Hong Kong venture capital fund Beyond Ventures has joined with Linear Capital of Shanghai to lead a US$9 million investment that will benefit forestry in national parks and other natural resources all over the world. They are funding Insight Robotics, which pursues a mission to facilitate risk management of the world’s assets by generating and making sense of data.
Other entities involved are Brizan Investments co-founded by Professor Ping K Ko, former Dean of the School of Engineering at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Insight Robotics optimizes management of forestry, agricultural land and oil palm plantations. It provides intelligence based on multispectral and spatial data from aerial and terrestrial sensors to facilitate early detection of man-made and natural threats to forestry.
One major outcome is enabling environmentally and economically sustainable management of the world’s national parks, as well as conservation areas and commercial forests. The funding will enable Insight Robotics to build on its leadership in Asia Pacific, while developing new technologies. One beneficiary will be a project to develop a high-speed, high-resolution multi-spectral aerial survey camera designed to gather data by covering very large tracts of agricultural land. The camera’s advanced data-processing algorithms yield best-in-class image quality.
Another project focuses on a big data storage application that enables fast extraction of spatial data. It tracks changes over time and drives a data-mining process carried out by smart algorithms. A prime example of how technological innovation can help make the world a better place was highlighted by Kevin Chan, co-founder and CEO of Insight Robotics. He explained how the company was inspired by WALL-E, the science fiction movie, to design robots that are now improving fire detection to slash carbon emissions around the planet.
The significance of the breakthrough is that the deliberate burning of forests is responsible for about 30% of global carbon emissions, but some 1.5 million hectares of land are now being protected following deployment of more than 100 wildfire detection robots.
Expanding on the aerial survey element of the company’s forestry management efforts, he said: “Our solution facilitates the full data journey – from data generation through to harvesting, processing, storage, analytics and visualization.”
He added: “This will transform the entire risk management industry by virtue of a real-time risk assessment model. We are talking about a move from hedging financial risk with insurance, or buying commodity futures, to mitigating risk with data-generated intelligence.”
Lap Man, co-founder and managing partner of Beyond Ventures, believes Insight Robotics is part of a nascent-yet-booming industry. He said: “A new era of the service industry being served by drones is opening up and will represent a larger opportunity than the drone market itself. Insight Robotics presides over its own core technology in photogrammetry, pattern recognition and database management – all in the context of the forestry management market.”
Linear Capital VP Can Zheng said: “The Insight Robotics team has long been focused on large-scale aerial survey data processing and has accumulated in-depth hardware and software technology know-how. The application of big data technology to forestry and agriculture is still in its infancy, but the market potential is huge.”
He added: “We hope development of data collection and processing technology will empower the company to provide high-calibre value-added services, such as risk assessment and management, to help its customers achieve real-time management driven by meaningful data.”