FloraGuard - Fighting Plant Cyber Crime

May 5th 2021

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has partnered with HM Border Force and The University of Southampton to launch the ongoing ‘FloraGuard’ project. After securing funding, the project launched late last year.

The popularity of the internet has contributed to an increase in the illegal online trade of wild plants, which until now has been very hard to monitor and has been poorly resourced.

RBG Kew said: “Countering this illicit activity is crucial for the survival of species at risk.

And goes on to state that “of the more than 37,000 species that are currently protected by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), more than 30,000 are plants.”

This innovative new system led by Dr Anita Lavorgna uses AI social intelligence programming developed by Southampton University and deploys use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) to analyse online marketplaces.

The project focuses on the UK - which serves as a major transit and destination market for Europe. The project was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and will last 30 months.

Sources: University of Southampton and RBG Kew

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