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Tech Update: A plan to plant a million trees, the DMZ heads to NYC, and accident-preventing AI

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The federal government is aiming to plant two billion trees across Canada in the next 10 years — and it is turning to drones to help do it.

Ottawa has tapped Flash Forest, a reforestation company that uses aerial mapping software and drones that embed seed pods.

The Toronto-based company secured $1.3 million from the government to plant at least one million trees over the next two years.

Prior to this, Flash Forest found itself shut off from government initiatives, due to restrictive wording in procurement agreements that stipulates only planting seedlings counted toward the goal, and seed pods did not.

“A lot of government contracts are not written in a way that allows for consideration of new innovation,” says Tyler Hamilton, MaRS’ cleantech lead who has worked closely with Flash Forest. “They are based on past examples, and it really limits their thinking.”

It is possible to overcome these hurdles, however, by educating governments and other commissioning bodies on technology, says Hamilton.

“It’s really about engaging them and allowing them to participate rather than have them learning from a distance.”

The DMZ returns to NYC

Toronto Metropolitan University’s tech incubator, the DMZ, is reopening its New York City location, which shuttered during the pandemic. Located in Manhattan’s financial district, DMZ NYC will provide workspace and support services for startups that are ready for US expansion and looking to meet with customers, partners and investors. The swanky space features a lounge, espresso bar and fitness studio.

Tech hub the DMZ has reopened offices in New York City to help support Canadian startups looking to expand stateside.

Digital workers are worth billions to Canada — if we can hire them

Workers with advanced digital skills, such as software development and cloud architecture, boost Canada’s GDP by $257 billion (US)each year, according to a new report. The downside: 67 per cent of Canadian businesses find it difficult to hire the digital workers they need. And spare a thought for companies trying to hire skilled workers in Alberta; the province’s association of engineers is reportedly trying to stop local startups from advertising job titles such as “software engineer.”

Miovision eyes US expansion

Miovision, in Kitchener, Ont. startup that makes technology to reduce congestion in cities, has acquired Pittsburg-based Rapid Flow Technologies. Founded in 2005, Miovision’s tech, which offers devices and software to analyze the flow of traffic, is now in close to 60 countries worldwide. This is Miovision’s second acquisition of a traffic-management software provider and follows its purchase of Arizona-based Traffop last year. Rapid Flow’s Pittsburgh office will become Miovision’s fifth global location.

AI can spot accidents waiting to happen

Two Ontario companies have created an AI (artificial intelligence) platform that could help cut workplace accidents. The tech, code-named Overwatch, analyzes video feeds and flags anything that enters a protective buffer zone around dangerous machinery. It can automatically alert human supervisors or turn machinery off. The program was created by Kingston’s Distributive Corporation and Honeyvision, an Ottawa startup, working with NGen, the non-profit organization leading Canada’s Global Innovation Cluster for Advanced Manufacturing.

Money for mortgages

The housing market may be cooling fast, but mortgage startup Perch is sitting pretty. The Toronto-based company has secured $4 million in Series A funding from investors, including the venture-funding arm of America’s National Association of Realtors. Perch enables users to apply for a home loan online and says it has facilitated more than $100 million in mortgages to date.

Workplace monitoring transparency is law in Ontario

It’s now a little easier for workers in Ontario to know whether their employers are keeping tabs on their computers. A new law has come into effect that requires companies with 25 employees or more to have a written electronic monitoring policy. The policy must state whether employers are monitoring employee computers, cellphones or GPS, and to what extent.

By the numbers

  • 34 percent: Global venture capital investment slide by 34 per cent in the third quarter of this year, compared with the previous three months. Data firm CB Insights says that’s the largest quarterly drop in a decade. Ouch!
  • 100: Ecopia, a Toronto-based startup that uses AI to create ultra-accurate maps, will be providing its tech to 100 Canadian cities to aid in planning sustainability efforts like rooftop solar installations and enhanced flood-mapping.

  • $340 million: Telecommunications company Nokia is investing $340 million to expand its new Canadian headquarters near Ottawa. The investment will create new research and development facilities and translate into more than 340 new jobs.
Rebecca Gao writes about technology for MaRS. Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star, has partnered with MaRS to highlight innovation in Canadian companies.

Disclaimer This content was produced as part of a partnership and therefore it may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.