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This tech startup aims to replace human tree planters with automated drones, nabs $36M funding

Image credits: DroneSeed

The reforestation capacity of nature is declining exponentially due to fire severity and frequency. While we have tools and nursery supply chains to combat the same, these are inadequate to fill the gap. As per estimations, 90 percent of forest area could be lost in the next few decades without intervention, it is important to take action to prevent such mishaps and this demands better and more efficient tools. These are the challenges that US-based DroneSeed, a tech-powered alternative to large-scale tree-planting intends to face.

Founded by Grant Canary and Ben Reilly, DroneSeed headquartered in Seattle, has custom-built drones and systems to facilitate rapid reforestation. Its core solution is to use drones to deliver seeds to forests that are damaged due to wildfires. Backed by $36 million funding that was injected recently co-led by Social Capital and Seven Seven Six and existing investor Spero Ventures and new investors including DBL Partners, Resilience Reserve and TIME Ventures, the company intends to reimagine reforestation in a modern way by incorporating AI to traditional machinery.

Tree-planting drones are an innovation

DroneSeed replaces human tree planters with its automated drones that are equipped with specially engineered dispensers and seed packets. These drones fly low over the landscape as they identify the ideal places to plant these seed packets. Basically, these places should neither be too rocky nor shallow among other variables. As soon as these places are identified, the drone fires the seed packets off. Each drone can deliver dozens of seed packers and spray plants invasively at times of fires before trees go off their roots.

DroneSeed’s approach has numerous advantages. Firstly, it can replace humans and free them of their hazardous jobs. To be specific, while planters and pilots fly in low-altitude helicopters, it becomes dangerous and this is avoided by DroneSeed’s tree-planting drones. Moreover, the engineered seed packers can resist predators such as squirrels. The more obvious benefit is that a fleet of dozens can cover relatively more ground area, touted to be 6x, than manual operations. Also, the data-intensive process can be easily tracked and audited.

DroneSeed founders
Image credits: DroneSeed

One-stop-shop for wildfire reforestation

DroneSeed wants to become a one-stop-shop for wildfire reforestation efforts. While owners of large areas of land or administrators of forests are to follow up for a year or two making a lot of calls and paperwork with state agencies, seed providers, insurance companies, planters, and others, DroneSeed aims to make all these possible in just a call. If things work out the right way, it will send drones loaded with seeds that are nutrient-filled and squirrel-resistant pucks. These seeds will be dropped on the ground within a handful of months.

To maximize chances of effective reforesting, DroneSeed’s drone reforestation technology uses advanced camera and radar imaging and artificial intelligence. With these latest technologies, the company selects ideal sites for seeding. Adding to this, these drones carry out on-site assessments of soil types, gradients, and vegetation and ensure seeds are dropped at the right spot where they are likely to take root and grow. All this comes along with the expertise of forest scientists, engineers, ecosystem experts, and computer scientists.

Drones help reverse deforestation risks

In addition to innovative and scalable reforestation, drone reforestation technology by DroneSeed will also reduce the amount of deforestation and significantly contribute towards a goal of net forest growth. As trees are an extremely important part of our ecosystem and we wouldn’t be here without them, drones may prove an important ally in preserving the planet. With these automated tree-planting drones, it is possible to mitigate the risks of deforestation. Also, we can reverse these risks with these solutions from DroneSeed.

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