, but the teams that succeed at Semifinals testing will move on to test their tech in a remote location, without those helpful and accessible resources, at the competition Finals in 2024.
Successful teams must develop technologies that can demonstrate scalable and affordable capabilities that measurably improve biodiversity monitoring. Specifically, the technology must include a process for improving autonomous operations, new detection methodologies and methods for rapid data integration that provide unprecedented levels of detail in real time.
"The time is now to make bold investments in the conservation of our planet's biodiversity and support our indigenous and local communities. This prize will generate critical data and insight for preserving our rainforests, its culture and people, which are essential for stabilizing our Earth's climate," said Ana Lúcia Villela, founder and president of Alana Foundation.
Semifinalist teams will split a milestone prize totaling $250,000 to recognize their work and continued efforts in conservation. The XPRIZE Rainforest Semifinalist teams are as follows:
- ACT NOW - Amazonas Action Alliance, Ecuador
- Alouatta, Mexico
- AraceEye, Canada
- ETH BiodivX, Switzerland
- BioSTREAM, United Kingdom
- Bioverse, Brazil
- Blue Devil Rainforest Divers, United States
- Brazilian Team, Brazil
- Lorax, United States
- Map of Life, United States
- Providence Plus, Spain
- Reforester, Netherlands
- Team Waponi!, United States
- Welcome to the Jungle, United States
- XiniX AI, Belgium
“The XPRIZE Rainforest and its Semifinalist teams have the potential to advance the way humanity understands and preserves the world we live in,” said Anousheh Ansari, XPRIZE CEO. “Through collaboration, it is possible to scale this vision to provide new wisdom about the rainforest ecosystem and inspire new exploration, protection and investment.”
There will be a Finals round of testing in 2024 to determine the grand prize decision. To ultimately win the competition, a team will survey the most biodiversity contained in 100 hectares of tropical rainforest in 24 hours and provide the most impactful insights within 48 hours.
Atossa Soltani, one of the XPRIZE Rainforest judges and the Founder and President of Amazon Watch, shared her excitement for the technologies in development: "We're really hopeful that the teams' technologies will be beneficial for assessing and protecting rainforest biodiversity, and not only involve Indigenous Peoples, but ultimately benefit them once they come online."
For more information on XPRIZE Rainforest, please visit xprize.org/prizes/rainforest.