CSIRO and Microsoft partner to tackle plastic waste

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

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

“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,” Worrall said.

Marine debris will be targeted by analysing videos of rivers and stormwater drains to identify and track waste flows into waterways.

According to a CSIRO statement, the research will be used to inform intervention efforts, such as placement of river rubbish traps and reverse vending machines where the public can recycle bottles and cans in return for a fee.

The partnership will also work towards tackling illegal fishing by analysing information gathered from high resolution cameras and underwater microphones, to assist fishing management in Australian marine reserves like the Great Barrier Reef.

Additionally, CSIRO and Microsoft will equip farmers with custom, digital insights from a diverse range of data sources, including sensors, satellites and deep domain knowledge integrated with analytics and modelling.

This will be used to provide insights on tactical and strategic decision making including soil condition, crop growth and farm management.

“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,” the CSIRO statement reads.

Marshall said the partnership brings decades of scientific expertise in solving real-world challenges together with 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,” he 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.”

Worrall added that Microsoft’s research and investments in data-driven tools such as cloud and AI 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,” he said.

“This partnership also aligns with Microsoft’s sustainability commitments and pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, carbon negative by 2050.”

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.

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