February 24, 2024

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AI-Powered Model to Reduce Ammonia Emissions

Image Credits: HKUST, Press Release

An international research endeavour led by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has achieved a significant technological breakthrough by introducing an artificial intelligence (AI) model designed to mitigate global ammonia (NH3) emissions originating from agricultural activities.

Image Credits: HKUST, Press Release

Through the innovative use of machine learning techniques, the pioneering study not only identified that global NH3 emissions from croplands are less extensive than previously estimated but also demonstrated the efficacy of optimising fertiliser management in reducing emissions by approximately 38%, without compromising nitrogen fertiliser usage overall.

The implications of this research extend to policymakers globally, offering valuable insights into addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals concerning poverty alleviation, food security, and sustainable agriculture.

The emission of NH3 from diverse agricultural and industrial processes poses environmental hazards, leading to air and water pollution, ecosystem damage, and threats to human health. Although NH3 itself is not a greenhouse gas, its interactions within the soil and atmosphere can result in the formation of compounds such as nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

Significantly, the production of three major crops – rice, wheat, and maize – accounts for more than half of the global cropland NH3 emissions. With increasing food demand amidst global population growth, the imperative to discover methods for reducing these emissions has become paramount for sustainable development. However, the absence of accurate global-scale information hampers countries’ ability to implement effective emission reduction strategies tailored to their specific circumstances.

To confront this challenge, a research consortium spearheaded by Prof. Jimmy FUNG Chi-Hung, Chair Professor of HKUST’s Division of Environment and Sustainability in the Academy of Interdisciplinary Studies and Department of Mathematics, alongside Prof. ZHENG Yi from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), curated and synthesised a dataset derived from field observations of NH3 emission rates spanning from 1985 to 2022.

Subsequently, they trained an AI-powered computational model to estimate global NH3 emissions utilising the dataset while accounting for various geographical factors including climate, soil characteristics, crop types, irrigation practices, fertiliser application, and tillage methods.

This model possesses the capability to generate tailored fertiliser management plans for diverse regions. For instance, in Asia, approximately 76% of wheat lands are deemed suitable for implementing enhanced-efficiency fertilisers (EEFs) to mitigate NH3 emissions, particularly due to the influence of global warming where temperature significantly affects NH3 emissions from wheat lands in Asia.

The AI model revealed that by optimising fertiliser management practices – such as adjusting fertilisation timing, utilising specific nutrient blends, and implementing suitable planting and tillage techniques – it is plausible to reduce global NH3 emissions from the three aforementioned crops by up to 38%. Notably, Asia exhibits the highest potential for NH3 reduction, followed by North America and Europe.

This discovery holds particular significance given projections indicating a 4.0% to 5.5% increase in global NH3 emissions from croplands over the 30-year period until 2060. Therefore, even achieving a fraction of this potential reduction could suffice to offset the projected increase.

Prof. Jimmy Fung stressed the challenges faced by current global efforts to mitigate emissions, citing high costs and small farm sizes as significant obstacles. He highlighted the significance of the study’s findings, which offer updated data on NH3 emissions globally. This data can inform policymaking and management practices aimed at reducing haze and ensuring food security. Prof. Fung emphasised the vast potential of leveraging big data and AI in advancing sustainable development.

The study, titled “Fertilizer Management for Global Ammonia Emission Reduction,” has been published in Nature, a premier multidisciplinary scientific journal. The research’s co-first authors included Mr. LI Geng, a PhD student from HKUST, and Dr. XU Peng, a Research Assistant Professor from SUSTech. The research consortium comprised members from Tianjin University, Colorado State University, Peking University, Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Beijing Forestry University, and Cornell University.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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