This press release was written by the Alana Foundation and translated from Portuguese to English
Award financed by Alana invests US$10 million to develop new technologies for mapping the biodiversity of tropical forests. The expectation is that the final stage will produce discoveries about the Amazon territory in real time.
The Ministry of Development, Industry and Commerce (MDIC) signed today (August 25) a partnership agreement with XPRIZE Foundation, so that the XPRIZE Rainforest finals will be held in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, in the state of Amazonas, in mid-2024. The prize is aimed at developing new technologies for mapping the biodiversity of the world's tropical forests.
The signing ceremony took place at the Government Palace with the presence of the acting president and minister, Geraldo Alckmin, and Peter Houlihan, XPRIZE's executive vice president of biodiversity and conservation. Alana, the foundation that funded the US$10 million award, was represented by Ana Lucia Villela, president of the institution.
MDIC's Secretary of Green Economy, Rodrigo Rollemberg, signed the partnership term on behalf of the Ministry and celebrated the partnership. "This award uses technologies at the forefront of knowledge to identify our biodiversity". He highlighted the country's potential in bioeconomy, which provide the country with a leadership position. "Due to its natural resources and political conditions, Brazil has everything to lead a green economy, a low carbon economy. We have the greatest biodiversity on the planet, we have a large amount of biomass, a renewable and expanding energy matrix, 12% of the planet's water, and we have a democracy."
The MDIC, through the Green Economy, Decarbonization and Bioindustry Secretariat, supports the realization of the final stage of the award in Brazil. In a first technology test held in the Singapore rainforest this past June, six teams were selected, including the Brazilian Team from Piracicaba (SP), along with ETH BiodivX, from Switzerland, Providence Plus from Spain, and Map of Life, Team Waponi!, and Welcome to the Jungle, from the USA.
The XPRIZE Rainforest entered its final stretch after four years of work involving 300 teams from 70 countries. With technologies that include the sequencing of environmental genetic material, drones with bioacoustic sensors, the use of terrestrial robotics, artificial intelligence, and citizen science, the teams selected for the final showed, in practice, the effective use of their innovations.
In the second half of 2024, finalists should be able to survey 100 hectares of Amazon rainforest in 24 hours and report the most important discoveries made in real time, within 48 hours. The objective will be to demonstrate scalability and maximize performance both in the survey of biodiversity and in the production of solutions compatible with the challenges of a humid and dense tropical forest.
“Humanity's survival, especially the lives of children, depends on our ability to understand and protect forests and their socio-biodiversity, but we have very little time left. Our organization supports the bold efforts of the XPRIZE Rainforest to find, together with the entire global community of scientists, more quickly, new technologies and applications to conserve our rainforests and their peoples, including the protection of territories, indigenous communities, and the appreciation of their traditional knowledge and fair sharing of benefits”, says Pedro Hartung, Director of Policies and Rights at Alana.
The discoveries of the teams, especially those that conquer the first three places, will not only benefit Brazil, which has the largest tropical forest in the world, but also nine other countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia that have tropical forests, in addition to the possibility of applying them in the conservation of the biodiversity of other biomes.To date, researchers from around the world have identified around 1.5 million species present in tropical forests, but some studies estimate that we live with around 9 million types of fauna and flora that we still do not know. At the same time, mapping allows effective monitoring of the fight against biodiversity loss, one of the central threats to life on Earth, according to the UN.
“We cannot protect what we cannot accurately measure and understand, but we are very excited about what the teams showed in the semi-final tests in Singapore. They have brought new eDNA capabilities from the field that signal a major advance for biodiversity assessment in general,” says Peter Houlihan, Executive Vice President of Biodiversity and Conservation at XPRIZE. With experts saying the "point of no return" deadline for forests is set for the end of this decade, the technologies on offer may come just in time to address critical questions about the conservation of tropical ecosystems.
The ownership and use of the data collected during the competition is one of the points of attention for the XPRIZE Rainforest. “A crucial pillar of this competition from the beginning has been the inclusion, empowerment, and appropriate credit, attribution, and rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who are the main guardians, protectors, and knowledge holders of the planet's rainforests. Teams have been required to adhere to this by avoiding harm in co-creating, co-designing, and scaling solutions from the start while following the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as relevant national or international regulations regarding data ownership. (organic or otherwise) and ideas produced as part of the competition", concludes Houlihan.
In 2018, the Brazilian Ana Lucia Villela, pedagogue, philanthropist, activist, and president of Alana, became the first woman in Latin America to join the Innovation Board of the XPRIZE Foundation, an organization that holds global competitions to solve humanity's greatest challenges. She saw in XPRIZE competitions an efficient way to leverage philanthropic investment focused on solving complex problems, such as biodiversity loss, and generating global impact: it is expected that every dollar invested is leveraged 19 to 31 times. The XPRIZE Rainforest will anticipate the creation of technologies that, at the traditional speed of development, would only be available in the next decade, in 2035.
Learn more about the finalist teams and their technologies:
- Brazilian Team, Piracicaba (SP) - drones, arrays of sensors, terrestrial robotics and drones with pruners designed to collect samples of environmental DNA (eDNA) for evaluation.
- ETH BiodivX, Switzerland - Patented and modified drones used to collect digital and physical samples that can be analyzed using “backpack lab” technology combining innovative AI, citizen science and field eDNA for cost-effective remote analysis.
- Map of Life, USA - Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with high-resolution image capture and acoustic sensors that transmit data to a cloud-based dashboard.
- Providence Plus, Spain - Large drone-deployed sensors designed to produce rich data at multiple levels of coverage that would otherwise be difficult to access.
- Team Waponi!, USA - new insect traps and innovative bioacoustic sensors to be deployed and retrieved via drone.
- Welcome to the Jungle, USA - Drones with bioacoustic and imaging sensors customized to leave behind only native organic material from the forest after recovery.
About XPRIZE Rainforest
XPRIZE Rainforest is a global 5-year, $10 million competition to enhance our understanding of tropical rainforest ecosystems around the world. Incentivizing teams to innovate rapid and autonomous technology to expedite the monitoring of biodiversity and data collection, this prize aims to allow researchers to gain near real-time insights about the health and well-being of rainforests that can more immediately inform conservation action and policy, support sustainable bioeconomies, and empower Indigenous Peoples and local communities around the world.
Alana is a social and environmental impact group that promotes and inspires a better world for children. A sustainable, fair, inclusive, egalitarian and plural world. A world that celebrates and protects democracy, social justice, human and children's rights with absolute priority. A world that takes care of its people, its forests, its seas, its air.
Alana is a system of three interconnected, interdependent spheres, with convergent action, guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The meeting of an Institute, a Foundation and a Business Center for Impact Entertainment. A unique combination of education, science, entertainment and advocacy that blends dream and reality, research and pop culture, justice and development, articulation and dialogue, political advocacy and well-told stories.
XPRIZE is an established global leader in designing, launching, and executing large-scale competitions to solve humanity’s greatest challenges. Our unique model democratizes innovation by incentivizing crowd-sourced, scientifically viable solutions to create a more equitable and abundant future for all. Donate, learn more, or join a team at xprize.org.