The XPRIZE Foundation has announced the launch of a four-year, $10 million competition designed to spur the creation of technology capable of identifying and cataloging rainforest biodiversity and generating insights that could lead to the development of a new bioeconomy.
According to National Geographic, rainforests, which are home to more than half the planet's biodiversity and once covered 14 percent of the planet's land surface, today cover a mere 6 percent. The recent acceleration of deforestation in the Amazon basin, due in part to illegal logging and mining and the expansion of agriculture, has added to global climate insecurity. To help address the problem, the Rainforest XPRIZE competition will reward teams that successfully develop technology that can capture the true biodiversity of rainforests and layer on additional data that demonstrates the value of protecting the natural resources within them.
To that end, first- and second-place prizes of $5 million and $2 million will be awarded to teams that create technology that, in eight hours or less, can capture the biodiversity of at least three rainforest layers — emergent, canopy, understory, or forest floor — and generate, with additional data, the greatest number of insights in forty-eight hours. Up to ten teams that advance through the semifinal round will receive milestone prizes of $250,000 each, while a total of $500,000 in bonus prizes will be awarded in the final round to one or more teams in recognition of their innovative approaches to species identification. The competition will be followed by an additional two years of impact activities aimed at establishing a new bioeconomy for the twenty-first century.
"Despite their importance in supporting life on Earth, rainforests are undervalued because we simply do not yet know everything that exists in this ancient ecosystem," said Rainforest XPRIZE executive director Jyotika Virmani. "I'm excited to see the innovative technologies that will emerge from this competition and give us a better assessment of the incredible biodiversity. Our goal is for the Rainforest XPRIZE to provide new understanding and reveal the true potential of the standing forest, allowing local communities to lead the way for all of us to live in harmony with these magnificent rainforests."
(Photo credit: XPRIZE Foundation)