A research initiative has been ideated to create a digital ‘twin’ of the United Kingdom, utilising artificial intelligence and big data, in order to achieve its net zero objectives. Supported by a £2.5 million research grant from UK Research and Innovation, the project aims to leverage AI technology to minimise emissions from land utilisation.

Cattle and sheep farming, along with degraded peatlands, are responsible for approximately 10% of the emissions in the UK. Collaborating with industry leaders and the farming community, the researchers aim to develop sophisticated computer code that can generate recommendations on reducing these emissions.

The digital twin is a current depiction of reality that is regularly refreshed using satellite data, field instrumentation, and other information. A self-learning digital twin possesses the ability to enhance its understanding of the environment by incorporating this data. As a result, this technology can contribute in making decisions that promote environmentally sustainable land utilisation.

The project team has distinguished researchers from three research-focused universities viz University of Leicester, Loughborough University, University of Bristol and the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO). These experts possess diverse skills in areas such as artificial intelligence, environmental research, greenhouse gas measurement and modelling, as well as behavioural and social sciences.

Professor John Remedios, Director of the National Centre for Earth Observation said in an official press release, “In our work on net-zero verification for the UK we are recognising that both observations and models are key to characterisation of emissions and to predictability. A digital twin in this area will capture a key interaction between food and carbon, allowing us to test not only current outcomes but future scenarios.” He further added, “It is very likely that the drive to reach net-zero will require a number of measures and this project will provide not only a major step forward but also an exemplar for investigation of other net-zero measures. The UK can be proud of the innovative studies, such as this Project, that are a sign of the scientific community’s commitment to support healthy and productive environments.”

By harnessing the power of big data, this cutting-edge initiative aims to provide valuable insights and solutions for sustainable land management. With leading researchers and experts from various disciplines collaborating, the project is poised to make significant contributions in areas such as AI, environmental research, greenhouse gas measurement, and behavioural science. As the project unfolds, it is expected to pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future, ultimately helping the UK transition towards a net zero economy.