An Australian start-up AirSeed Technologies uses a fleet of smart ‘octocopters’ to battle deforestation. The drones employ artificial intelligence and fire custom-engineered seed pods that can be shot into the ground from the sky.
AirSeed Technologies’ CEO and co-founder, Andrew Walker, said:
“Each of our drones can plant over 40,000 seed pods daily, and they fly autonomously. In comparison to traditional methodologies, that’s 25 times faster, but also 80 percent cheaper.”
The goal is to plant one million trees by 2024. The company has grown over 50,000 trees already.
The Seed-Planting Drone’s Strategy
Each drone hopper is supplied with habitat-compatible seed pods before departure. These pods, made from waste biomass, protect seeds from birds, insects, and rodents.
“The niche really lies in our biotech, which is the support system for the seed once it’s on the ground. It protects the seed from different types of wildlife, but also supports the seed once it germinates and really helps deliver all of those nutrients and mineral sources that it needs, along with some probiotics to really boost early-stage growth.”
Once airborne, its drones plant seeds in specified patterns and record their locations. Like this, AirSeed can assess trees’ health as they grow.
“We’re being very mindful of the fact that we need to restore soil health, we need to restore microbial communities within the soil, and we need to restore primary habitat providers for animals.”
Walker is very enthusiastic about their technology and believes it can truly make a difference in the world.
How Severe is the Global Deforestation Situation?
The United Nations Environment Program alerted that the world loses 70,000 square kilometers of forest annually, which is about the size of Portugal. The organization calls for halving this figure by 2025 and ending net deforestation by 2030.
However, since deforestation rates are unlikely to decline any time soon, creative approaches like AirSeed Technologies’ seed planting drones are needed to combat deforestation. We must slow the rate of deforestation to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change.
AirSeed Technologies isn’t the only company developing drone-based seed planting technologies. Dendra and Biocarbon Engineering also use seed-dropping technologies to reduce deforestation.
Biocarbon Engineering Drones
BioCarbon Engineering, a business specializing in ecosystem restoration, came up with a solution that is easy, rapid, and scalable by using drones. Thanks to its technology, trees can be planted more cheaply, faster, and on a far larger scale.
In addition, the company uses science and data to guide its decision-making process to ensure that the correct tree species are chosen for each area. For instance, due to their sandy, muddy tidal zone topography, mangrove habitats provide several difficulties for standard planting methods. With their drones, restoring these habitats is much easier.
Before seeding, its drones fly over the area to gather topographic and soil data that can be coupled with satellite imagery and processed to determine the optimum places to plant each seed. Finally, biodegradable pods containing germinated seeds and nutrients are fired into the ground.
For the process to be successful in a mangrove forest, various criteria must be met; for example, the seeds may be washed away if the tide comes in unexpectedly. Biocarbon Engineering has tested it to see which species and environmental circumstances are most effective.
Half of the world’s mangrove forests have been decimated by human activity. Unfortunately, these trees along coastal areas with twisted roots can store more carbon than trees on the land. According to a 2018 study, mangrove deforestation accounts for 24 million tons of CO2 emissions each year.
These unique trees also serve as a protective barrier against storms. However, the main reasons people cut the mangroves down are to create room for aquaculture (ironically, because fish stocks drop dramatically when the trees disappear) and to make charcoal from the wood.
Founded in 2014, BioCarbon Engineering has been planting trees since 2016 and now has over 100,000 trees growing in Myanmar and Australia. It aims to scale up ecosystem restoration globally. It can plant trees 150 times faster with its drones and at a cost ten times less than the current planting methods.
Dedra Systems: Environmental Technology for Large-Scale Ecosystem Restoration
Dendra Systems plans to plant 1 billion trees per year to combat deforestation. The company uses specialized data ecology and analytics to make native forest regeneration faster, more effective, and more scalable worldwide.
Aerial seeding and ultra-high-resolution monitoring are just two of the services that Dendra Systems offers to well-established enterprises that already pay to restore native ecosystems.
Using proprietary data and analytics, aerial drone planting, and other cutting-edge technologies, the company is upending traditional farming methods while also helping to quantify advances. As a result, it offers an at-scale approach to powerfully allowing countries and businesses to offset carbon emissions. Assisting biodiverse ecosystems to repair and thrive is the primary goal of its complete system.
Drones could be a powerful tool in reforestation efforts. Moreover, companies like these could significantly contribute to climate crisis efforts: experts recently estimated that there is enough room to grow another 1.2 trillion trees, which would absorb more carbon than humans emit each year.