Three Springs Technology implement solution to Newcrest's Hydrosaver challenge
Three Springs Technology is a tech startup specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. Founder Sherief Khorshid and his team of data scientists and software developers took out first prize in the Newcrest Crowd Hydrosaver challenge in February this year. The challenge invited innovators to build an algorithm that predicts tailings underflow density three hours ahead of time, so that Newcrest can reduce water usage in gold processing in return for $6,000. Three Springs Technology are currently implementing their solution at Newcrest's Cadia mine site.
The Three Springs team has the background and education to deliver solutions to organisations in a wide range of sectors, but Hydrosaver was their first foray into the mining sector. Since then, they have also competed and were awarded the 5k for 5 days implementation prize in the Newcrest Crowd Get 2 the Core challenge, which involved building an algorithm that can automatically detect drill core tray outlines in core photography.
We asked Sherief to share his tech startup journey to find out more about Three Springs Technology's latest projects and their experience competing in multiple Newcrest Crowd online competitions. Here's what he had to say:
How did you first decide to start Three Springs Technology? How did you uncover the need for your tech services?
An ex-Geology classmate of mine from UWA told me about some AI challenges he had encountered in his role as a board member for a Medical Company. This peaked my interest in applying AI outside the my normal comfort zone of finance and electronic trading, where I’ve been focused for the previous 20 years. The Medical company became Three Springs Technology’s first client and we’ve been working for them ever since.
Our first exposure to the mining sector came from winning the Unearthed Hydrosaver online competition, supported by Newcrest.
Please detail some of the types of projects your team is working on at the moment.
Right now we’re working about 50/50 in the mining and medical sectors. We’re working for two smaller mining tech startup companies as well as Newcrest.
The work we’re doing for Newcrest at the moment is mainly related to commercialising our solutions to the Unearthed online competitions (Hydrosaver and Get 2 the Core). That being said, we’re hoping to get involved in some new data science projects with Newcrest in the future.
In the medical space we’re developing medical diagnostic tools based off CT and MRI scan data. I can’t say much more than that due to confidentiality agreements.
Congratulations on Three Springs Technology’s recent Newcrest Crowd online competition wins for their Hydrosaver and Get 2 the Core challenges! Why did you decide to participate? How did you find the experience?
We’re an active member of the tech community here in Perth. We attend PMLG (Perth Machine Learning Group) meetups every week and participate in nearly every hackathon held here in Perth. It’s a great way to hone your skills and expand your network.
Can you please describe your winning solutions for both challenges and indicate the potential impact of implementing these for Newcrest?
I will do my best to describe each solution in one paragraph!
Hydrosaver: A regression problem. Our solution was an ensemble of six regression models. The first four models were used to predict the current underflow density which we then ensembled. The resulting predicted current underflow density feature was then added to the original dataset. This was the only feature engineering we did.
From there we trained and ensembled two more regression models to predict the underflow density in three hours time. We also did extensive hyperparameter tuning on all the models to achieve the best results.
Get 2 the Core: An instance segmentation problem. We trained two unet models models with a pre-trained Resnet encoder. Each model generated an image mask or pixel wise classification of each core image in its original dimensions.
From there we wrote our own morphological processing code to combine the prediction images from both unet models, identify each core box/polygon and then find coordinates for each polygon.
Have you had ongoing engagement with Newcrest? What stage are you at with your solutions? Have they been implemented?
Yes we were lucky enough to sign a contract with Newcrest to implement our Hydrosaver solution in production and integrate it with their technology stack.
This included a site visit to their Cadia mine site near Orange, NSW last month. We had the opportunity to examine the actual thickener that generated the dataset as well as meet the plant operators who are the end users of the Hydrosaver project.
We expect to finalise the production implementation in the next few weeks. Our target is to increase average underflow density by 0.5 to 1%.
You guys are based in Perth, how engaged do you think the resources sector is with local startups and entrepreneurs? Why do you think this is?
I think finding new clients and signing new contracts is the toughest part of running a consulting startup.
Based on our experience it can take many months between initial meeting and signing of a contract. We’ve also found that the bigger the client, the harder it is to win business. A common problem in larger companies we’ve found is that project sponsors often do not have enough influence over budget or vendor sourcing policy to actually make it happen.
We’ve also found that in larger companies they tend to be extremely well resourced and often have their own data science teams for example.
Newcrest being a large mining company, certainly bucks the trend when is comes to engaging with the startup community. They have dedicated crowd sourcing staff and have sponsored several online competitions and hackathons.
Additionally they have a track record of following through post competition and awarding contracts to startup companies, so hats off to them!
How does this compare to other cities/countries around the world that you have worked?
I’ve spent the best part of last 20 years working in London, Hong Kong in the Finance sector for Hedge Funds and investment banks. So I’m not really in a position to compare resource sector engagement outside of Perth.
What are the main factors that you think contribute to a creating a collaborative environment for startups and industry?
In priority order:
- Co-working spaces like Core Innovation Hub or FLUX where like-minded people work
- Meetups like PMLG (Perth Machine Learning Group)
- Hackathons and competitions
- Engagement with universities
- Government grants and incentives
Has participating in online competitions like those on the Newcrest Crowd platform changed the way you think about innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship in the mining industry?
Certainly! Initially I viewed online competitions as an opportunity to benchmark our skills against the community and as somewhat of a training exercise.
Having experienced the full life cycle of two competitions, I now view them more as a pseudo tendering process, with a level playing field.
What do you find attractive about working with resources companies?
There is plenty of data, plenty of opportunity and plenty of budget!*
*subject to macroeconomic conditions.
The Unearthed team would like to thank Sherief for taking the time to talk to us, sharing his startup journey and Newcrest Crowd competition experience. We are sure Three Springs Technology will continue to grow from strength to strength and look forward to seeing many more of their solutions adopted by industry!
At Unearthed, we are passionate about supporting and promoting our talented community. Since our first hackathon in 2014, we have run 36 open innovation events that have lead to the development of over 400 novel prototype solutions in response to over 100 industry challenges that have the potential to transform the global energy and resources sector. These competitions see participants putting their skills to the test in an unconventional way, with the real opportunity of implementing their solutions with industry partners.
To register for the Newcrest Crowd's next challenge Get 2 the Core II - Revenge of the Depths, visit: https://unearthed.solutions/u/competitions/get-2-core-ii-revenge-depths