Throwback to the WEkEO hackathon 2023

August 22, 2023

On 22 and 23 June, almost 400 participants joined the WEkEO hackathon 2023, taking on the challenge to design innovative data-intense solutions to positively impact our environment. Among the winning solutions we count prediction models on changing scenarios of critical coastal ecosystems, educational solutions using EO data to highlight environmental impacts and a novel use of WEkEO data to train AI models for hyperlocal weather forecasts.

Between 22 and 23 June Mercator Ocean International organised a 48-hour online Hackathon, with the support of ⁠Kreativdistrikt and ⁠Trust-IT Services, calling for the creation of innovative solutions that can effectively tackle pressing issues and contribute to sustainable development. The hackathon was dedicated to a qualified audience managing environmental data.

Through the use of WEkEO data, the Hackathon participants had the opportunity to take the stage, proposing innovative projects and groundbreaking ideas that contribute to effective and sustainable policymaking, management, and planning in the coastal, arctic, health, and energy domains. The ultimate goal was to harness the potential of Copernicus data so that the winner could help pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Coastal Challenge

The Coastal Challenge arose from the need to find a sustainable balance between the ever-growing population residing along the coasts and the necessity to conserve and protect the coastal ecosystems and biodiversity. Participants were required to propose solutions that could effectively tackle pressing natural issues, such as coastal erosion, storm tides and tsunamis, and increase awareness among the population about these matters, while allowing human activities to continue.

Arctic Challenge

The Arctic region is among the most severely affected by climate change. The Arctic challenge emerged due to this pressing urgency, encompassing a range of other challenges, such as permafrost thawing and ice melting.

Furthermore, there is a growing rise in political and economic interests concerning this region. The solutions put forward by the participants were required to ensure that decision-makers and economic development adequately take into account the high vulnerability of this region.

Health Challenge

There is a significant connection between climate change and health. The escalating emissions of greenhouse gases severely diminish the availability of clean air and reliable food supply. Consequently, the need to discover solutions that can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable social behaviours across the global population becomes an urgent challenge.

The participants were tasked with finding solutions that could raise widespread awareness of this crucial link between health conditions and the environment.

Energy Challenge

The need to transition towards an industrial model based on renewable energy is widely acknowledged, but numerous challenges persist in executing this shift. Implementing solar energy, inland or offshore wind energy, wave or tidal hydropower, and even algae-based solutions, encounters various operational difficulties, and most of these alternatives still fall short of meeting the global energy demand. To address these issues, the participants were required to use Earth Observation (EO) data to assist in evaluating, exploring, and managing the transition towards renewable energy sources. They focused on optimising the planning and risk assessment of renewable energy projects.

Wildcard Challenge

The Wildcard challenge emerges from the concept of harnessing all the available Copernicus data that may not necessarily align with the other challenges. This data can play a crucial role in addressing a wide array of issues, including plastic pollution, reforestation, water conservation, transitioning the transportation sector, preserving biodiversity, ensuring sustainable food supply chains, and promoting climate education.

Participants in this challenge were tasked with exploring unconventional approaches that have the potential to make a significant difference in the pursuit of a more sustainable world.

Overall Winner: GALENE project

Led by Alessandra Sellini, Co-Founder & CEO at Galene Pathways & Marine Ecologist at Wildlife Tracker, the GALENE project used the Copernicus Marine Service's environmental data to develop a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm that predicts how critical coastal ecosystems, such as seagrass, mangroves, and coral reefs, will shift under the current climate change scenario. The algorithm considers key environmental variables (temperature, pH, salinity, etc.) and aligns them with the species' ecological niches. The model's outcomes will assist in directing conservation and restoration efforts, while also improving marine spatial planning. The main objective is to enhance ecosystem and biodiversity protection, ensuring the continuity of vital ecosystem services like carbon sequestration, food security, and coastal protection. The project addressed Challenge #1 - Coastal, where data processing intersects with marine conservation. The goal is to leverage technology to effectively tackle long-standing threats to coastal ecosystems.

In the future, the project aims to build partnerships with stakeholders to promote informed decision-making in marine conservation and refine the model with localised and specialised data.

Climate change is upon us and we don’t want to stay idle. We want to see the project growing to realise its full potential, being used by communities around the world and facilitating the collaboration and the dialogue between all the stakeholders of the marine environment. We would like to create a platform where everyone will feel involved and heard and where the gap between humanity and nature is bridged with the aid of technology.

Alessandra Sellini, GALENE project team leader, Marine Biologist & Data Scientist

GALENE project team members:

  • Alessandra Sellini (team leader, Marine Biologist & Data Scientist),
  • Andrew Ryan (Entrepreneur & Data Scientist),
  • Alana Boyles (Marine Biologist & Sustainability Consultant)
  • Tobias Ferreira (Oceanographer & Software Engineer)

Second Runner up: Mpactful

Led by Amie Corbin, PhD Candidate at CML (Leiden University), the Mpactful team proposed "Pollution Panic", an educational project that sheds light on environmental impacts through EO data, presented in a fun and engaging manner. The project takes the form of a video game where players assume the role of the antagonist, "Pollution," aiming to eradicate humanity by manipulating environmental conditions. Players can enact laws and actions that affect environmental quality and sustainability, such as allowing companies to dump waste into the ocean or increasing nitrogen pollution limits. These effects vary based on location-specific environmental data, gathered from WEkEO data service products like sea water velocity, Global NDVI, and Carbon Monoxide products.

Amie and Raphael both feel it’s easy to work hard on something you’re passionate about, so we immediately thought that our hobby of playing and developing games could play a role. However, we kept coming back to the point of, would someone actually play this? Driving the point home about climate change and the importance of EO to monitor these changes was important, but if the game isn’t fun, no one would play it anyway. …Our game tries to educate about the influence of different environmental impacts as seen from EO data and the effects of certain environment-related actions in a fun, engaging way.

Amie Corbin, Mpactful project team leader, PhD Candidate at CML (Leiden University) & Raphael Scmitz, .NET Developer at Conclusion Learning Centers

Mpactful project team members:

  • Amie Corbin, PhD Candidate at CML (LeidenUniversity)
  • Raphael Scmitz, .NET Developer at Conclusion Learning Centers
  • Rachael N. Collymore, Consultant, Publicist, Creative Strategist, IP Trainer and advocate for the Creative Industries

Third Runner up: TeRain

Led by Laura Lewis, freelance data scientist/AI engineer, the TeRain project aims to leverage data from the WeKEO service to train AI models capable of providing hyperlocal forecasts of temperature and precipitation. These models will be further adapted for microcontrollers, creating sensors that can be deployed to establish a network of hyperlocal forecasts. For analysis, the project plans to utilise datasets such as the ERA 5 reanalysis (land data) of the 2m temperature and volumetric water content of the soil from Copernicus, in addition to cloud and precipitation maps (atmospheric data) from EUMETSAT. By combining these datasets with advanced AI techniques, the project seeks to enhance forecasting accuracy.

I intend to improve the project by using physical parameters and fine-tuning in the models to enhance the reliability of the forecasts. It would be great to establish a network of smart weather stations in the UK and beyond that could be used to make a high-resolution map of current conditions. This would enable personalised weather forecasts to a large number of people and organisations.

Laura Lewis, TeRain project team leader, freelance data scientist/AI engineer

TeRain project team members:

  • Laura Lewis, freelance data scientist/AI engineer
  • Olayinka Osuolale, Environmental Scientist & Postdoctoral Researcher at Elizade University

Key figures from the Hackathon

  • 389: the number of registrations to the Hackathon.
  • 29: the number of teams from all over the world who participated in the event.
  • 13: the number of ideas submitted.
  • 12: the mentors who supported the participants' activity throughout the 48 hours journey.

The winners were awarded with one-year access to the WEkEO’s paid cloud computing services, including datasets discovery, jupyter notebooks downloads, virtual machines support, processing tools and free networking (in and out).

List of the WEkEO Hackathon Teams

(by team set-up order)

  2. Rewable energy control
  3. P.M.R
  5. Carbon landers
  6. Mpactful
  7. Team URC
  8. Goalgetarz
  9. Coastal Water Lab
  10. MaticDrive
  12. Team Jupiter
  13. Omnia
  14. DataBot
  16. Ghana Health Service of Sekyere East District
  17. Young Indigenous Leaders
  18. Creative Tech Brains
  19. Eco Innovators
  20. oceanCO2uptake
  21. Modern Tech Planet
  22. Climate Team
  23. Metal Energy Project
  24. Galene
  25. Percy Obeng Akrofi
  26. Hawi Rapudo
  27. pouya hamyaran farhang - o - honar
  28. Archiebold Manasseh
  29. TeRain

This event echoes Mercator Ocean international’s mission towards a global ocean knowledge for a sustainable ocean aligned with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’s vision.