A company is now producing drones designed to fire seed missiles into fields, aiming to help restore the world’s forests.
According to National Geographic, between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 502,000 square miles of forest due to a combination of humans cutting them down, and natural factors including wildfires.
With deforestation affecting all life on Earth, it needs addressing urgently, and Biocarbon Engineering believe they can help.
The company have designed drones which, in September, planted seeds in a field just south of Yangon, Myanmar.
These seeds have now grown into mangrove saplings, about 20 inches tall, and now Biocarbon Engineering are looking to ‘replicate this success’ elsewhere.
The company’s cofounder, Irina Fedorenko told Fast Company:
We now have a case confirmed of what species we can plant and in what conditions. We are now ready to scale up our planting and replicate this success.
Biocarbon Engineering also used drones to plant both trees and grasses at abandoned mines in Australia, as well as other locations over the world.
Since the project started in 2012, more than six million trees have been planted by nonprofit organisation Worldview Impact, which has recently been working with Biocarbon Engineering.
Many of these six million seeds were planted by hand which takes time, so Worldview Impact hopes to use more drones in the future now they’ve proven to be successful.
It’s estimated two operators working with 10 drones can plant an amazing 400,000 trees a day.
After flying over the areas, the drones then map it, while collecting data about the soil condition and topography to determine the best locations to plant seeds.
They then fire biodegradable pods into the ground, which are filled with a germinated seed and the nutrients it needs.
Of course conditions need to be right for the process to succeed, for example an unexpected tide coming in could wash the seeds away.
Fedorenko explained to Fast Company the project has also been providing local people with jobs:
The project in Myanmar is all about community development and enabling people to care for trees, providing them with jobs, and making environmental restoration in a way that it’s profitable for people.
The forest didn’t vanish by itself — the forest was cut down by local people.
We train local people to be drone pilots, and they want that. They want to be in IT. They want to process data, they want to fly drones, they want to do agroforestry, they want to do regenerative agriculture, they want to create vertical farms, they want to do all this cool stuff. It’s not the ambition to be a seedling planter for $1 a day.
So the drone project isn’t just helping the forests themselves, but the local communities too by helping provide new economic opportunities.
The project will hopefully have a huge impact with climate change, as researchers recently calculated there’s enough room on the planet to plant 1.2 trillion trees, enough to suck up more carbon each year than humans emit. Amazing!
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.