North East academics have joined forces with a Northallerton-based business to monitor the degradation of peatland using artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

Teesside University and Climate Solutions Exchange Ltd (CSX) are working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to develop an AI system to improve peatland condition monitoring and assessment.

Peat formations are a significant element of the higher ground in the region, with the source of the River Tees in Upper Teesdale being surrounded by extensive peat bogs. They store vast quantities of carbon, however 80 per cent of peatlands in the UK have been damaged, primarily through drainage to allow for the grazing of animals or growing of crops and trees.

Darlington and Stockton Times: KTP Associate Radia Chowdhury with Luke Jeffery, an Environmental Data Analyst at CSX

Using the developed AI model, the project will enable peatland owners to cost effectively identify areas of peatland degradation and take restorative action to protect it, as well as better access peatland carbon offset funding markets to increase the delivery of major carbon benefits.

CSX and Teesside University have appointed Teesside University graduate Radia Chowdhury as the KTP associate to join the CSX team at its offices in the C4DI (Centre 4 Digital Innovation) in Northallerton.

Teesside University academics Dr Annalisa Occhipinti, associate professor, and Dr Alessandro Di Stefano, senior lecturer in computer science, will utilise their expertise in machine learning, AI, and predictive modelling to support Radia in developing an AI model to identify, measure and predict peatland conditions and identify peatlands requiring intervention.

The project will also be supported by Dr Jawad Fayaz, senior lecturer in civil engineering, and Professor Claudio Angione, professor of artificial intelligence.

Andy Howard, CSX CEO, said: “Being able to secure the KTP financial support to appoint Radia enables us to demonstrate how further collaborations along the River Tees can put the region at the forefront of combatting the climate emergency.

“We have around us a critical carbon store and potential sink in peatlands. Working with Teesside University we will create the link utilising modern technology and artificial intelligence to enable the effective protection and restoration of these vital habitats.”

Dr Occhipinti added: “Delivering research which responds directly to the climate emergency is central to Teesside University’s research strategy and so we are delighted to be working alongside CSX on this highly innovative project.

“Peatlands are a key feature of this region’s landscape, and this project will be highly impactful in helping preserve them for future generations to enjoy, while utilising their carbon storage potential in the fight against global climate change.”

The 30-month programme is part-funded by the Government’s Innovate UK.