Can nature tech solve our nature crisis?

Nick Boyle

Can nature tech solve our nature crisis?

Like love and science, for centuries nature and technology have been considered conflicting forces. Diametrically opposed, with nature losing out to the might and speed of technology’s rapid development.

However, over recent years, we’ve seen nature and tech coming together, at unprecedented speed, to form a new sector called nature tech, providing many of the tools necessary to remedy the nature degradation that it has contributed to.

What is nature tech?

Nature tech is the rapidly growing field of innovations designed to understand, monitor, and ultimately, halt and reverse nature loss. It encompasses a wide range of potential solutions; from drones equipped with AI that can map and monitor deforestation, to rapid species identification through environmental DNA (e-DNA); blockchain technology that can ensure the transparency of conservation projects, to specialised finance platforms that channel funds towards nature-positive initiatives, and so much more.

As 2030 edges ever closer, and the time available to halt and reverse biodiversity loss diminishes, this new focus on nature tech could not come soon enough.

A boom in nature tech

While using technology for environmental good isn’t new, the nature tech sector has experienced a recent surge in growth. Previously considered under the umbrella of “climate tech”, nature tech has started to carve its own niche within the sustainability landscape. As the annual ‘State of Nature Tech’ Report, developed by Nature4Climate, Serena and The Nature Tech Collective (previously MRV Collective) revealed, since 2018, investments in nature tech companies have skyrocketed, reaching a staggering $7.5 billion up to 2022. Recent new data from Serena showed that in 2023 alone funding rose 18% from 2022 levels to reach $1.85bn in 2023.

This surge signifies a growing recognition of nature’s independent role in combating climate change (more commonly known as natural climate solution), as well as the growing focus on nature-related risks on businesses and the economy. Nature is starting to be considered big business, with WEF finding that half of the world’s GDP is moderately or highly dependent on nature.

Organisations such as Nature4Climate who published the Nature Tech Report 2023, are instrumental in fostering radical collaboration within the sector. By championing progress, convening stakeholders, and sharing insightful data, it is accelerating innovation and investment to scale promising solutions.

“Our Nature Tech Report 2023 indicated a significant growth in nature tech investment, against a backdrop of a slow-down in VC investment more broadly. This growth is leading to a boom in new nature tech companies emerging. We believe that when the sector collaborates, sharing its successes and failures, this will help build as many solutions as possible to the nature and climate crises.”

Lucy Almond, chair of Nature4Climate

Nature tech companies

 Let’s look at some specific organisations and solutions, leading the way in nature tech:

  • Pivotal exists to help governments, companies and individuals around the world link their biodiversity commitments and actions to real, evidenced outcomes. By validating the role of funding, it can help develop financing models that grow and restore nature at this critical point.
  • Land App is a UK cloud-based digital mapping platform that allows farmers, landowners and businesses to understand the natural capital opportunities on their land. The platform integrates various data layers to help land managers understand and implement the best solutions for people and nature.
  • Gain Forest uses AI and blockchain technology to facilitate transparent funding for nature projects. It uses cutting-edge satellite, drone and field data to monitor impacts while ensuring that the money reaches the communities that are truly protecting nature by co-designing solutions with these communities.
  • Naturebase is a free, open cloud-based platform that reveals the Greenhouse Gas mitigation potential behind different Natural Climate Solution pathways. It also helps guide policymakers and project developers to understand other co-benefits of these pathways including biodiversity benefits, as well as flag relevant human rights issues associated with specific areas. 
  • Chloris Geospatial measure above-ground biomass from forests using satellite technology. It uses robust data to quantify carbon removals and emissions, scaling up confidence in protecting and restoring forests across the world.

Ensuring equity in nature tech

Despite these exciting advancements, technology alone isn’t the silver bullet for halting and reversing biodiversity loss. A crucial aspect of nature tech’s success is ensuring it integrates with, respects, and learns from the knowledge and practices of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IP & LCs). Despite comprising less than 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples steward 80% of global biodiversity, and hold invaluable knowledge about sustainable ecosystem management, handed down over many generations. 

True progress requires collaborative solutions that bridge the gap between technological innovation and traditional ecological wisdom. By harnessing the strengths of technology and collaborating with traditional knowledge holders, we can pave the way for a future where nature thrives alongside human progress, and ensures that fast-developing technologies respect and acknowledge the vital role these communities already play in stewarding nature.

The vital role of communications

The potential for nature tech to combat biodiversity loss is immense, and scaling these solutions is critical, particularly before 2030. To achieve this, communication plays a vital role. Raising awareness among policymakers, investors, and the public about the power of nature tech and the solutions available, can drive increased funding, foster further innovation and create greater impact for people and planet.

If you’re looking for communications support for your nature tech company, we’d love to understand how we can support you.