Ann Arbor software companies and Microsoft team up to save the planet with AI

Ann Arbor software companies Gradient Valley and Arbormoon are sponsoring an Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Earth Day event in hopes of bringing environmentalists and AI professionals together to solve environmental issues.


"There's a lot of people interested in environmental issues who wouldn't have the resources of a software developer or data scientist," says Keith Bourne, Gradient Valley founder. "The main goal is to bring these groups together to partner on projects."


The event will take place April 18 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Arbormoon, 120 E. Huron St. in Ann Arbor. Jennifer Marsman, principal engineer on Microsoft's AI for Earth team, will be the event's speaker. AI for Earth is Microsoft AI’s initiative for environmental innovation. The initiative includes a grant program for environmental AI projects focused on agriculture, biodiversity, climate change, and water.


Bourne says Marsman's discussion of the AI for Earth initiative on a podcast, as well as a recent environmental project at Gradient Valley, sparked his inspiration to sponsor the event.


Gradient Valley and environmental engineering firm Limnotech are working on an AI project to predict toxicity levels of algae blooms in the Great Lakes. Bourne says they are using machine learning and AI to produce a machine that can see toxins that aren't perceptible to human eyes.


Bourne has known Marsman through business networking circles such as Mobile Monday Ann Arbor, and reached out to her about presenting on AI for Earth.


"The great thing is you can see what types of things are funded (through AI for Earth)," Bourne says. "If people come out to the event and come up with a great concept, the Microsoft grants are a great avenue to get funding, but there are others."


For example, Microsoft has supported Wild Me, a project that utilizes technology to scan and identify individual animals and species. The goal is to identify endangered species in a more accurate, cost-effective way.


Bourne encourages companies in the Washtenaw County area that are interested in these topics to attend the event.


"In general, people don't know (the power of technology) yet," Bourne says. "They know that it's a rising thing in technology with AI and machine learning, but hopefully this event shows people what solutions you can come up with."


Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at


Photos courtesy of Gradient Valley.

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