Joining a new company in the middle of a pandemic is a bold move, but one that Lorenzo Riches, who joined the 20tree.ai team as Data Scientist in July, was keen to make. Still waiting for his relocation from Italy to the Netherlands, Lorenzo shares about his background and experience he brings to the team and his ambition to build scalable products with a purpose.
Firstly, what is it like to start a new position in the middle of a pandemic?
A business that makes investments during a pandemic shows great strategic outlook, in my opinion. Of course, I would have liked to be in the office with the team from the get-go but being an agile team we can adapt to a changing working modality. I’ve had a lot of interaction with my colleagues remotely and routines like daily stand-up meetings keeps everyone in the loop of what is happening on all fronts.
Your previous role was at the UN World Food Program. What work were you doing there and why did you decide to make the move to 20tree.ai?
My team was responsible for building the tools that help analysts quantify vulnerability in over 80 countries across the world. We measured the scale of hunger and located the areas of greatest need so that assistance could be directed most effectively. We mined diverse datasets using machine learning in areas with little or no data to make estimates.
In recent years, I have become more interested in using machine learning to analyze satellite imagery. 20tree.ai is pushing the boundaries and releasing products based on satellite data that are not only powerful but also elegant in their design. I am passionate about sustainability and finding ways to encourage nature and society to work together, so I wanted to continue to work for an organization that makes a positive impact. Of course, there is also an innate beauty in analyzing images of the Earth from above.
What does your role at 20tree.ai involve?
20tree.ai is building technology to monitor the Earth’s natural resources. To do that at scale, the code and infrastructure that we use to gather data, train models and make inferences needs to grow, while still being efficient and easy to maintain. I work with the rest of the team to make that happen, adding new functionalities to our toolset, maintaining our stack and using it all to add value for our customers.
How do you think 20tree.ai is viewed by the outside world?
I think many people are happy to see companies like 20tree.ai grow. We are part of a new movement of sustainability services, using our talents and drive to help other businesses be more sustainable. Our growth means that more companies are using our products, becoming more conscious of their use of natural resources.
What are you hoping to achieve at 20tree.ai?
I want to make a positive impact, not just with the products we build but how we do so. I would like to play a role in building an accurate and scalable toolset for monitoring natural resources worldwide. We can already do so much, but this is just the beginning.
Finally, if you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be?
I am a big fan of the outdoors and I like to get out in it as often as possible, hiking in the mountains, sailing or cycling. So on a personal level I would like to preserve this natural playground. At the same time severe weather patterns, changing ecosystems, migration and food insecurity are hitting hard the world’s poorest communities. This is something I would want to change.