Sask. company working on artificial intelligence to help province sort out the trash

Prairie Robotics Inc. is developing an artificial intelligence that can sort the types of waste entering landfills.

Artificial intelligence will analyze and image and provide a report with data for reference

Artificial intelligence will analyze an image of garbage and provide reliable data on the type of waste and its weight, according to Prairie Robotics co-founder Sam Dietrich. (CBC)

A Saskatchewan-based company may have a solution to help the province take out the trash.

Prairie Robotics Inc. is developing an artificial intelligence that can sort the types of waste entering landfills and estimate its approximate weight through imaging, the province said in a news release Tuesday.

"It's important for us in Saskatchewan and across the country to better understand the amount of waste we're disposing of, so that we can make great targets and actually properly reduce it," said company co-founder Sam Dietrich.

"By properly understanding the types and the weight of waste coming into our landfills, we can better understand how we can reduce that."

The technology was one of two selected for $10,000 in funding and a 16-week residency by Innovation Saskatchewan in 2019 through an Innovation Challenge, which encourages provincial technology companies to find inventive solutions to public issues.

The provincial government announced last month that it has a goal to reduce the amount of waste going into the province's landfills by 30 per cent by the year 2030.

Dietrich said there are landfills without scales, which can be expensive. Using artificial intelligence is one way to keep costs down while reducing waste in the long-term, he said.

Sensors will snap a picture of the landfill and waste, and then the artificial intelligence will analyze the data and create a report.

The City of Regina provided four years' worth of archival data on the types of waste in landfill to Prairie Research to help train the AI.

Canadians typically produce more waste than citizens in other countries, so a program that can provide accurate information is crucial, says Kelvin Ng, professor of environmental systems engineering at the University of Regina.

Saskatchewan produces the second-highest amount of waste per capita among provinces: about 842 kilograms of waste, or more than 1,850 pounds, per person per year, according to the province.

There is no hard timeline on when Prairie Robotics's AI product could be ready for commercial use.


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