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Working to protect coastal waters in Poole Harbour

BCP Council to utilise AI technology to help protect the quality of Poole Harbour’s water and habitats

Working jointly with UnifAI Technology Ltd, BCP Council has announced a pilot project which will utilise AI (artificial intelligence) technology to monitor, protect and improve the water ecosystem in Poole Harbour.

This exciting pilot project will be undertaken in association with Poole Harbour Commissioners, the Environment Agency, Digital Catapult’s Things Connected Bournemouth, Southern IFCA and Barclays Eagle Labs.

Poole Harbour is one of the world’s largest natural harbours and has been recognised internationally as an important area for nature conservation and is designated a Special Protection Area. The harbour supports extensive wild and aquaculture shellfish beds, and water quality is vitally important for this key local industry.

The new project will see UnifAI Technology provide a network of water quality sensors to continuously monitor the harbour for real-time AI analysis. This innovative, low cost approach to environmental monitoring will enable the detection of a much wider range of physical, chemical and biological indicators within the harbour. This will help them to understand, manage and predict events such as bacterial build up, sewage, fertiliser runoff and industrial discharges, which can be harmful for aquatic ecosystems, creating a build up of algae which can be detrimental to water quality.

The project is commencing with a pilot in the Poole Park lake, which is connected by a sluice channel to Poole Harbour. With more shelter around the lake making it easier to access the AI, the pilot will utilise existing water quality data from the lake to help to train the AI ahead of its use in Poole Harbour.

The project forms part of the work that the Council’s Economic Development team are delivering as a partner on the Interreg 2 Seas ‘Smart Ports Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development (SPEED) Programme’ which aims to develop the conditions for a leading smart ports innovation. It is also helping with the council’s ongoing Smart Place work which transforms the way that people can live their lives through the adoption of digital applications, with the longer-term goal of this project being to demonstrate the value of AIenabled water sensing for near shore waterways such as rivers, estuaries, tidal lakes and harbours across the UK and beyond.

Councillor Felicity Rice, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, BCP Council commented:

“It’s great to be working with partners through this pilot to help to protect our special harbour ecosystem. Poole harbour is treasured by everyone that lives and visits Poole. Unfortunately, there are many factors affecting the wildlife and plants in the harbour. For example, tyre dust from cars and lorries gets washed into the water, along with products used in the farming industry, and even the medications that we use ourselves (such as anti-depressants, contraceptive pills and diabetic medication) can end up in the water course system – so we are really keen to understand how we can best preserve this amazing natural feature which is right on our doorstep.

Dan Byles, Chief Commercial Officer for UnifAI Technology, and former Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Environment commented:

“We are delighted to be working with BCP Council and the Poole Harbour Commissioners on this important project. By helping us understanding complex systems such as the microbiome of natural water ecosystems, the right technologies can be powerful tools in ensuring we better look after the quality of our water, air and soil. Our goal at UnifAI Technology is to simplify the use of artificial intelligence to for real world applications such as this.”


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