Precision forestry technology to maximise investments

The forestry industry plays an important role in the providing the world with energy, construction materials, paper and wood-based products, and as populations and standards of living increase, so does the demand for wood. This naturally puts the future of the earth’s protected forests in jeopardy. So what’s the solution?

A new method of precision forestry is making the sustainable management of forests much more efficient.

Experts in the fields of aeronautics and the environment are joining forces to advance a new technological solution that’s driven by data. Remote sensing, radar satellites, AI and big data analytics are monitoring our forests to an infinitesimal level and providing valuable insights into forest structure and function in order that it may be better managed.

For example, PlanetWatchers is a startup that applies remote-sensing, radar satellite imagery and AI to monitor natural assets such as forests.

The company’s founders discovered this type of technology during their military service and realised that, with some adaptations, it could be used to detect the slightest anomalies in our forests.

Dr. Päivi Väänänen, PlanetWatchers’ Head of Forestry Program, said “During the time I spent living in Israel, I was exposed to advanced satellite imaging and big data technologies, and became aware of many possibilities for using military and defense research for the good of the environment. This is what drew me to work with PlanetWatchers.

“I was, and I still am, fascinated by the possibilities that are coming into our reach with developing technology. Combining satellite data with data from other sources results in interesting insights about the forest structure and its function.”

She added, “We are living in a world that is rapidly changing and our standards of living are rising. There is now a much greater demand for wood-based products and other goods intended to replace environmentally harmful materials with less harmful ones. On the other hand, there is also a great need to protect the earth’s remaining natural forests.

“Deforestation is occurring today mostly in the tropics, and despite some local advances, it is still proceeding at staggering speed. The forest industry faces a dual challenge in managing them: how to meet increased demand now, while protecting both the industry’s future and the global environment.”

Environmental changes are giving the added challenge of unpredictable weather conditions, that foresters must manage in order to meet the growing demand for wood while protecting the industry’s future and the environment.

Satellite image analytics technology can detect the slightest of changes in forest structure and growth, which enables foresters to significantly improve their yield when viewing forests as an investment.

With recent advancements making this technology cheaper and more precise, many are calling this the future of forestry. Currently, professional forests go into forests and measure the trees, assuming they represent an entire forest. This is costly and dangerous and often statistically indefensible.

James Barrett, spokesman for GWD Canada, said that the new technology was capable of revolutionising the industry and maximising investments. He added: “Outdated modes of collecting and analysing data are no longer keeping up with the planet’s ever-increasing demand for wood. Precision technology will offer new levels of sustainability as well as far better returns on investments.”

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