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16 June 2020 News Release

Artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies will be harnessed to tackle global challenges including illegal fishing and plastic waste, and to boost farming as part of a new partnership between Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, and Microsoft.

The wide-ranging agreement was signed by CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall and Microsoft Australia Managing Director Steven Worrall, and is designed to accelerate critical research that will use AI and machine learning to:

  • Tackle illegal fishing by analysing information gathered from high resolution cameras and underwater microphones to assist with fishing management in Australian marine reserves including the Great Barrier Reef, and detection of fishing with explosives in Indonesia.
  • Target marine debris by analysing videos of rivers and stormwater drains to identify and track garbage flows into waterways and inform intervention efforts, like placement of river rubbish traps and reverse vending machines where the public can recycle bottles and cans in return for cash.
  • Equip farmers with custom, digital insights from a diverse range of data sources, including sensors and satellites, but importantly deep domain knowledge integrated with analytics and modelling to provide insights on tactical and strategic decision making including soil condition, crop growth and farm management. This work will commence at CSIRO's new agricultural research facility at Boorowa, NSW.

The partnership will also contribute towards CSIRO's managed data ecosystem and digital academy, projects that are transforming CSIRO's digital landscape with new technologies, data capabilities and skill sets, and bring Microsoft's latest digital technology to CSIRO's wide portfolio of research.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the partnership brought together decades of scientific expertise in solving real-world challenges and the latest breakthroughs in AI.

"This partnership is turning science and technology into real-world solutions for real people, from the Great Barrier Reef, to suburban waterways, to farms and environments around the country," Dr Marshall said.

"Everything CSIRO does is through partnerships across Australia and around the world, so it's great to share such a broad vision for making the world a better place with a visionary partner like Microsoft."

Microsoft Australia Managing Director Steven Worrall said Microsoft's research and investments in data-driven tools such as cloud and artificial intelligence are designed to tackle global challenges.

"We're pleased to be forging a deep strategic partnership with CSIRO as part of Microsoft's mission to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. This partnership also aligns with Microsoft's sustainability commitments and pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, carbon negative by 2050," Mr Worrall said.

"By partnering with a world-leading scientific organisation like CSIRO we believe we will be able to bring deep and lasting impact to Australian organisations, communities and the environment by accelerating progress in critically important areas such as managing plastic waste, and equipping farmers with digital tools of the future."

The partnership follows previous initiatives like the Healthy Country Partnership, announced in November, which combines responsible AI and modern science with Indigenous knowledge to solve complex environmental management problems, and care for animal species and habitats within Kakadu National Park.

This project has been so successful that plans are now underway to take this to more communities around Australia.

Available for interview:

  • Illegal fishing: Dr Chris Wilcox, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO
  • Marine debris: Dr Denise Hardesty, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO
  • Digital agriculture: Dr Dave Henry, Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO

Additional resources and information:

Long form article on the partnership: CSIRO wields data and AS as sword and shield to protect the planet

Images

Aerial photo of CSIRO's Boorowa Agriculture Research Station in NSW.
Farmers in a sugarcane field in Qld, seen through LiDAR sensing.
Fishing with explosives, also known as 'blast fishing', in Indonesia.
Analysing videos of rivers and stormwater drains can inform intervention efforts.

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