Beyond Dead Wood Hackathon unveils innovative solutions for biodiversity conservation 

In an unprecedented display of innovation and commitment to environmental protection, the Beyond Dead Wood Hackathon concluded on 9 March, bringing together some of the brightest minds from around the world.

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Hackathon participants worked diligently to develop solutions that would contribute to a paradigm shift in biodiversity conservation.

Organised by Business Finland’s Data Economy programme, Ultrahack, and partners including Metsäteho, Location Innovation Hub, Geoforum, Arbonaut and Sitra, the hackathon challenged participants to harness the power of AI, remote sensing and forest ecology to protect Europe’s rare native forests.

Nine international teams participated over two days, working diligently to develop solutions that would contribute to a paradigm shift in biodiversity conservation. The aim of the hackathon was to find innovative, scalable and reliable methods to identify, validate and conserve ecologically valuable forests, thereby reconciling conservation efforts with economic interests.

“The teams’ proposals were of very high quality and innovative, and really exceeded our expectations. It was interesting to follow the work of the teams and see how well many of the proposals complemented each other through the whole value chain,” says Customer Manager Joonas Jokela from the Location Innovation Hub.

Potential winners to reshape the industry

The overall winning team KOKO Forest developed a biodiversity index that integrates different data sources into a reliable estimate of forest biodiversity and conservation value. Their argument was that the current method for estimating the value of biodiversity has a skew towards certain types of areas, such as simply using the number of species in an area as a lead indicator.

The winning team Koko forest.
The overall winning team KOKO Forest.

The team used aerial photography as a data source and combined it with other data to determine the amount of aspen and dead wood in the forest. Both aspen and dead wood are good indicators of biodiversity because a large number of species depend on them.

The tool can be used to put a price on biodiversity. The information provided by their solution can be used by forest managers, companies and investors.

“This hackathon helped us develop our business plan. The pitching sessions helped us keep our idea clear and communicate better to business people,” says ecologist Hannah O’Sullivan from University of Helsinki. In addition to ecologist Sullivan, the team included forest health expert Samuli Junttila, remote sensing expert Antti Polvivaara and machine vision expert Einari Heinaro.

Second place in the hackathon went to the WiredHut team, which worked on semantic segmentation using data fusion and machine learning techniques. Third place was shared by the EcoSonic and DP-tec teams. These winning ideas use cutting-edge technology to offer new ways of mapping, monitoring and managing forest ecosystems, promising a more sustainable future for both the environment and the economy.

“With this hackathon we wanted to get the teams to think about data economy, about creating value from combining data from multiple sources, and to explore business opportunities related to data and the biodiversity of the forests. The teams did a remarkable job in exploring these opportunities and found promising ways to create value from forest data. We are now eagerly waiting to see these ideas progress into development activities that also Business Finland could help and support going forward,” states Timo Sorsa, Ecosystem Manager from Business Finland.

For more information about the winners and their groundbreaking solutions, stay tuned – we will publish more information soon!

More information about the hackathon on the Ultrahack website.