Seed Startup Aims to Plant 1 Billion Trees a Year by Drone

drone based reforestation

Each year, over 25 billion trees are logged or burned, but only 15 billion are planted – addressing this unsustainable shortfall, a drone startup is working toward an initial goal of aerially planting 1 billion seeds per year.

reforestation by drone

Biocarbon Engineering‘s approach involves mapping the geography of target areas, assessing their needs and conditions, then shooting soil-penetrating seed pods directly into the ground below from around 5 to 10 feet above. Already germinated and encased in a nutrient-rich gel, the seeds can be shot at a rate of 10 per second and, with multiple drones, could put 36,000 trees in the ground each day for about 15% of the cost of conventional planting methods.

One of the group’s founders is a 20-year NASA veteran who knows the stakes and understands the technological needs of this ambitious plan. The group aims to work with global non-profits and forestry services to deploy their solution around the world, mapping, planting and monitoring the results for further interventions.

drone target mapping

From the company: “Destruction of global forests from lumber, mining, agriculture, and urban expansion destroys 26 billion trees each year. We believe that this industrial scale deforestation is best combated using the latest automation technologies. We use emerging technologies to deliver precision planting and mapping to increase the uptake rates and the likelihood of healthy forest development.”


“There are a variety of tree-planting techniques, including planting by hand and delivering dry seeds by air. However, hand-planting is slow and expensive, and spreading dry seeds results in low uptake rates. Our solution balances these two methods. First, by planting germinated seeds using precision agriculture techniques, we increase uptake rates. Second, our scalable, automated technology significantly reduces the manpower requirements and costs. Finally, our mapping UAVs will also provide invaluable intelligence on planting patterns, landscape design and appropriate timing.”

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See more in Robotics or under Technology. April, 2015.