Can ‘Nature Tech’ rise to WWF-Canada’s Nature X Carbon Tech Challenge? (That’s up to you)

‘Nature tech’ is, appropriately enough, a growing industry. An umbrella term for the application of modern technologies to help us monitor, manage and conserve nature, it’s become increasingly crucial as environmental crises accelerate around us.  

With actions that protect, restore and steward the Earth’s natural resources, we can help to mitigate climate change and wildlife loss. Collectively known as nature-based climate solutions, or NbCS, they range from planting trees to restricting development on tidal salt marshes. While seeming relatively straight-forward, they can be implemented, augmented, verified and scaled-up by integrating nature tech. 

© Martin Reisch

Canadian reforestation company Flash Forest, for example, uses drones to plant trees, improving the scale and pace of their regeneration efforts while the World Resources Institute is using artificial intelligence to support the monitoring of tree cover change over time in hopes of validating NbCS projects.   

Measuring carbon in nature helps us understand and enhance the role nature can play in mitigating climate change. So WWF-Canada’s Nature X Carbon Tech Challenge is specific to monitoring, reporting and verification of NbCS in Canada to more accurately track the impact of our work.  

Ideally, technological innovations proposed through the challenge will be suitable for community members to employ at scale — creating a user-friendly carbon-monitoring network for natural ecosystems across Canada.  

There are already some existing technologies and software to measure greenhouse gas (GHG) flux, but they’re often expensive with labour and knowledge requirements that make them incompatible for community use. The Nature X Carbon Tech Challenge aims to overcome these barriers.

We’re inviting all scientiststechnology experts, and innovators to applyFinalists will receive a $25,000 grant to validate their technology in the fieldFinal award recipients will receive up to a $100,000 contract to work with WWF-Canada in measuring carbon sequestration from NbCS projects.   

Register NOW for access to exclusive content, access to WWF resources, and information for preparing your proposal. Applications open September 7, 2021.

Enough with the technical jargon – let’s get to the fun! Check out these nature tech ideas from WWF-staff to get your creative juices flowing! We gave them five minutes to pitch their best ideas — think of what you could do with an entire summer to plan.

    • Drones have recently been used for tree planting at scale as an NbCS but what about using them for carbon measurement? Instead of firing seeds into the ground, they could take multiple soil core samples for quick analysis of carbon in the field.
    • We’re harvesting more trees than we’re planting globally — but that’s not necessarily accounted for in current GHG reporting. We need eyes in the sky to track where trees are removed, where trees are planted — and if they’re surviving. 
    • What about attaching sensors to kayaks — or other recreational activity products — and having community groups and tourists measure eelgrass or tidal salt marsh ecosystems while out for a paddle?
    • There are apps that can measure rooms in your home, so what about applying similar concepts to measure the growth of trees and other vegetation?  
    • Soil samples are typically analyzed in the lab using bulk density, dry combustion, etc. Is there a way to eliminate the lab? Perhaps some sort of in-field sensor?
    • Most people have phones, so what about adding a sensor to a phone port to reduce the need for additional equipment?  



WWF-Canada’s Nature X Carbon Tech Challenge, supported by RBC Tech for Nature and Microsoft-Canada, catalyzes the development of user-friendly and innovative technologies to support community-led measurement of carbon in nature.