B.C. trio hopes to revolutionize tree planting industry

Flash Forest aims to plant a billion trees by 2028

“Seeing that immediate forest loss is what compelled us to do this.”

That’s what Cameron Jones said about the change in his home area of Kelowna Mountain Park in the last few years.

Jones is one of the co-founders of Flash Forest. The company’s CEO Bryce Jones also hails from Kelowna, in the upper Mission, and co-founder Angelique Ahlstrom is from Nelson.

The three started a reforestation company last year. They modify industrial drones and mount an autonomously-controlled firing device that shoots and lodges the seed pods into the soil.

Cameron said the pods are designed so the seeds have what they need for the first nine months. This helps the seeds to germinate and take root quickly.

So far, the company has planted eight tree species in southern Ontario.

“We’ve done white pine, white spruce, blue spruce, red maple, sugar maple, white birch and several others,” Bryce said.

He added they’re now doing tests on some of the most harvested and the most common tree species in Canada, including two Brazilian tree species.

The trio said the point of Flash Forest is to revolutionize tree planting.

“The main issue we’re trying to address right now is deforestation, and because of that, there are other problems we’re now trying to solve,” Ahlstrom said.

“There’s been a 60 per cent biodiversity loss in the last 50 years. Right now, there’s also only 15 per cent of the original forests in the world that are still intact. In addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate recommends one billion hectares of trees be planted to combat climate change.”

“And despite regeneration efforts, we’re still seeing a seven billion loss of trees every year. That’s why it’s very important that we do this quickly,” she added.

“I also want to emphasize that reforestation doesn’t use technology. It’s just people on the ground with bags and shovels. There hasn’t been technological development and advancements in this area,” Bryce said.

“However, deforestation has state of the art technology where they can autonomously cut down trees and it’s been a continuous development and highly refined technology. So we’re coming in to tip the scales, to bring technology into regeneration efforts.”

Flash Forest is now looking to partner with other companies and agencies to run pilot tests so they can bring their reforestation efforts to the rest of the country. Bryce said they’ve picked up international interest, but they want to start at home first.

“Right now, we’re in talks to get pilot projects in Alberta, B.C. and Ontario for next year,” he said. The group is also meeting with all levels of government to set up pilot projects, one of which will help the federal government meet its goal of planting two billion trees in the next ten years.

Currently, they’re fundraising to be able to buy more drones for planting and mapping soil conditions, and a pod automation machine so they can produce more pods.

“Our automation machine costs more than $10,000 and we’re entirely self-funded right now, so that’s why we have a Kickstarter. We’ve been getting a lot of support but anything that people can contribute will help a lot,” Cameron said.

To help Flash Forest fundraise, visit the Kickstarter page.

READ: A B.C. society helps to reforest Crown land after wildfires

READ: B.C. forest ministry cutting back on use of herbicide glyphosate



twila.amato@blackpress.ca

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