Did you know that the world loses about 15 billion trees a YEAR? That is a shocking number, especially when you take into consideration all the environmental benefits trees provide, such as sequestering carbon and helping prevent topsoil runoff. Thankfully, the government is not the only entity addressing this problem—several organizations have launched with a mission of restoring the earth’s forests.
As the digital age breeds innovation, technology initiatives are leading the charge. Here are three innovative tech organizations that are making waves in the world of forest restoration:
FARM-TRACE is a software program that helps farmers around the world monitor and measure their environmental impact. The program also helps generate reports from the farmers’ input. Among other factors, it measures deforestation, tree cover, carbon sequestration, and tree planting.
One primary reason the company exists is to help grow consumer confidence in sustainable farming:
“FARM-TRACE automates rigorous impact reporting across multiple farms. From monitoring for zero deforestation to carbon stored, FARM-TRACE gives you unparalleled transparency to make sustainability claims with confidence.”
Cultivo is a financial tech startup based in California with a goal of unlocking investments that can, in turn, help protect the environment. Speaking more about their mission, a company spokesman explains:
“We are the bridge that connects landowners and investors. We find high quality projects that restore and protect nature, while providing strong financial returns for investors.”
The company is staffed by a combination of, self-described, “scientists, techies, data geeks, and finance wizards united by our love of nature and our mission to unlock investment into nature at scale.” They use technology and algorithms to identify the right projects for investments. They then identify ways to approach the projects that will yield the most value before running financial models and packaging for investments. From there, Cultivo is all about raising the funds, carrying out the projects, and seeing the results.
Forest restoration is one example of how this process works. The company uses finance mechanisms that allow businesses, organizations, and other institutions to directly invest in projects like tree planting.
Finally, GainForest is depending on two words to reverse deforestation: artificial intelligence. AI, as it is commonly known, is being used by the Switzerland-based nonprofit to intelligently monitor the state of forests and encourage sustainable land use. Why is there a need to change how environmental data is monitored? The nonprofit explains:
“Current methods for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of community-provided ecosystem services are mostly based on on-ground inspection which is too expensive (USD 20-30k), delayed (up to two years), corruptible, and biased. Artificial intelligence can play a significant role in responding to this critical call for action and can accelerate the conservation and sustainable use of our natural world. We have developed and are working together with platforms that leverage intelligent algorithms to provide ecological insights and track sustainable stewardship around the world.”
While the technological component is impressive, the practical implementation of GainForest’s process is equally so. According to the World Economic Forum:
“Its algorithms analyze data from satellites, drones and field monitoring to measure sustainable land use. A smart contracts system then automatically unlocks donations to forest communities when restoration milestones are reached…Instead of felling trees to make room for crops and cattle, the solution encourages local farmers to preserve and restore ecosystems.”
Our world needs forests. Humans need trees for our very survival. Forest restoration is a critical goal that needs innovative solutions. Thankfully, technology is bringing the innovative roadmaps we need.
Kelvey Vander Hart is a native Iowan, a member of the American Conservation Coalition, and a communications specialist at Reason Foundation.