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Vibrant Planet uses AI for land mapping and improving climate resiliency

As the planet warms due to human-caused climate change, damage from wildfires has increased with it. The amount of forest area burned by wildfires increased 320% from 1996 to 2021, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.

While building tech to slow the progression and impacts of climate change would be ideal, it's a massive, costly problem that impacts every industry and needs adaptive answers in the more near term. Vibrant Planet looks to be one of those solutions. The startup digitizes land mapping and uses AI to help its users — fire departments and government bureaus — better manage land and also better prepare for potential climate incidents like wildfires.

Vibrant Planet founder and CEO Allison Wolff recently said on TechCrunch's Found podcast that despite how necessary proper land management is to food security, human safety and the protection of biodiversity and natural resources, the industry is still largely stuck on paper maps that aren't always accurate. This analog approach makes playing out certain climate disasters or events, and planning for them, very difficult.

Wolff said Vibrant Planet, sold as an annual subscription, solves this problem by bringing everything online and using AI to make it easier and faster for its users to see how potential disasters and events could unfold.

"We've basically brought this very powerful cloud-based, data-driven system together to enable that to happen in real time," Wolff said. "[It's] very collaborative with spatially overlapped plans."

Moving the mapping online also allows organizations to work together on land management solutions that work for everyone. Indigenous tribes can share their knowledge of how their ancestors cared for an area or land, while conservationists can explain what species on a plot of land need to be protected, and fire chiefs can talk about fire risk.

The system also allows these groups to test out different treatments for land — like controlled fires or removing certain trees or vegetation — to see how it will impact the land's resilience so they can find a plan that works the best for all parties involved.

Wolff never thought she'd become a startup founder, but she told Found that the issues Vibrant Planet are looking to solve were too big for her to ignore.

"Vibrant Planet is a science and technology platform that is creating what we call a common operating picture for wildfire resilience and nature resilience," Wolff said. "We're sort of taking the term 'common operating picture' from the military, and from firefighting. And it's sort of how it sounds, it means urgency. It's critical, coordinated decisions. And we're using it in the natural resource management and wildfire resilience building space, because we have to, it's very urgent."