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Getting into climate tech at London Tech Week

CYB's Leads Developer, Ali, shares his thoughts on London Tech Week.

Last week was London Tech Week where we were treated to some really brilliant presentations from people trying to achieve some incredibly important things, covering a range of topics from medtech and artificial intelligence to edtech and 6G.  At Caution Your Blast we’re all about using tech as a force for good to change society for the better so I was especially excited to see the sessions on climate tech, which is as much a hot topic on CYB Slack as it is in the news.  One live event in particular, ‘Launching a ClimateTech Start-up: Lessons From Three Founders’, really struck a chord with me and triggered a few thoughts I’d like to share.

Targeted tech as the solution

We can’t get away from the fact that, in order to see significant change for the better, everyone needs to take action to help reverse the effects of the climate crisis. The problem is just too great, and the consequences are too catastrophic, to simply hope that somebody else will come along and fix it for us. Ultimately, this means individuals need to carefully consider the choices they make when going about their everyday life: Do I need to drive to see my friends this weekend or could I take the bus instead? Do I need to buy that new thing on Amazon straightaway or could I just walk to my local shop later in the week?

I know examples like this seem quite flippant, but it can feel incredibly tough to make decisions differently when stacked up against the thousands of others we make every day - which is why it’s so important that tech can take some of that pain away.  

While we can and must all play our part, Rachel Delacour from Sweep provides pause for thought stating that the potential solutions to the climate crisis are so vast and we need targeted solutions that will make the biggest strides towards net zero.  They’ve bet on companies as being capable of making the biggest shifts with pressure from customers, employees and investors being the main levers that will convince businesses to take action.  To propel this movement, Sweep have identified a fundamental pain point for businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint: calculating what it is in the first place.  It’s difficult for businesses to imagine how they even start to track their carbon emissions as there isn’t a framework or regulation that exists that businesses can follow.

There are many products available and Sweep are one of them that help businesses see, track and reduce their carbon emissions across their value chain.  This means not only looking at a business’s own carbon footprint but their whole supply chain which requires their partners to sign up to the platform.  Sweep’s tech solution does the heavy lifting to provide businesses with the information they need to make accurate decisions to reduce their carbon footprint.  Even more than that, it also facilitates engagement across suppliers in a supply chain so they can collectively work together towards the same goal.  It’s this sort of end-to-end collaboration that, with the help of public bodies to enforce regulations for carbon emissions, could trigger mass adoption for positive actions towards net zero.  

Agriculture

The agricultural sector has the lowest levels of tech adoption in the economy, yet produces 24% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. Because of this, there’s a real opportunity for tech to play a part in making the sector more sustainable and less harmful to the environment, whilst making the day-to-day lives of those in the sector easier at the same time.

The broad brush term “tech” can of course mean many things, but nothing grabs headlines and captures the imagination quite like ‘big data’ and ‘A.I.’. Beyond the buzzwords, though,  enormous, structured datasets coupled with machine learning could prove valuable resources in helping farmers increase the efficiency of their methods and reduce their impact on the environment, especially when we consider some of the massive county-sized farms you see in countries like Australia and the USA. With data on a number of environmental conditions changing constantly across the day throughout the entirety of the agricultural supply chain, it’s no wonder that it’s nigh impossible for humans to make sense of this massive ocean of data. 

This is where companies such as Hummingbird Technologies are building innovative solutions to measure food sustainability across supply chains to optimise by collecting data from satellites, drones, robots and planes.  The key is in turning the data into information to produce visualisations and insights that allow farmers to make the best use of their land to reduce chemical input so it can be used for generations to come.  For example, without these insights and imagery farmers run the risk of applying a scatter-bomb approach when applying chemicals to weed their crops.  With intelligent, useful information provided by these new tech solutions, chemicals can be targeted, reducing their use and subsequent impact on the surrounding environment.  Similar to above, the data insights and visualisations provided by agri-tech could also help calculate carbon emissions used to farm a crop from seed to shelf which can allow individuals to make informed decisions about the food they buy, something nigh on impossible without tech solutions.

Public sector

Beyond the innovation being pioneered in the private sector, governments at all levels are always going to be the main catalysts for mass change.  People can be quick to point to regulations as a measure of constraint, designed to stop people and companies doing things and making things more difficult, but there’s also a role to play in helping lay the groundwork to channel the efforts and enthusiasm of others and tackle the climate crisis together. COP26 takes place in Glasgow from the 31st October and is a perfect opportunity for global leaders to reach broad agreement on the frameworks and regulations that will ensure businesses operate in a sustainable way for the planet.  

We can already see this at the local level, and it doesn’t have to mean spinning up lots of expensive, painful initiatives. As Fotis Talantzis, CEO of Novoville, mentions, councils don’t have to reinvent the wheel when designing their plan to become net zero emitters. For example, Edinburgh City Council discovered that 70% of the properties in the city were in need of critical repair which was contributing enormously to the 30% of carbon emissions caused by Edinburgh’s buildings.  Novoville created an app that allowed private homeowners to carry out the maintenance and repairs of common areas in their housing blocks, they included a simple estimation and recommendation for the required repairs to enable the building to become carbon neutral. This relatively simple solution solves a common problem once and gives the benefit of the solution to those who need it, empower citizens to make better environmentally-friendly decisions and ultimately help to bring forward Edinburgh City Council’s target of becoming net zero by 2030.

Summing up

Watching the sessions at London Tech Week really gave me hope that the tech and digital industry has both the capability and enthusiasm to create solutions that mean we might just achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. There’s a real opportunity for products and services to really focus on informing individuals and businesses to make better informed decisions.  Even more than this, with the solutions we build, we have an opportunity to change people’s behaviour which really could have a lasting effect for the good of society.

Climate tech is a sector that aligns very well with our values at Caution Your Blast and one we’re actively working to be involved in to play our part in the climate emergency.

If you need help with technical solutions for your products or want to your teams to work in a more agile-centric way then why not get in touch and have a chat with us.