Reforesting in a Flash
Kirk Penton - Dec 09, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
Bryce Jones with one of Flash Forest’s industrial strength drones.

A Kelowna man is trying to reduce carbon emissions and reforest the world, one seed pod at a time.

Bryce Jones is the co-founder and CEO of Flash Forest, a Toronto-based company that uses drones to plant trees quickly and efficiently. The business is currently running a Kickstarter campaign, trying to scale its technology and secure contracts, but it has a goal of planting one billion—that’s right, billion with a B—trees by 2028.

Flash Forest uses industrial-strength drones featuring air pressure systems to fire pods containing tree seeds into the ground.

“After several tests, we improved this technology to give us autonomous firing and flying capability,” Jones said. “Our pod production began with 3D printing designs, a lot of research, trial and error, as well as consultation with experts.

“Our pods contain three pre-germinated tree seeds and everything the seeds need to survive for the first nine months or so. This includes a soil mixture with the right pH and moisture content, nutrient blend, mycorrhizae fungi and a shell to encase the pods. We have a solution that our seed geneticist helped us develop to guarantee seed growth and survival.”

Jones, who grew up in the Upper Mission, graduated from Kelowna Christian School in 2007, and he earned a biology degree from the University of Victoria in 2016. He spent the summer of 2013 planting 76,000 trees in Western Canada with Apex Reforestation, and that’s where he witnessed the scale of deforestation.

“While the tree planters and loggers lived and ate together it became clear that there was something very different about these two groups: technology,” Jones said. “The tree planters were planting seedlings in the ground using shovels, where the loggers had state of the art tree felling machines. There was no bridge between.

“After years of brainstorming and piloting other environmental projects, I started Flash Forest to bridge that gap.”

Flash Forest started its kickstarter campaign with the goal of collecting $10,000, and it was approaching $14,000 on Monday afternoon. The goal is to plant 150,000 trees in 2020, but essentially they’re just getting going. The goal is to get environmental agencies, governments, and timber, pulp/paper and mining companies with an incentive for reforestation to become customers.

Jones and Co. are working with botanists on 21 Canadian tree species to accelerate seed germination from the natural period of 60 to 90 days down to 15 days. The company says it has achieved proof of concept, with the ability to plant trees at 10 times the rate of human planters and at 20 per cent of the cost.

“We have our sights set internationally,” Jones said. “We want to bring our technology to six continents and in every biome that’s in need of reforestation or afforestation. From the rapidly disappearing tropics of Borneo to the burning Canadian boreal forests, we want to make an impact wherever we are needed.

“Right now, we’re working closely with a botanist in Brazil, navigating the regulatory hurdles and the ecological system there to pursue initial contracts in the Amazon and Brazilian Atlantic coast in the near future.”

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