Scientists Say They'll Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028 Using Drones Which Plant Pods Filled with 'Secret' Ingredients

Canadian scientists plan to help tackle climate change by using drones to plant one billion trees by 2028.

The team behind the Flash Forest reforestation company say they have developed drone technology which maps out the best areas for planting trees which drink up the most carbon dioxide, with an average density of 2,000 per hectare.

One drone operator has the potential to plant 100,000 seed pods per day, they claim. Flash Forest hopes to offset carbon emissions "enough to have a significant and measurable impact on climate change within the next decade."

According to their KickStarter page, the company uses a pneumatic machine attached to a drone to plant the pods. Each vessel contains three germinated seeds as well as other species which support the area, a fungus called mycorrhizae which helps plants to develop, fertilizers, and other "secret" ingredients. After planting, a spray drone will cover the area with nutrients such as nitrogen to help the seedlings grow. A mapping drone is later sent out to monitor their progress.

The science and engineering graduates behind the project claim their methods are 10 times faster and 20 percent cheaper than normal tree planting techniques. They hope this will enable them to efficiently target areas which have been harvested and ravaged by wild fires.

On their website, Flash Forest cite the International Panel of Climate Change warning that we have only 10 years "to reverse climate change and prevent catastrophic run-away effects on our species and civilization." The amount of carbon dioxide released by humans has been increasing since the pre-industrial era, hitting 34 billion tons in 2018, and is more than can be naturally absorbed, the scientists say.

What's more, the planet loses 13 billion trees per year but regains less than half, according to the team. They state planting trees is the "fastest and cheapest" way to sequester carbon, as a tree soaks up over 40 pounds of CO2 per year on average.

Founded at the start of last year, in August 2019 Flash Forest completed their first pilot test in Southern Ontario where they used what they called their "manual firing mechanism" to plant over 100 pods of White Pine, White Birch, White Spruce, and Red Maple trees. The seeds have since sprouted, they say.

A second project in September saw the group use a drone to plant 1,033 pods. And in October, Flash Forest achieved a new high by planting 165 trees in three minutes. Over the course of two days, they deposited over 2,000 trees of seven species in Southern Ontario.

So far, they have planted 469 White Spruce, 344 White Pine, around 327 Blue Spruce, 225 Red Maple, 790 White Birch, 621 Sugar Maple, 131 Douglas Fir, and 199 Balsam Fir, according to their website.

Their ambitious program comes at a time when climate change, and related issues like deforestation, are considered among the most important of our time.

Last summer, the Amazon hit international headlines as the world's largest rainforest and vital carbon sink suffered the effects of fires and deforestation. According to an editorial in the journal Science Advances, the rainforest has started to self-destruct, but a "major reforestation project" could save it.

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A stock image shows trees in a forest. Getty
Scientists Say They'll Plant 1 Billion Trees by 2028 Using Drones Which Plant Pods Filled with 'Secret' Ingredients | Tech & Science