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Drones Planting Trees

Amazingly, one can currently plant 10,000 seed pods a day, and hopes to reach 100,000 a day. By hand, someone might typically be able to plant around 1,500 trees in a day.

Planting a vast number of new trees is a necessary step in fighting climate change (though not remotely the only one). Some plans call for as many as a trillion new trees, but planting trees takes time. To speed the process, many drone-based tree planting companies are starting up.

In December, on land north of Toronto, drones started hovering over fields and firing seed pods into the ground, planting native pine and spruce trees to help restore habitat for birds. Flash Forest, the Canadian startup behind the project, plans to use its technology to plant 40,000 trees in the area this month. By the end of the year, as it expands to other regions, it will plant hundreds of thousands of trees. By 2028, the startup aims to have planted a full 1 billion trees.

When it begins work at a site, the startup first sends mapping drones to survey the area, using software to identify the best places to plant based on the soil and existing plants. Next, a swarm of drones begins precisely dropping seed pods, packed in a proprietary mix that the company says encourages the seeds to germinate weeks before they otherwise would have.

The seed pods are also designed to store moisture, so the seedlings can survive even with months of drought. In some areas, such as hilly terrain or in mangrove forests, the drones use a pneumatic firing device that shoots seed pods deeper into the soil.

Each planting is using about four species, with a goal of eight. “We very much prioritize biodiversity, so we try to plant species that are native to the land as opposed to monocultures,” says Flash Forest cofounder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom. “We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them.”

Trees are only part of the solution. But, if you really want to capture vast amounts of carbon, the best natural solutions - up to 35 times more effective! - are peat bogs and seagrass meadows.

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