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AI system could identify roadside invasive species - UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The new AI system will identify potentially damaging plant species such as Japanese knotweed Picture: Crown Copyright/GBNNSS
The new AI system will identify potentially damaging plant species such as Japanese knotweed Picture: Crown Copyright/GBNNSS

Invasive plant species like Japanese knotweed cause damage across the UK, but finding them and tracking their growth can be time-consuming and expensive, especially along roads and railways.

Now, scientists from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and Keen AI, a Birmingham-based artificial intelligence and machine learning company, are developing a new artificial intelligence (AI) system that can quickly survey large and inconvenient areas for invasive and potentially damaging plant species.

The team has been funded by Innovate UK to run a 10-month pilot project for the new system in two locations: north Wales and the Midlands.

They will place a high-speed camera on top of a vehicle and survey up to 120 miles of vegetated roadside per day. The captured images will be tagged with their GPS location and uploaded to an online platform where UKCEH ecologists will identify the plants in the photographs.

The next task will be to teach the AI how to correctly identify invasive species like Japanese knotweed, rhododendrons, Himalayan balsam and cherry laurel. The team will also add ash trees to its learning: these are native to the UK, but currently at risk of ash dieback disease.

Posted on: 16 June 2020

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