Environmental Business Journal | Ecobot Streamlines Delineation of Aquatic Resources, Plans Expansion Into Other Environmental Segments

Ecobot (Ashville, N.C.) was designed from within the environmental and architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries as a digital solution for mandatory pre-construction environmental assessments and reporting. Ecobot streamlines the process, eliminating errors and ensuring data consistency to support quicker project turnarounds. Ecobot also provides a framework for managing and analyzing environmental data over time and in a variety of contexts. Environmental data collected during permitting is valuable both for planners and engineers as they design and build climate-resilient assets and in terms of ecological insights and long-term planning for preservation and biodiversity. Ecobot has provided a tool for collecting and managing data at scale. Ecobot has been used to generate over 100,000 regulatory reports, encompassing more than 1 million biodiversity and water-related data points. Customers range from global enterprise companies to small businesses.

Lee Lance is Co-Founder and CEO of Ecobot. Lee is a communications and operations professional with 20 years of experience driving technology development and strategy, serving regional, national and international clients.

EBJ: How has fieldwork changed, and is technology providing efficiencies that were unavailable five years ago? Lee Lance: Fieldwork and permitting have, until quite recently, been paperdriven processes. Not only was this cumbersome, especially in an outdoor environment, but data was static and difficult to manage and use long-term. The availability of technology in the field has exploded in the past five years, from GNSS/GPS devices to field data collection applications installed on readily available mobile devices. There are lots of ways to get your data in – some better than others – and at Ecobot, our focus, beyond driving efficiency and saving time in the field and office, is on maximizing ways for our customers to utilize this data long-term, even beyond the permit.

EBJ: How has Ecobot’s platform evolved since the company was founded? Lance: Ecobot originated as a digital solution for the wetland delineation process, one of the many mandatory environmental assessments needed before construction starts. The goal at the outset was to streamline this process, driving efficiency during fieldwork and reporting. As Ecobot has grown, we’ve expanded the platform to allow customers the ability to manage and utilize huge volumes of data in a meaningful way.

EBJ: Is Ecobot looking into incorporating additional products or technologies? Which problems are you trying to solve for your customers?

Lance: The most successful technology platforms across all industries are those that deeply integrate with the tools and applications already established within an organization. We believe that this is essential for technology in this space as well. We’re ESRI partners, and our platform functions as an extension of ArcGIS FieldMaps by allowing our customers to push their data into the Esri tech stack as a feature service layer.

We are partners with all of the major GNSS/GPS hardware providers, ensuring geospatial accuracy during field data collection and reporting, which is essential to ensure further downstream value. As we expand the Ecobot platform, we are working to deepen our existing partnerships, and include others such as Autodesk and Bentley Systems. We view these integrations and partnerships as tools to help planners and engineers create a more climate-resilient built environment by providing them a platform to easily consume data regarding environmental resources occurring on a site.

EBJ: Can you share details about Ecobot’s collaborations and partnerships?

Lance: We’ve worked closely with Esri since Ecobot’s inception—we went through the Esri Startup Program, and we’ve since become Silver Partners. We work with GNSS providers like Hexagon/ Leica, Trimble, Juniper, Eos GNSS, and more. And we’re always collaborating and learning from others in the conservation and policy research fields, like EPIC and NatureServe.

EBJ: What other key technology trends do you see in our industry?

Lance: While not currently considered a tech trend, permitting reform should be one. Sadly, better technology (and better data) are nearly absent from this conversation when they should be the drivers behind effective regulatory policy. Policy and permitting reform will only get humankind so far and it’s better technology and better data that will help us accomplish the purpose of environmental policy: to conserve natural resources and better connect people to the planet.

EBJ: What impact are new regulations having on how you use technology? How have you used it as an opportunity to expand your services? Which of these are generating more demand and profit?

Lance: Ecobot allows our customers to spend more time being scientists. As a workforce enablement platform, the field consultant handles the assessment and data collection, while Ecobot performs the calculations and provides suggestions based on the regional guidance documents.

The recent Sackett v. EPA decision by the Supreme Court to roll back federal wetland protections and the uncertainty this ruling has created is extremely concerning. Environmental policy and permitting processes will continue to evolve, but the need to collect usable data and put that data to use in a more resilient manner becomes even more critical. Market tailwinds ranging from UN climate and biodiversity initiatives to ESG promises by companies to their stakeholders to the increasing awareness of how biodiversity and ecosystems impact capital markets are only increasing.

As we expand the Ecobot platform, we are working to deepen our existing partnerships and include others such as Autodesk and Bentley Systems.

Regulations are not the only drivers of technological advancements and integrations. Take, for example, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Both are demand-drivers for technologies like Ecobot. We need to modernize our infrastructure, and these bills task us to do that with sensitivity to the environment via sustainable and resilient planning. In order to spend the money flowing out of these bills and achieve the goals for our infrastructure, we have to address the fact that – in addition to the bottleneck of permitting processes – there is a need for a larger workforce than is currently available.

Applied environmental knowledge is going to be in high demand over the next five to 10 years, and the regulated community needs the right technology to more efficiently conduct their jobs and generate data that can help us make better decisions about economic growth, especially as it applies to the built environment.

Ecobot currently provides a solution for streamlining the documentation and reporting on aquatic resources, which represent some of the most highly regulated ecosystems we have. We’re in the process of expanding our platform to address all other environmental-related sectors to address the broader need. While our operating footprint is currently restricted to the United States and portions of Canada, we believe our approach has a global application.

Engineered by the environmental consulting community and built in the heart of Asheville, NC.

Our award-winning platform is built on the expertise of our scientific advisors, customers and teammates. With amazing customer service and engineers dedicated to building reliable, intuitive software, Ecobot is at the forefront of innovation.

Ecobot is a cloud-based platform that optimizes data collection and management for environmental permits, supporting efficiency and accuracy during fieldwork and post-processing. Ecobot helps customers deliver data consistency across a distributed workforce and enables them to utilize data in a variety of contexts. Ecobot is used by customers at the top AEC (architectural, engineering construction) and natural resources consulting firms; by numerous counties, state and federal departments of transportation (DOT); the mitigation banking industry; and utility, energy, and oil and gas companies.

Ecobot Collector, the mobile app component of the platform, is available for iOS via the Apple App Store, and for Android devices on the Google Play Store. Ecobot is an Esri Partner.
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