In the past 18 months, Terraformation, a global forest restoration startup, has launched 13 reforestation projects in 10 countries. The Hawaii-based company has launched projects from Armenia to Ghana and from Ecuador to India. Detailed data will become one of the most powerful tools to bring back forests and reduce carbon where logging, agriculture and real estate development have cut down trees and vegetation. Terraformation and its partners have planted more than 350,000 new plants and trees. It plans another 1.6 million in the coming years.
Terraformation analyzes, collects and replants seeds and seedlings that span the full range of floral species in a given forest area. As the new forests take root, further analysis builds a complete picture of which species, and in what concentrations, create the most potent and long-lasting green blends. To regrow plants, Terraformation uses several AWS Cloud computing tools, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and AWS Secret Manager.
“We want to be able to accurately record and track projects around the world at every stage – from collecting seeds to planting to measuring trees for carbon,” said Dr. Marian Chau, head of Terraformation’s seed bank operations. “Initially, this will give us quantifiable insight into our reforestation progress – how much we have really planted globally, how much of it has been preserved, and how biodiverse our new forests are. Later, we can translate that data into insights that can be making forestry projects more successful.”
A key area of focus will be optimizing supply chains to monitor progress and gaps in the reforestation process, including identifying and collecting seeds, safely storing those seeds and growing seedlings to prepare them for planting. Knowing which seeds are most likely to produce viable seedlings or which specific species to plant in a particular area makes a forest more resilient, Chau said. Continuous updates on every step in the growth plan mean that each geographic area has enough plant species to plant at the right time. More and more up-to-date data is key. Terraformation’s biggest challenge is figuring out how to capture detailed, verifiable information in a way that is sustainable and can be done in areas with limited access to technology and internet connectivity.
Much of Terraformation’s work is done without a computer. Seeds are picked using clippers or telescopic poles and stored in light mesh bags so they don’t rot. Often the seeds are judged in the field by cutting them in half with a pocket knife. Once inside, the seeds are kept in climate-controlled environments and monitored by sensors that send data to the cloud that records not only the temperature and humidity, but also the health of the seed. Terraformation has developed a mobile application to document every phase from forest to greenhouse and back. Chau said the company receives guidance from local residents on best practices.
“We are happy to work with partners in Indigenous communities who apply local expertise and traditional knowledge about seed collection and storage, while integrating more modern technology, including things like sensors, to scale up their work,” she said.
Recently, Terraformation launched an accelerator for scaling up reforestation projects, the Seed to Carbon Forest Accelerator. The company is now recruiting its first cohort of forestry teams and application closes on November 27. The program provides early stage funding and training to help participants carry out large reforestation projects. Cohort funders, including companies with net zero goals, receive a portion of the carbon credits these teams produce.
For more information, watch an episode of Start building nowin which dr. Werner Vogels, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Amazon, visits Terraformation and learns how the goal of planting 1 trillion trees is being made possible using solar desalination, seed banking and cloud-based technologies.