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PODCAST: Meet the company that’s taking tech to the skies to restore native forests

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Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 2:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Trees are often called the lungs of the world, producing oxygen for humans to breathe and trapping harmful pollutants like carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Studies show that a mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 pounds per year, and an acre of forest can absorb twice the amount of CO2 produced by a car’s annual mileage.

But as global temperatures continue to rise and the world sees more catastrophic wildfires, these lifelines are dying.

That’s where DroneSeed comes in, a company that is taking tech to the skies to drop seeds from native trees to restore burned areas.

Experts say if humans don’t intervene now, 90% of forests could be lost in 20 years in the highest risk areas.

The impact of climate-induced wildfires is already being seen in Hawaii.

Just last August, wind-whipped flames burned through roughly 50,000 acres of ranches and homes on the Big Island — marking one of the largest wildfires in state history.

With the land scorched, efforts are now underway to restore the area.

Grant Canary, the CEO of DroneSeed, explains how using technology to scale up and reimagine reforestation is crucial as devastating wildfires become more common.

“Climate change is changing our forests, and our forests are burning significantly more than they did in in the past, and they’re regenerating significantly less,” Canary said.

“So, if humans don’t intervene and do more reforestation, we’ll have 10-foot bushes, but those aren’t forests. That’s the first stages of desertification. And that is not where we want to head if we are going to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.”

While the company is based in Washington State, they’re also running projects in Hawaii.

Canary sat down with HNN to describe how the process works in the second episode of “Repairing Earth,” a podcast aimed at showcasing the people who are fighting climate change in our own backyard.

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He says the drones are specially designed to carry about 57 pounds of seed vessels and are programmed to be flown over specific areas.

Canary said the process not only makes reforestation more precise, but it also speeds up the process.

“Right now, the way it’s done is you have people carrying 40-pound bags of one- or two-year-old trees. And people are carrying those and doing wind sprints up and down mountains and planting them with a shovel,” he explained.

“In Hawaii, I’ve been hiking recently, and some of the trails are gnarly and difficult. So, with drones, we are getting access to some of the sites that are hard to reach and are being able to operate faster.”

Although trees don’t grow and mature overnight, Canary says the need to restore forests is critical.

From clean air and water to the chemical bursts of joy we experience walking in nature, Canary describes trees and forests as “life support systems” for humans.

And while reforestation is just one way to combat climate change, he says more needs to be done — and everyone can be a part of this work.

“There are so many opportunities to get involved. If you’re coming from highly polluting industries, we want to rob all of those industries of their best and start focusing that brainpower on how we can mitigate the worst effects of climate change. It does not matter if you are an accountant, if you’re in HR or otherwise, there is a way to be climate-tech focused,” he said.

“I want to make sure people are cognizant that they can take action now. And even if they’re not interested in shifting their career entirely, they can vote.”

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