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March 22, 2024

How AI can help us restore the health of our oceans

Technology is a major reason our waters are in peril, but it also has great potential to help solve the problem.

The oceans cover a vast 70% of the planet we call home, yet their health has been increasingly degraded by the impacts of over-exploitation and climate change. In turn, industries that rely on our oceans have found it more difficult to run their businesses predictably and profitably. With 3.3 billion of the world’s population having a livelihood or connection to the ocean, and the oceans predicted to provide a value of $4 trillion to $6 trillion to the global economy by 2030, the restoration of our oceans’ health is incontestably crucial.

While it’s no secret that technology itself is the cause of many of today’s environmental challenges, such as ocean plastics and overfishing, it may also hold the key to overcoming them. With digital technology, ocean industries—from food production to renewable energy—can not only become more resilient and future-proof in the face of a more unpredictable and rapidly changing environment, but can address one of humanity’s biggest challenges: improving the health of our oceans.

Artificial intelligence has a critical role to play, with its ability to help decarbonize the oceans and mitigate the impacts of climate change on their ecosystems. 

Businesses should look toward the numerous existing ways these digital tools can be applied to help in the fight to restore our oceans.

Optimizing fish farming practices with machine perception tools

The world’s population is rapidly growing, with UN estimates suggesting we could reach a population of 8.5 billion by 2030. While the aquaculture industry will provide a significant part of what we need to support this growing population, current fishing practices are harming our sources of wild fish; 17% of our current protein sources come from fish, yet almost 80% of the world’s fisheries are already depleted. Urgent action is required to reduce the polluting of our oceans by the fishing sector.

Enter AI. Through the use of AI and perception technology, there is a growing opportunity to optimize fish farming practices to better understand what fish need and when. More specifically, farmers can use machine perception tools and AI to automate feeding times in accordance with the hunger levels of the fish to reduce wasted feed—a significant carbon emissions source—while improving growth metrics. With fish feed making up a majority of the industry’s environmental pressures and uneaten feed potentially harming surrounding waters, these new technologies could make a large impact in saving resources, and subsequently minimizing ocean pollution.

Additionally, farmers will be able to use AI systems to better analyze data on fish populations, fishing patterns, and environmental conditions to optimize fishing strategies. Even the health of fish can be monitored, with AI solutions being able to detect and identify sea lice to improve fish health and hence improve fishing yields.

Streamlining shipping operations with machine learning

Another huge contributor to ocean pollution is marine shipping. Approximately 90% of the goods transported globally are transported by sea at some point, transiting through at least two ports, and often many more, as part of their journey. Unexpected disruptions such as delayed vessels, maintenance issues, landslides, congestion at other ports, and inclement weather can contribute significantly to pollution.

Analyzing large volumes of data from various sources, including satellite data, weather forecasts, and vessel data using an AI-powered platform, can generate the necessary insights to streamline operations and reduce congestions.

Specifically, transport companies can use machine learning models to analyze micro-weather systems, current speeds, and port data traffic to optimize shipping routes and port arrival times for lower fuel usage.

Digital AI platforms can provide the opportunity to increase visibility, enabling informed decisions on mitigating congestion, minimizing environmental impact, and recovering quickly from disruptions.

Therefore, AI-powered digital platforms can not only positively impact the way individual companies are run, but if integrated and aligned across a business ecosystem, they hold the potential to reduce friction points in the industry on a macro-scale.

No time to waste

Holistic change across the sector, from optimizing fish farming practices to streamlining shipping operations, is now a necessity if we want to combat the rapidly increasing degradation of our oceans. Companies in ocean-based industries need to take an innovation-driven and collaborative approach with technology firms that can provide the relevant technical expertise to bring about this change.

Embracing new AI technologies with open arms is essential if we are to make a meaningful impact on ocean health and global decarbonization, and to provide services that are vitally important to humanity more sustainably.

To learn more, visit the Ocean section of our website.

Stig Martin Fiskå

Global Head of Ocean, Cognizant

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Stig Martin Fiskå is global head of Cognizant Ocean, and was previously head of AI, Data, IoT & Industry 4.0, in Cognizant Nordics.

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