By Jonathan Woods

April 18, 2022

New technologies are “forcing CEOs to raise the ceiling on their climate ambitions,” reads Climate Leadership in the Eleventh Hour, a study recently released by the United Nations Global Compact. “The good news is that we have the science, innovation, tools, and expertise to take climate action, but all actors need to significantly raise their ambition and action.”

At the top of that list of tools is AI.

On April 20, experts from Aspire Food Group, Magna International, TELUS, and Vector will come together for AI in Action: Focus on Sustainability and Climate Change, a panel discussion about the innovative ways these companies are using AI to manage climate and ESG-related priorities. The panel is part of Vector’s AI Sustainability Week.

Here’s a preview of the innovations and initiatives you’ll hear about: 

Aspire Food Group:  Accelerating the creation of sustainable protein with AI

Speaker: Dan Boehm, Director of Technology, Aspire Food Group

Aspire Food Group is a leader in sustainable insect farming, an industry focused on providing a more sustainable and climate-friendly source of edible protein than typical livestock farming does. The major benefit of cricket farming? “Crickets have a feed conversion ratio that’s exceptionally low,” says Dan Boehm. A feed conversion ratio (FCR) refers to how much feed is required to produce a given volume of edible product. The lower the feed conversion ratio, the more efficient the food production. And it doesn’t get much more efficient than crickets.

At Aspire, AI is helping push cricket FCR even lower.

“Unsurprisingly, there’s not a lot of research on crickets,” Boehm says, “We’re just starting with something that already has a low feed conversion ratio and we’re going to be accelerating how quickly we can learn by using AI. We don’t want to take decades to learn this stuff.”

Hear Boehm discuss how Aspire:

  • collaborates with AI ecosystem partners to expedite learning about cricket farming and increased sustainability;
  • uses computer vision to study their cricket herd at scale; and
  • built a dataset of cricket characteristics and environmental factors knowing that operationalizing AI would come up in their future.

“If we can come in and take even a couple of percentage points out of how much beef or chicken is being consumed by humans or for pet food, that’s significant savings from an emissions standpoint,” says Boehm.

Aspire (along with its partners) was recognized by the UNESCO’s International Research Center in Artificial Intelligence for its climate impact, citing GHG emissions for its facility as “40% lower than [for] farmed salmon, organic chicken, and turkey.”

Magna International: Using AI to advance a new shift in mobility occurring across the world

Speaker: Jim Quesenberry, Director R&D, Magna International

As a mobility technology company, Magna’s vision for the future goes far beyond its roots as a Tier 1 automotive supplier and vehicle systems designer. Today, the company is really in the business of how people move – and in helping make that movement safe and sustainable.

“Our CEO’s vision statement is ‘Advancing mobility for everyone and everything while shaping a better future for all,’” says Jim Quesenberry. “In the 2020s and beyond, mobility looks a lot different – a lot of it involves micromobility and ESG-related themes.”

AI is a key technology involved in creating that future. At AI in Action, hear Quesenberry talk about the AI role in two ESG themes in particular:

  • Climate: The era of more sustainable vehicles has begun and AI can play a role in the shift.

“What are the AI-enabling solutions as we move away from combustion engines and toward electric vehicles?” asks Quesenberry.

  • Social: AI can make transportation safer and more sustainable – particularly when applied to localization, planning and route optimization, and energy management systems for micromobility.

“We want to drastically improve safety in cities by enabling the deployment of more micro-electric vehicles that ultimately displace the commercial van and midsized commercial trucks… that pollute more, have a higher risk of personal injury, accidents, and congestion compared to a smaller, lightweight, more sustainable options,” says Quesenberry.

TELUS: Using reinforcement learning to increase energy efficiency in datacentres

Speaker: Jaime Tatis, Vice President of Data Strategy & Enablement at TELUS

TELUS’ Energy Optimization System (EOS) unlocked remarkable new energy efficiency potential in a datacentre pilot over the past year. EOS is a model-based reinforcement learning (MBRL) agent that was given control of a datacentre’s HVAC cooling system and equipped with a goal: keep energy intensity as low as possible while staying within temperature boundaries. After training a simulator built on historical data, the EOS system learned how to explore its environment and experiment with selecting actions, creating new, innovative cooling practices that were unanticipated by its designers and superior to pre-programmed HVAC systems – to the tune of an almost 12 per cent annual reduction in HVAC electricity consumption.

TELUS has just open-sourced EOS for others to use. “The way I see it is we’re just getting started. We started EOS, but we need the AI community to grow it into something much more powerful and make a meaningful difference for the environment,” says Tatis.

There’s lots to this story, including how EOS:

  • independently innovated a number of new ways to reduce energy intensity;
  • turned sustainability into a chess game using each day’s weather forecast – thinking many moves ahead; and
  • can be used – and improved – by other organizations and practitioners who wish to leverage the open-sourced algorithm.

 “We have a responsibility, as users of datacenters and technologies, and based on our values and social responsibility, to find ways to help the community find efficient sources and methods of reducing the carbon footprint when we use these systems,” Tatis says. EOS contributes to TELUS’ sustainability goal of becoming net carbon neutral by 2030.

On April 20 at noon ET, come attend AI in Action: Focus on Sustainability and Climate Change and hear how these Canadian companies are using AI today to increase sustainability, make a social impact, and contribute solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Deval Pandya, Vector’s Director of AI Engineering, will moderate. Pandya is also one of the 100 Future Energy Leaders at the World Energy Council.

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