In the first of our Tech in Action series, we speak to Marco Albani, the Co-Founder and CEO of Chloris Geospatial. Established in 2021, the company is operating at the intersection of space-tech and nature-tech. Using advanced machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensor-fusion, the team at Chloris Geospatial can directly measure vegetation dynamics on earth, from space.
Can you introduce yourself and explain why you decided to found Chloris Geospatial?
Although I trained as a forest scientist, I spent much of the last 20 years working in sustainability and on climate change solutions for business. Time and again, I saw action hindered by a shortage of good operational-scale data and by a lack of understanding of how changes in land use impact the volumes of carbon stored in the earth’s vegetation. Businesses needed greater awareness of the impacts of their activities on the natural world. So, not only did I know there was space, but also a pressing need for a solution.
I knew that Dr. Alessandro Baccini, Chief Scientist and co-founder of Chloris Geospatial, had been working on the science side of this issue for over 20 years. He was using remote sensing data to directly estimate the carbon stored in vegetation and forest. While we each came to the challenge from a different angle, we both recognised the importance of making this science available to the market – both at scale and at the speed of business.
With a growing number of companies starting to take responsibility for their impact on climate and nature, we knew we needed to make our Chloris accounting system easy-to-access and reliable. In this way, we could help new players understand and visualise the carbon stored in forests and vegetation. This was the belief on which we founded Chloris Geospatial.
Could you say more on the problem you seek to solve?
Fundamentally, healthy economies are underpinned by natural capital, such as our forests and grasslands. So, for the global economy to strengthen and achieve a state of net-zero carbon by 2050, we must comprehensively conserve and restore these ecosystems.
At Chloris Geospatial, our mission is to accelerate the transition to a net-zero and nature-positive future. The way we do it is by making it easier for businesses to understand their impact on nature. We are aware that all businesses and corporations are facing the challenge of transitioning to a net-zero and nature-positive economy, which is why we are determined to make access to carbon data, and its insights, both fast and easy.
At present, our primary focus is on companies operating in the voluntary carbon market and supply chain companies in the food, land use and agriculture sector. Here, the Chloris technology is enabling a real paradigm shift for the measurement of forest carbon. It brings unprecedented integrity, speed and scalability to the voluntary carbon market and to the measurement of the climate performance of forest carbon projects. In just a few hours, we can generate biomass predictions for anywhere in the world.
Our logic at Chloris Geospatial is that if business leaders can access high integrity accounting on natural capital, they need no longer question the carbon calculations on which their investments are based. Equipped with reliable, trust-worthy data, they are free to focus on taking effective action for climate and nature by accelerating investments in nature-based solutions while, at the same time, being able to cost effectively monitor impact with confidence.
Let’s get technical: How does your product work?
Today, we are the leading company in the market to deliver what is referred to as direct measurement of above-ground carbon stock and change from space. The data we deliver is empirical, spatially explicit, wall-to-wall and comes with quantified uncertainty at the pixel-level. This means, we do not use the average emission factors and area-based estimates that standard remote-sensing approaches are reliant upon.
Unlike those standard approaches – and thanks to our scientific, machine-learning and software innovations – we see all above-ground carbon changes over very large areas. We can spot carbon emissions from large-scale deforestation, degradation, disturbances and fires. More encouragingly, we also observe the carbon removals as a result of reforestation or restoration. That is why we say that ‘we see what the atmosphere sees’.
When you unpick this statement, it means that we measure (and annually update) the volume of carbon in and carbon out, for every pixel on the planet, since the year 2000. This is what really matters for the credible carbon accounting that a credible transition to net-zero requires.
As I mentioned, the Chloris Platform is built on the work and experience of Dr. Alessandro Baccini. As a pioneer in measuring forest carbon stock and change from space, he has been instrumental in building our technology. Our data products are based on the fusion of datasets from public Earth Observation missions, including data from NASA’s ICESat GLAS and GEDI instruments, from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites, and from the United States Geological Survey’s Landsat satellites.
To provide global coverage that incorporates geographic variation in vegetation types and structure, our models are trained at continental scale and capture geographic variations in allometry (the relationship between size and characteristics). Our models also capture the relationships between above ground biomass and remote sensing measurements. Once collected, our data is processed and delivered via the Chloris Platform, which is our cloud-native software infrastructure that deploys data at the speed of business, in a scalable and cost-effective manner. To ensure these high standards are maintained, we make both automated and manual assessments using proprietary benchmarks and publicly available data products.
As a result of the machine-learning and advances in artificial intelligence made by our science and engineering teams, our Platform provides accurate data and insights quickly and at large scale. Our machine learning models are anchored in state-of-the-art data science. They filter and pre-process input data for both quality and representativeness, and create novel predictive features that underpin our mapping algorithms.
Arguably there is nothing new to use satellites to observe and measure forests, but the current standard approaches have serious limitations. We are pleased to overcome these at Chloris Geospatial and to bring to the market a solution that is able to visualise changes in biomass not only from degradation and deforestation, but also by the slow, steady re-growth of trees.
Can you share a story of success?
From very early on in our start-up journey, Permian Global was a dedicated adopter of our technology, trusting our data for their project development and MRV work in Indonesia. Gaining the trust of such a leading project developer was very encouraging.
More recently, we have expanded our customer base for large scale work in the voluntary carbon market and in the food, land use and agriculture sectors. The opportunity to demonstrate our technology at these very large scales has been extremely positive for us.
On the product and science side, we are delighted to have achieved a big milestone this year. Since June 2023, we have been able to deliver spatially explicit, annual above-ground biomass stock and change data at 30 m resolution going back to the year 2000. Not only is this data extremely comprehensive, but also has full temporal and spatial consistency and scalability. This longer time series means we can gather more robust data on degradation and growth trends of above-ground biomass. As a result, we have significantly improved our ability to meet the needs of project developers and other actors who are screening and assessing high quality opportunities for avoidance and removals projects.
Finally, what’s next for Chloris Geospatial?
We are not resting on our laurels! At the moment, we are continuing to develop our product to make it an even greater turnkey solution for REDD+ and ARR applications – both for developers and investors.
But, as a data company fully-focused on tracking natural capital performance over time, our attention isn’t limited to carbon. We see the measurement of biodiversity and water as viable, future opportunities for us and believe that such data would truly help communicate the value of nature conservation and restoration to businesses. Indeed, we see such measurements as essential if we are to build a net-zero and nature-positive economy.
Disclaimer: Respira International does not have any undisclosed affiliation with Chloris Geospatial, we are just interested admirers of their work and the way it aligns with ours. Find out more about Chloris Geospatial here.