Team Insight

Equinoct: Integrating Community Data with Flood Forecasting for a Climate-Resilient Future

Equinoct Data Science+AI India
Jun 11 , 2024
Students receive Equinoct rain gauge solution to contribute community data towards development of a flood prediction model.
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Data Science+AI

Equinoct

India
Amount invested $106,750 USD Funding Status active early period Founded in 2019 by C.G. Madusudhanan, Dr. K.G. Sreeja & Dr. Jayaraman
Female Founded

Mid-investment update

UNICEF Venture Fund is featuring members of its Climate Action Cohort. The company is now six-months into a year-long investment period and shares an overview of their solution, progress, and next steps. 

 

Tell us about your solution.

The present flood forecasting system worldwide has several critical limitations. It has not been reimagined for a post-climate change world where there are increasing uncertainties in extreme weather events that trigger floods. In the recent past, flash and surprise flood events have been reported from various parts of the world including several Asian, African, North American, European, and Middle Eastern countries. They have all been extremely intense, unprecedented, with immense loss and damage to life and property and with little or no forewarning at all. The current flood forecasting system almost everywhere is centralized, top down, with limited last mile reach and with inadequate early warning systems.  

Equinoct rain gauge
Equinoct developed a rain gauge for collecting community data on rainfall. 

We are working with communities in two flood-prone tropical river basins in the Western Ghats of southern India to co-create an impact-based flood forecasting system. By implementing a comprehensive weather and water monitoring system across multiple points within river basins, we are developing a scenario-driven forecasting platform. This innovative system serves as a pivotal decision-making tool and early alert mechanism for disaster management professionals, administrators, and local communities alike. It is being developed as an open-source solution. We hope this can be a prototype that can be scaled up and also implemented in other river basins of the world.   

How would you describe your solution to a non-technical person? 

Our initiative is designed as a community-centric flood forecasting and early warning system tailored to anticipate various potential flood scenarios. Drawing from real-time data collected by local community members, our solution generates early flood alerts generated directly at the last mile. It serves as a publicly accessible platform for more accurate and quick emergency responses. By empowering community members to actively participate in gathering and utilizing local information, our solution fosters a sense of ownership and agency, positioning them as integral contributors to climate resilience and proactive action. 

How does your solution address climate adaptation, mitigation and/or resilience? 

Increased uncertainty and extremity of flood events is a major impact of climate change worldwide. Our solution plays a pivotal role in delineating and categorizing flood-prone regions according to their severity and spatiotemporal vulnerability across various modeled scenarios. This would directly help to undertake flood-zone mapping towards reducing risks and increasing disaster preparedness. By involving the community in being part of the solution, we aid in increasing the resilience of the community in responding to disasters. Understanding critical flood-prone areas is essential for both adaptation and mitigation strategies. Our approach offers valuable insights by furnishing high-resolution, reliable data and extending lead times for preparedness. Armed with this information, communities can proactively implement measures tailored to their specific vulnerabilities, such as fortifying infrastructure, implementing early warning systems, or even considering managed retreat in extreme cases. This not only minimizes the immediate impact of floods but also fosters long-term resilience, ultimately mitigating the overall impact of climate-induced flooding. 

Equinoct delivers rain gauges to community gatherers.
Equinoct delivers rain gauges to community gatherers, including youth. These community members will share daily rainfall counts and the data will go into the flood forecasting system.
“Our approach is to make the communities not just victims of flood impacts but to be part of the solution-building process.”
Dr. CG Madusudhanan, CEO, EQUINOCT

What type of frontier technology does your solution deploy and what is promising about this technology? 

Our solution deploys Artificial Intelligence to increase the predictive capacity of hydrological models and to help towards better flood forecasting. AI based machine learning helps to overcome many critical limitations of the currently available hydrological models for flood forecast.  

What is unique about your solution and how is it different from what currently exists? 

There are two major aspects that make our solution unique.  

1. Impact-based flood forecast is being tried out in many parts of the world as the latest approach in flood-forecasting. It is being promoted by the World Meteorological Organization towards improving the capacity for and accessibility of the UN call for ‘Early Warning for All.’ Our solution is building a community plug-in for impact-based flood forecast that would significantly improve the last mile reach, spread and reliability of the early warnings. It aims to build a unique decentralized, bottom-up flood forecasting and early warning systems.  

2. Our solution would provide multiple flood scenarios that would act as Decision Support System for the administrators and disaster managers. 

Equinoct conducts community-building activities along the river basin in December 2023.
Equinoct facilitated community gatherings alongside the river basins in December 2023.

How does being Open Source add value to your company?

Our solution is highly dependent on local realities be it flood vulnerability of the location, adaptation requirements or management/ decision making capacities. Being open source is therefore critical to improve the solution, add new features as and when needed and make the solution bespoke based on the geography and climate of the region and the needs of the community.  

Being open source confers several advantages that significantly enhance the effectiveness and adaptability of our solution. This ensures community engagement collaboration from a diverse range of stakeholders, allows for customization based on the unique geographical, climatic, and socio-economic characteristics of each region. And with contributions from a global community of developers, researchers, and practitioners and benefits from continuous improvement and refinement. Moreover, open source promotes transparency by making the source code accessible to all stakeholders that instills trust and confidence in the solution, as users can verify its functionality and security. 

"The rigorous mentorship sessions as part of the UNICEF climate action cohort helped us to move towards an open-source business strategy.”
Dr. Sreeja KG, Research Director, EQUINOCT
Along the river with members of the data gathering network.
Along the river with members of the data gathering network.

How did you come up with your solution and what inspired you to form your company? 

Our solution and our company are built based on hard learnings from the 2018 floods of Kerala, India. The abysmal last mile reach of the flood warnings, the inadequacy of warnings itself, the inability of the administration to provide meaningful warnings and the absence of a reliable flood warning system, were observed to be the lead contributors to the colossal damages to lives and property during the floods of 2018. Our company was formed to address these lacune in disaster risk reduction and adaptation/ mitigation of climate change impacts at the local level through community engagement. Our flagship project is to build a state-of-the-art flood forecasting system with community support.  

Tell us more about your team? What makes your team diverse? 

The technical team of EQUINOCT consists of experts in diverse fields of hydrology, climate science, energy, agriculture, environmental science, computer science, engineering, product design and development, data science and communications. We also have a large network of community researchers from students to retired professionals to homemakers. Both our in-house and community team are diverse in terms of education, gender, religion, age, and occupation.  

 

Why is diversity important for your startup? How does it add value? 

Our startup is based on the philosophy of co-creation. The more diverse our team members both within and outside, the more inclusive would be our solutions. Embracing diversity ensures that our solutions are inclusive and representative of the communities we serve. A diverse team brings together varied perspectives, experiences, and expertise, enabling us to develop innovative solutions. Our philosophy of co-creation thrives on diversity. Different viewpoints and approaches enrich the brainstorming process, leading to more robust and effective solutions. 

“The UNICEF Venture Fund will allow us to leverage the solid foundation of community relationships to build communities of data gatherers and a thriving open-source contributors.”
Abhay Vishnu, Data Scientist, EQUINOCT

What do you plan on doing with UNICEF's Venture Fund investment and how will you use the investment to leverage additional opportunities for growth? 

We plan to utilize the UNICEF Venture Fund investment in increasing the network of our flood monitoring system and developing the Impact-based flood forecasting with the help of this community network. Training and capacity building of the community volunteers, administrative outreach and business plan development are also being realized with UNICEF's Venture Fund investment. Additional opportunities for growth include discussions with state and national departments, disaster management organizations, private business entities and UNICEF country offices. 

Equinoct conducts training with students at local university.
Equinoct conducts training and workshops at local universities in Kerala. 

What challenges are you currently facing in building your solution and/or startup? (name up to 3) 

1. Transforming the solution into a sustainable social business model   

2. Engaging the administration and governments to adopt and co-opt the solutions  

3. Securing additional funding support 

How can others support you in working towards overcoming these challenges?  

The support can be in the form of increased outreach of the potential of the solution amongst various stakeholders, securing additional financial investment, and to provide opportunities for scaling up and implementing the solution in other parts of the country and the world. 

Connect with Equinoct

Interested to connect with the Equinoct team to learn more about their solution? Connect via email, visit the website, or follow Equinoct on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook

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