Bioverse Labs: Using drones and AI to support the sustainability of the Amazonian ecosystem

UNICEF Innovation Fund Cohort: Drones

Zachary Ladin
children in a classroom
06 December 2019

Pop quiz! How many species would you guess are on Earth? It’s okay, no one knows for sure, but based on previous research, it’s estimated that there could be nearly 9 million species on planet Earth!  Yet, despite humanity’s impressive technological and tool-creating prowess, we’ve only discovered and catalogued  about 14% of those species, to-date! 

We are also aware of the importance of biodiversity for sustaining ecosystems for all life on Earth (including us humans). Yet in an age of unbridled, accelerating technological growth, these species (and all the information they contain) are not fully known, nor protected. 

At Bioverse Labs, our team uses drone imagery and machine learning to identify and map non-timber species of trees (e.g., chestnut, copaiba, and Brazil nuts)  in the Trombetas River basin in Para State in Northern Brazil. Our team aims to identify tree species that support food security and economic growth for the indegenious communities in the region. This methodology, and accompanying sustainable agro-forestry management plan will provide communities with a more direct connection to renewable income sources. 


Drone technology allows us to access remote areas of the rainforest and capture high-resolution imagery. Our drones are equipped with special cameras for collecting multi-spectral imagery (images that contain information beyond the visible light spectrum that humans are able to sense), which provide us with details to improve our machine learning models for identification.  

Our solution is unique in how it integrates ground-truth, cultural knowledge of the ecosystems with cutting edge remote sensing technologies to train our open-source software models where important trees are located, and how their condition is changing over time. 

We aim to provide indegenious communities in the Amazon rainforest access to new information so that they are able to manage their natural resources sustainably.  


Open-source solutions leverage the power of the collective -- by allowing solutions to be shared freely and widely. It also fosters regular improvements in a solution as others are able to build upon the tools we’re developing.

Lady entering a forest
UNICEF/UN0331274/Babajanyan VII Photo


In 2017, through the Google- and NASA-sponsored Global Solutions Program at Singularity University, Francisco D’Elia and I formed Bioverse, an impact-based company to help stop Earth’s massive loss of biodiversity. Our moonshot (i.e., core mission) is to fundamentally change the way humans do business with nature. 

Our team is composed of ecologists, taxonomists, agronomists, engineers, computer scientists, computer vision, remote sensing, and AI experts, as well as technologists specializing in the ethics of the application of technology. Through our team’s diversity of cultures and technical backgrounds, we are constantly (un)learning and challenging ourselves internally, so that we can approach problems to develop novel, unique, and effective solutions.  



UNICEF’s Innovation Fund Investment is an amazing opportunity for Bioverse, and has enabled our first major project in Brazil. Beyond providing the funds to develop open-source mapping solutions for indigenous communities, these funds will be an important spring-board to garner further investments that will help us enter markets in sustainable agriculture, invasive species detection, and monitoring environmental health in urban areas.

We are looking forward to collaborating and sharing our team’s expertise with other companies in the cohort to help the continued success of the Fund’s positive impact towards improving the health and security of children.