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Startup attempting to use drones to plant 36,000 trees a day (independent.co.uk)
315 points by nstart on Apr 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments



This quantity is absolutely nothing. Area of the single forestry, let's say in small Latvia is around 30 000 ha. 1Bn, I assume, is EU milliard. So, drones can plant, say pine seedlings with density of 4 thousand/ha (which is IMHO insufficient), which gives capacity of just 9 ha/day! I can't see anything industrial in that. Chinese mainland reforestation programme plan was 4 mln ha/year 20 years ago. Belarusian Soviet reforestation bot PLA-1 (Designed in Homel) was able to make 12-24 thousand plantings per hour in ... 1977! What is good in aerial drones - you do not need to remove tree stumps. Makes the whole operation real safer and cheaper. But its capacity is still vary far from industrial requirements in reforestation.

Disclaimer: I majored in Forest Mensuration, and did my engineering diploma in Forest Plantations.


Given the claim of 36k trees per 2 human operators, at 15% cost of existing methods, isn't the idea to use more operators(and drones) to provide the scale ? Why would that not match industrial capacity ?

I'd also be interrested in how these drones fare in different geography, I've manually planted a handful tens of thousands of trees in areas where you can't drive any vehicles - quite different from the rather large flat areas of Russia and Belarus.


PLA-1, 2 human operators, 12-24K trees per hour. Any Kenyan or Brazilian small forge can make PLA-1 bot. You just supply plastic cassettes with saplings. Besides, saplings are far superior in survivaal rates than seedlings.

I also manually planted lots of trees in different areas. Yes, you are right, when area is inaccessible and only manual planting is possible - drones may become helpful. But with 9 ha/day output, I am afraid it is cheaper to use human labour.


links or gtfo. jk, but seriously, are their links to studies and pictures? 12k saplings, in my mind, take up a lot of space.


Why just picture it in your mind, and not spend the trivial effort to actually work it out?

It's a square with 110 trees to a side. A rough overestimate at 20ft spacing gives us a guess of less than a quarter of a square mile per day, or maybe 75 square miles of saplings planted per year.

For comparison, the U.S. has something on the order of 3-3/4 million square miles of forest.


The machine that does it, not the end result. Im pretty comfortable imagining what a forest looks like, thanks. The Poster made comments that implied reforestation is a solved problem. Though my experience is anecdotal, i have to call bullshit. As someone else posted, flat places like each of his examples can be seeded relatively easy. But what about jungles, mountains, etc.? Hence my desire to see the device that can magically fix all the forests but for some unexplained reason is not being used in Africa, the Philippines, our Central America.

The truth is that if you can drive a big tree planting tank there, you can also walk there. RPV delivered seeds seem like they would be useful for places that are not so easy to get to.

Also, and you may know this, forests are not trees; forests are biomes that rely on trees to support complex webs of interrelated life forms from a micro- to macroscopic scale. A giant, soviet era thing that plants saplings in bally great blocks sounds good on paper, but i wonder how well it actually works.

I probably should have worded my original query more specifically and in a manner that the HN pedants are more comfortable with. My apologies.


Thank you, you made a very good point. ПЛА-1 and its later successor ПЛА-1А were intended to plant pine and spruce saplings. These are major forest species in the European part of the former Soviet Union. However, you put it right, forests are not plantations. Industrial forest plantations for pulp and paper, for wood (pine reaches the right size at the age of 75yrs), are _not_ exactly forests. They may look like forests, but the do not support that much biological species as the natural forest ecosystems. Thing is if the private property is sacred and there is private property on forest lands, biodiversity of natural forests will inevitably be sacrificed to achieve short-term profits. Its a ... natural process, if you can call greed natural. And these forest plantations must be planted in technologically efficient way. Drones are not bad if done right for right commercial species.


With more specificity, we begin to zero in on the nature of your OG comment. In truth, the devices you mentioned are an apples to aardvarks comparison. Ideally, and again anecdotally, reforestation should be a optimized process that replicates the natural occurrence thereof as much as is possible. Put another way, how do we do what the forest does but faster and in places the forest may not be able to? Rows and hedges can exist in nature, but IME clusters and sprays are more common. IF this company used actual Drones, not RPVs, i could imagine some bright person[s] coming up with different patterns for different species in different regions. Also, it would be swell to plant more than trees; a full stack solution seems best. And why stop at fixed biologicals? Drones that fly escort for bees; drones that go after certain invasive species during their mating seasons; drones that bury themselves like cicada grubs and come out when some biological imbalance trips their wake up sensors. With the entirety of biology as a play book, we as tricky primates have a lot of capability to construct and support our natural surroundings.

I am against industrial methods in anything, and this marginalizes me here in the West, and that is ok. People want to build money machines that crank out profit on a predictable schedule and that is fine in my book because i believe time will prove the error in that approach to living. If we want to get in the biology game, however, "crazy anarchists" and wierdos might have the upper hand in the idea arena, as trying to regiment everything, or even anything, in a massively complicated innately complex web of interaction that does not cease at any point is a fools errand.

...shit, i need a drone to come guide me back to my original point.


well, as you can see apples are doing better than aardwarks when thrown.


seriously, he throws around terms that bring up video games on google but no "planting bots" from 1970.


May I draw your attention that Google was made a little bit later, and the Internet too.


i am having a hard time believing you are serious. are you actually saying that reason their are no pictures is because your possibly fantastical tree tractor was made in the 70s and google was made in the 90s?

https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=can...

https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=mus...

https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=cot...


I provided enough evidence of its existence below. Besides I worked with its early model myself. Since when google and the internet became the proof of everything?


While i think you make an interesting if often neglected point about chickens and eggs, chicken coops have a much firmer chronology and use. I maintain that if there was such a device as you described, and i have my doubts, that i'd be able to find some sort of evidence online based on the coolness of gargantuan soviet era devicery.

So, before i write this off as a complete waste of time, can you link me to any pictures or descriptions or even (gasp) books wherein i could learn about the PLA-1 or its successor, the PLA-1A? Cyrillic or english is fine.


Repeatedly posted from below: http://goo.gl/RtVgTd <- Page 21, sorry for Russian source. It takes 4000 saplings at once, and goes at 6 km/hr, can plant every at 0.5m, gives you 12K saplings/hr. You have to recharge it with cassettes with saplings.


I agree - I think most of the numbers in the article don't really explain why this is so interesting.

To me, this is the key part of the proposal, if the technique scales:

"at around 15% of the cost of traditional methods."


Cost comparisons are tricky. Planting hevea plantation in mountain areas of Malaysia is one thing, planting oaks in Kazakhstan is another.


Can you please share more information about the reforestation bot PLA-1 ?

Also ,why isn't robot use in reforestation more common ? 12-24k plantings/hour sounds fantastic.


I've been googling around, and I can't find anything online about the PLA-1. I even tried "russian tree planting machine". General searches for tree planting machines turned up this [1] at the top of the results, but they're only claiming a max of 4000-5000 plantings per day - much less than GP claimed for the PLA-1.

So, I dunno. GP sounds like they know what they're talking about, but I would still like to see some references.

[1] http://www.damcon.nl/en/machines/tree-planting-machines/tree...


Look for ПЛА-1 and ПЛА-1А. Sorry, the abbreviation stands for Automatic Afforestation Device (Приспособление лесопосадочное автоматическое), designed at Institute of Forest in Homel. I worked there after university. At 6 km/hr and planting 2 saplings per meter it achieves 12 000 saplings /hr.


This is Galmor Tree Planter with load of 10000 saplings -http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/ODW1002.pdf/$FILE/ODW1002.pdf It is not so portable comparing to its Soviet competitor.


Oh, in the same source there is a new one - МЛА-1А «Илана». Can plant forests at 3,75km/h with same cassette feeder 4000 saplings per load on clearings _with_ tree stumps (if stumps density is below 600 stumps/ha.


That seems pretty impressive, actually. Are these machines being marketed outside of Belarus?


No. No one tried to the best of my knowledge. I personally know to whom I may address your potential enquiry, but I doubt the existing process of decision making in Belarus will produce any fast answers. The best way is to go there and talk if you are really interested.


Thanks for the offer, but I was just curious. If the machine is really superior to what's on the market then it seems like a business opportunity for someone with know-how and industry contacts - but that's not me :)


Sure. This was the only reforestation automaton made (ПЛА-1) in the USSR. Take any Soviet reference for mechanical planting of forests - it will be there. Technically its an add-on to large forest plough ПКЛ-70 supplied with cassette feeder. http://goo.gl/RtVgTd <- Page 21, sorry for Russian source. It takes 4000 saplings at once, and goes at 6 km/hr, can plant every at 0.5m, gives you 12K saplings/hr. You have to recharge it with cassettes with saplings. Nothing fantastic, ideally works for forest plantations in the Northern hemisphere.


But you can just add more drones. 2 people planting 36k trees per day is no small feat.


> But you can just add more drones. 2 people planting 36k trees per day is no small feat.

According to GP:

>> Chinese mainland reforestation programme plan was 4 mln ha/year 20 years ago.

>> So, drones can plant, say pine seedlings with density of 4 thousand/ha (which is IMHO insufficient), which gives capacity of just 9 ha/day

Suppose 180 working days a year that would give: 4 * 10^6 / (180 * 9/2) ~= 5000 operators

That doesn't actually sound too bad, not sure how many drones per operator are counted for in the 36,000 trees per 2 operators with multiple drone numbers.

One a side note this could still be well above the cost of human labor in third-world countries.


Thank you hurin, this is a good point. There are marginal costs however. Traditional planting sword is unbreakable. Drones are not. ПЛА-1 was widely criticised in the USSR for its cassette's low quality, and often failures (this is why ПЛА-1А was designed). The other thing is that drones offer only pre-germinated seedling as planting material. This goes well with light seedlings like pine and spruce. But how many oak acorns can be loaded? What about ultra-light seeds, like birch? What about tropical species? The technology is promising, but it will take at least 20 years for it to make its way to industrial forestry with trial and error. I myself would appreciate to see planting drones pack in every forestry range in Russia (with their ZALA UAV they can do that). But I am afraid this particular one is more of a hoax to cover some scheme behind trading carbon quotas, than a real thing. I would like to think otherwise, but years in the industry made me cynical. I am deeply sorry about that.


Well, here is traditional way. 16 kg tool - planting sword. No kids allowed. Up, down, turn to yourself, put sapling turn from yourself, up, step forward, repeat. 8 hrs straight, 2 breaks 30 min each. Roughly 30 sec/sapling is bad speed. 1000 saplings per man/day. Modern tech is better, when you plant pots into machine-made hole, but I never practiced that.

UPD: here is the video instruction for this process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6MhT7dbB1c


Nice demo. Here's a video of guys doing it at production speed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU-7NffSSHk

Another common tool (in the US at least) is the Hoedad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1gPVuITMgc


Thanks! That's a good one. These peons are using very light version, probably 6 kilos or such. The original Kolesov's planting sword is very heavy. But mind the Darth Vader style of breating in that video. This is very true.


I think the problem is: most of the machines and bots you mention can work only in the plains, and in areas reachable by road. What if there are no roads, as is the case in many remote areas?


Ever been in Russia apart the large cities? No roads. Just mere directions. Technically you have to clear the area from stumps and use large tractor with massive forest plough and automaton attached.


Why do you need to remove tree stumps?

Disclaimer: my forestry education is only from farming school.


In cases where you're using pull-behind row planters (like this: https://www.kelcomaine.com/webpics/productpics/tp300/tp300-0...), catching on a stump could tear up the equipment or throw the rider off.


That is correct. The most costly operation in afforestation by planting is removing stumps. We did it with explosives.


BigDog would make an excellent tree planting robot.


It's way too slow. A drone has the advantage of being able to navigate extremely rugged terrain, largely avoiding obstacles, and can traverse across rivers without getting wet.

The sorts of areas that desperately need replanting are usually a wasteland to stumps, branches, brush, and lots of rocks.


One of the most efficient Soviet afforestation technology for pine forests is - wait until the good seed year comes in ripe forest. Cut it down the next year. Cones will land. Burn the place with controlled fire. Stumps will go, cones will open! Bummer, young forest in 3-4 years growing real fast.


IIRC pine forests often have microsaplings, lots and lots of tiny pine saplings that will start growing once the old trees goes away.


called podrost in Russia. Not in all types of forests. often they die when you remove canopy. bugs come.


Made me wonder if you could get a big plane instead and just "cluster bomb" an area with the tree pods. Then I read the article more closely, in particular the reference to "dry tree seeding by air".

Found: http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/old-milit... ("Old Military Planes Could Drop 900,000 Tree-Bombs a Day")

Although the buzzword here is "drones", it seems (to my amateur eyes) like a big part of the innovation is the pre-germinated tree pods.


You missed the part about them being dropped from 3m high, while the drone is presumably stationary? There is no reason to believe the tree pod could survive a harsher impact...

So planes are out, the helicopters too (can't get that low with trees around, and way too expensive to fly anyway). Drones are definitely a very important part of it...


Tree seeds regularly fall from greater heights, so the seeds can survive.

The pods will have a much larger terminal velocity, but I don't see how that would make it problematic to toss them from, say, 50 meters high. Attach a cheap piece of pulp paper (= easily bio-degradable) to the pods as an air brake, if needed.

I have my doubts as to its cost effectiveness, too. I can't find calculations on the project's site and I do not have data, either, but I would think those pods must be fairly expensive, or drones incredibly cheap, or places where trees can be planted must be extremely rare for this to be economically the best choice.


The pod contain a germinated seed, aka a baby tree, presumably a lot more fragile than a seed. The whole point of the invention is that they get more trees that way than dropping seed from planes...


No, the claim is not that they get more trees; it is that they get them cheaper.

I did not claim dropping pods at random would give the same success rate; the thing I question is whether the investment needed to use these drones is more effective than, say, buying five times the number of pods and throwing them out of a plane (or even deploying them with a modified minefield thrower.)

Also, looking at the picture at http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article10160598.ece/al..., those germinated seeds aren't large. In my (limited) experience handling such things, they are more fragile than seeds, but dropping them is just fine.

For the rightmost two ones, it would help to plant them right side up, but you aren't going to do that dropping it from a drone, either (hm, looking at it, that picture probably isn't worth much as evidence; there's no way you are going to have a relatively small pod burrow into the ground like that from any height, let alone a few meters)


I imagine you don't want them to be placed particularly randomly. Using a drone you could ensure adequate spacing between the trees so more of them will have a chance of taking hold, leading to a much higher effectiveness.


If the drone is slow, say 50mph, they still need to throw 7 plants per second.

I was a timber in the Australian outback (as a backpacker) and if you plant trees more than 10 feet apart, the sun burns them up, even with a tropical climate/wet season alternance. Like, pitch black wood. You need them close to each other and minimum 5 rows together if you want a self-sustaining hedge (and still the outer rows are doomed to die early). And I'm talking about heavily irrigated areas [1] next to the Argyle lake in the Northern Territory [2].

I guess not all places are like Australia, but those with desertification and ecosystem deprecation will require many trees at once. I wonder how they'll deal with this minimum critical mass problem. Overall this startup idea is excellent, for example thick hedges for areas next to the Sahara can stop the desert from advancing and revive the whole area within the perimeter, by rehydrating the winds and restoring livable temperature.

[1] Heavily irriguated area above 38C all year long: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sandelholzplantagen_Kununu... [2] The whole page, with climate histograms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kununurra,_Western_Australia


I would be sceptical about using this to stop desertification. The plants still need to be protected from livestock and kept watered. This doesn't solve the underlying causes of vegetation loss that created the problem in the first place.


The underlying problem is humans harvesting wood.

>I would be sceptical about using this to stop desertification.

Take a closer look at the Permaculture movement and the extremely effective science developed around that scene on the subject of stopping desertification - where this article specifically mentions trees being dropped from the sky, that's merely the outer limit. Grassland-dropping drones would also be effective - its not just trees-as-species, but all the other bio-sphere in between that matters.

Farmers using drones to drop mantis-packs is another potential use .. the sky is literally the limit. What we don't have, is the drone systems that can be readily deployable.

Yet.


Subsistence farming 48%. Commercial agriculture 32%. Logging 14%. Fuel wood removals 5%.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation#Causes


50mph is quite fast. The competition is about 3mph, so 10mph would already be a 3-fold improvement. So: shoot 1 per second, or have a shotgun approach, or simply have more than 1 pass per drone, or multiple drones...


If I'm not mistaken, "racing drones" are pushing above 100km/hr


Link to startup - http://www.biocarbonengineering.com/

To the Mods. Not sure if this has been posted before. And not sure if link to startup would be better. Please switch link if that would be better. Thanks :)


A link to the article is better in my opinion.


Article definitely provides more info :)


Stupid question, but I've always wondered if it would be possible to genetically engineer trees to consume more C02 then they already do? Seems like a way to multiply efforts.


Having trees consume more CO2 might have some benefit with regards to the greenhouse gas supply, but I don't think this is the main reason why try replanting is done.

I think the main reason why replanting is done is to reduce erosion and to provide a new supply of trees to be logged in the future.


I'd be really interested in this area of research, too. And not just trees- what about smaller plants (even house plants)? I'd imagine an engineered "heavy breather" that people could easily grow in their homes and yards could make a measurable impact if widely adopted. It could also be tied in to a type of carbon-based tax to encourage people towards a carbon-neutral lifestyle.


Plants don't just magick carbon away. They store the carbon as more plant. Ergo, to offset the release of a pound of carbon, you need more than a pound of plant. A typical American releases tons of carbon per year (literally, not figuratively), so to offset this will require tons of plant. Thousands of pounds of houseplant per year is... impractical, to put it gently.

80ft tall, 24ft diameter hardwoods can hit 50 tons at maturity (50+ years). So it seems that planting half a dozen to a dozen hardwoods would be enough to mostly offset a typical American's lifetime carbon emissions. Of course, when the tree dies, the carbon has to go somewhere.


Probably completely impractical, but this conversation gave me a picture of people raising fast-growing plants in their homes/yards that they continually 'harvest'. This harvested matter than gets taken to a dump site and buried, capturing the carbon underground.

I suppose the whole operation would have to either use solar power or be extremely efficient to avoid burning as much or more carbon based fuel than it buries.


Freeman Dyson proposed this solution a few years back. I honestly think it's not being done because most huge companies prefer to spend a little money (relatively speaking) on CCS research and kicking the can down the road.


Since trees store carbon as, well, tree, this basically boils down to: massive and fast. Using bullshit numbers I found on a quick search, Americans average 20tn/yr of CO2 emissions. Ballpark, carbon is a third of that by mass, so you'd need to grow 7 additional tons of tree per year.


I have no background in this, but wouldn't the energy need to go into something? Like making the trees thicker or something like that?


I have no experience either, but my guess is Probably, but that would just be one more reason to do the research. A faster growing tree would probably be pretty beneficial to the lumber industry.


I know only a little about this, but I think the problem with fast growing trees is that the wood tends to be of low quality for commercial purposes. A while back eucaplyptus trees were planted all around the world, but turned out to not be very useful as lumber. I think they're mostly now used for paper pulp, which is still useful, but much less valuable than timber.

If the aim is to just regrow a forest quickly then maybe it doesn't matter. But I think there's probably a difference (aesthetically, if nothing else) between a healthy "natural" forest ecosystem and a plantation all of the same type of tree.


26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted.

Glad to see we're replanting a substantial amount of trees taken down every year, this gap looks closable. I had in my mind much closer to 5% or 10%...


While it's better than nothing, the newly planted trees actually cannot replace the old trees. You can read about the reasons why for example here http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/conservation/... (I'd do a TL;DR but it's actually pretty complicated, as ancient ecosystems tend to be).


It depends what you mean by "replace". It can be anywhere on the spectrum from an exact clone of each tree, to the same count of trees. You're looking at a narrow part of spectrum of the meaning of "replace" where you consider the ecosystems affected by the removal of trees. Another narrow spectrum of the meaning could be restoring the absorption rate of carbon dioxide. I'm pretty sure firing seeds from the air constitutes replacing the rough count of trees.


Did you read the article?


The US and Europe is more forested now than it was 100 years ago, on average. Wood is no longer needed for fuel and ship building. Most commercial logging now goes on in managed 'tree farms' rather than virgin woodlands.


Mind you, that's because 100 years ago a lot of it had been razed to the ground to fuel the Industrial Revolution. "More forested than 100 years ago" really means "slowly recovering from the damage we did."

I recall, about 20 years ago, my father driving us through the forests of West Virginia to visit family, and pointing out that not one of the trees was more than, say, 18 inches across (in my young memory, at least). There was plenty of forest, but it was all young forest. The old growth had been utterly exterminated.


North America was inhabited for thousands of years by the time Europeans arrived and land tended to be managed as a matter of living on it. The thick forests early European colonists encountered were the result of massive depopulation of people and not 'natural' in that sense.

The idea of setting aside land for unmanaged old-growth forests is a modern one and we're likely seeing it again for the first time since early colonial times; back then it was inadvertent.

http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~alcoze/for398/class/pristinemyth.htm...


In Europe we started razing the forest long before the industrial revolution. Norway used to have substantial oak forests that still haven't recovered from a steady decline that may have started as early as with viking age ship building, but that seriously started no later than the 1600's to satisfy demand for more and larger ships throughout Europe.


Around here it is actually consider a problem: Areas that has been cultivated for hundreds of years are now filling up with bushes and trees because small scale farming is declining quickly and the larger ones don't send livestock out to grass in these areas.


Why is that a problem? If we don't need to use the land for farming or grazing, what's the harm in letting it fill up with bushes and trees?


You lose an ecosysem and some of the plants and animals adapted to that ecosystem.

I'd be interested to know if there's much difference between managed and unmanaged mini wilderness -- can you just leave a few fields to go wild and it'll turn out okay or do humans need to steer it for the first few years?


From what I've heard from farmers, fields left to the wild are hard to clear and it's more difficult to return to agriculture after a few years. As a matter of real-estate the value goes down.


where is your here?


Late but I'm in Norway, at least for now.


A Google earth search of Cape Breton would like to have a word with you.


"On average".


"The US and Europe is more forested now than it was 100 years ago"

source? (hope it's not your ass)




I love the idea of a company being able to do good like this, but how does it call itself a company if it's just planting trees? Who pays them?


Companies that sell carbon offset credits.


I love the carbon credits system, traded on the stock exchange. It's the most lightweight and capitalistic incentive we can build around polluting externalities.


Ah the irony: and the US government (the US being the pinnacle of capitalist society) is refusing them at every chance. Isn't this what Kyoto was proposing? Has not the US (effectively) killed Kyoto? Whatever carbon trading is taking place in the US, is probably not internationally sanctioned.

The US practices this international tactic of dragging its feet as long as possible, giving time to its companies to catch up with international standards (and to hell with everything else if need be, environment be damned!). At the same time, it will very willingly impose international standards wherever they feel their local companies are at an advantage. This is why lots of European population are skeptical of the TTIP: the US is probably sending us a Trojan horse.


its natural that players will attempt to modify the game (or keep it skewed in their favor) . The externalities have always been there, but some industries have never had to pay for them. I wouldnt be surprised if some industries are not even profitable once you account for their externalities.

But macroenconomic principles mean nothing if you have greed. If one is greedy, then its just a matter of maximizing what's on your plate, with no regard of how much you're taking from others (potentially future generations)


I've read bad things about carbon credits. Specifically that it's inefficient—you now have the overhead of a new market and middlemen making their cut. Whereas revenue neutral carbon tax is a far simpler method that still changes behaviour.


A revenue-neutral carbon tax requires impossible knowledge to implement. Without a market price system, you cannot determine such a tax.

Further, tax changes move at a glacially slow pace compared to the process changes and technological progress that would be natural reactions to increased costs of producing carbon.


I'd love to hear how you rationalize a tax requiring "impossible knowledge to implement". Taxes are a pretty universal way to disincentive economic behavior, the only question seems to be what tax rate to add. But, that seems easily solved.

For example, a carbon tax obviates the need for market pricing, simply set your target, e.g. 20% reduction in carbon use in 10 years, and fix carbon tax increases/decreases tied to that target, so that if you fall behind reaching that target a tax rate increase automatically kicks in for the next year.


I don't say a tax requires impossible knowledge. A revenue neutral tax would be though. The intent there is to achieve economic efficiency, which cannot be determined in the absence of prices. This link provides a pretty good overview of the issues and the extra reading/criticisms are worthwhile[0].

>For example, a carbon tax obviates the need for market pricing, simply set your target, e.g. 20% reduction in carbon use in 10 years, and fix carbon tax increases/decreases tied to that target, so that if you fall behind reaching that target a tax rate increase automatically kicks in for the next year.

This is neither a strategy for implementing a properly revenue neutral tax, nor to drive toward any sort of efficient allocation. It is completely viable, though, if your goal is not revenue neutrality or efficiency.

I do not here make the argument that revenue neutrality or efficiency must be the aim of such governmental action, only that these two specific aims cannot be accomplished by a government imposing taxes.

[0]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_calculation_problem


I see the point made by the economic calculation problem for state planning, but don't see how it applies to a carbon tax as a scheme to incentivize behavior.

Eg. Governments do a lot already to (dis)incentivize behavior through tax policy. Are you saying this doesn't work?

I'll do some further reading on cap and trade, most of my knowledge on this matter is from the book Storms of my Grandchildren, which speaks to the issues against cap and trade at length.


Rich guys. I live next to people who literally ran out of ways to spend money. You can't give it all to your kids--the Rich Kid syndrome sounds horrid. The company/nonprofit needs to do what it claims though.


timber companies? If his tree bombs work this could be hugely profitable.


This.

Sometimes it seems as if many people don't realize that timber companies plant the most trees - who else has the incentive to?


possibly, governement/orgs trying to balance out CO2 emissions? I.e. you can trade CO2 within the kyoto protocol, it makes sense there would be a market.


People who own a lot of land that is useless because its a desert.

Combine drone-planting with permaculture, and you've got a $Trillion terra-forming industry just waiting to happen ..


For comparisons sake a Canadian tree planter can plant roughly 3k 6" seedlings in a day for a cost of about $400.

>"Fletcher doesn't pretend that the method is as good as hand-sowing, but it's a hell of a lot quicker."

Also for comparisons sake, the expected survival rate of those 3k hand planted trees is 50%.


Tree planting is a pretty popular and lucrative summer-time gig for Canadian college students (and other young people). It's paid by the tree, with the price depending on the terrain and the planting rules (spacing, light and soil conditions, depth). There is a lot of quality control done by supervisors, and it takes a lot of skill to plant both well and quickly.

It would be interesting to hear some planters weigh in on the technology described in the OP. Agree the "# of trees planted" is not the best metric--the real question is how many of those will grow into mature trees.

Some background on the job: http://www.tree-planter.com/?navigation_id=90


My brother was a tree planter in Northern Alberta for 6 seasons, he was earning in the range of $500 a day towards the end (he was good)

I went out to his camp for a couple of weeks and planted for a while.

IMO the proposed solution looks great. Obviously it's not perfect and needs some refinement, but that's the whole point isn't it - we're always striving to learn more and make things better.


Copters take up a lot of power, more so if they need to drill and implant payloads.

We should ponder the possiblity of more efficient lower-tech non-drone options, like tree-howitzers, or maybe an A10 warthog with an acorn gun, or some sort of honey-clusters-of-nuts cluster-bomb type payload for a B-52.


Interesting. This guy should look to collaborate with Afforestt, who have a working method to reforest an area in a reduced timescale: http://afforestt.com/index.html; might be a great outcome!


Typo in your link, by the way. The semi-colon breaks the link and we get a 404.


Thanks for the heads up. Sadly I missed the edit window for the post.

Fixed link: http://afforestt.com/


I went looking for a video of this in action but only found the following which features some rudimentary animations: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2mo07q

So good job on getting some press- let's see some hardware in action so we have something to get excited about.


Is interesting, but there face some major problems that they will need to be aware,

The worst is the big overpopulation of herbivores. We don't want to just feed the goats. The real number is how many trees will survive at least ten years not how many you can plant. I'll suggest to add some biodegradable mesh cover to this capsules.

Other is that many wastelands have been burned and lost his soil and are basically bare rock. A human can search for most favourable crevices but a drone normally can't have this level of accuracy. If we start trowing capsules to bare rock we just will have a lot of plant failures upside down drying at the sun

And of course many birds will do gladly this work almost for free if you just put a fence, some shelter and several birdfeeders with soft fruits, figs or accorns.


I know it is too late for this to get fixed, but i am so tires of people saying "drone" when they mean "RPV". This idea in particular would be much more capable if they actually did use Drones instead of RPVs.


Speed and automation of planting is one thing, and awesome to see!

The second part is to optimize for the speed of tree growth. I can't locate the post, but a man/company had learned of a way to regrow trees faster, significantly reducing the number of years needed. It definitely had something to do with supplying nutrients, but placement may also have been involved.

I hope this startup communicates and investigates speed of growth, rather than simply planting, so they can have an even bigger impact; however, it's great to see, either way.


  I can't locate the post, but a man/company had learned of
  a way to regrow trees faster, significantly reducing the
  number of years needed.
This might be the post you are referencing:

How to Grow a Forest Really Really Fast

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9074473


That was it, thanks!


And how are the pods made? Hopefully it's also somewhat automated and fast, otherwise the drones would quickly run out of pods to plant.


26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted. - How did they come to these numbers?


It's also a little misleading because trees do get planted without human intervention.


Sure, and they die outside of human intervention too.


Trees don't get replanted in Borneo where the entire forest is leveled for oil palm.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/damian-carrington-blo...


They should genetically mark these, patent the DNA, and then license the rights to chop down trees.


Or, much cheaper and legally unquestionable:

Buy cheap land; plant trees; sell land or logging rights.

No need to try to enforce a property right over something on someone else's land 20+ years in the future.


Is planting trees really a problem? I was under the impression that trees basically plant themselves if you let them.

Also don't think you can simply replant the rain forest.


Disclaimer: this may be specific to forests in British Columbia.

It's actually quite complicated; the way harvesting work doesn't nicely mimic how trees naturally die and are replaced in the forest. So if you harvest with clearcuts or even selective logging and don't replant, you'll probably end up with a different forest composition than if natural methods (fires/pests/rot) had removed those trees. So replanting is done to try and correct that imbalance and get the forest back into a healthy functioning state as soon as possible. It's also much faster than allowing natural regrowth - especially in a clear cut area.

If you replant you can also use improved (through breeding, not GMO at this point) plant stock, so you'll end up with better yields in ~80 years.


Yes, deforestation is a problem. You can't replenish a tree line if you don't have a tree there in the first place. So, this is something that will have beneficial effects - especially in a region like the Amazon, where deforestation is proceeding at a horrendous pace.

And replenishing the rainforest is done research - its been worked out how to do it. The problem is its really labor intensive, so this is why the drone-delivery is key.

Use drones to replant key species, watch the rainforest re-grow over 10 - 20 years.


You need to look no further than the third sentence of the article to answer your question:

"26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted."


That doesn't imply that it's technical issues that prevent replanting. In many regions of the earth, people simply don't care about replanting. And as I said, I don't think you can just replant a burnt down forest.


Should be: 26 billion big trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion of fragile saplings are replanted and those burned are the lucky remains of trillions of seeds and saplings.

To replace a big cod with a cod egg just will not work. You need millions of eggs to assure that an adult fish will survive. With trees is similar.


These pods sound like a new and improved coconut.


What is wrong with natural birds?


These are OK. As long as they survive deforestation in sufficient quantity and there are seeds left to spread in the area. The last thing shakes limits of probability of effective reforestation by bird to improbable.


Not a great start-up idea unfortunately.


There are too few of them to replant at anything remotely the rate at which we remove trees.


they don't have "drone" in their names


Easy. Call your trained birds "bio-drones".


Well if you only deforest some trees and leave some left at even spaces the trees will naturally spread back to the area by dropping their seeds.


Do this on Mars, then you've got something!


But what about biodiversity?



Good luck Matt!!




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