AirSeed Technologies' mission to give Mother Nature a 'kick up the bum'

The company has designed a tree-planting drone technology that it wants to trial from April in bushfire devastated areas.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Australian startup AirSeed Technologies said it's currently in early stage talks with the Australian government and industry organisations to commence trials of its tree-planting drone technology in bushfire devastated areas in New South Wales from April.

The company has developed a prototype drone that uses a combination of artificial intelligence and GPS technology to disperse seed pods at a rate AirSeed Technologies has claimed is 95% faster compared to traditional planting methods.

Speaking to ZDNet, AirSeed Technologies co-founder and mechanical engineer Andrew Walker said on average, a person can physically plant 800 seeds a day, versus the drone technology that can plant 40,000 seeds a day, which is a "big difference".

"Traditional methods involve growing the seed in a nursery, and depending on the species, it can take three months, it can take a year, or two years. Once you've cultivated it in the nursery, they are then shipped out to areas that need reforesting, we dig a hole, and put them in," he said.

According to Walker, as part of the expected trial, the company would focus on planting seeds of native species and monitoring the operation over two wet seasons and two dry seasons.

"That will help us find out what specific problems will exist in Australia, what we will come across during an extended dry period, is that going to be the major factor, and will we need to look at means of how to deal with that, whether that's through select species reforestation or through doing the monitoring process in a very specific way to help the seedlings in early stage of growths," he said.

The Australian trial, if approved, would be coming off the back of initial trials in South Africa that began last March. In the first test, AirSeed Technologies planted 10,000 seed pods across 10 hectares.

Image: Supplied/AirSeed Technologies

AirSeed Technologies is also undertaking a paid trial with food and agri-business company Olam International to plant over 500,000 trees.

AirSeed Technologies has also partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to determine how its drone technology could be used to assist with mangrove restoration that was affected during the bushfires, such as determining how to plant the mangrove seeds and what nutrients would be needed to grow the seedpods. 

Walker said the goal is to eventually plant 100 million trees by 2023 globally.

"All we're trying to do is replicate what mother nature does … and give it a big kick up the bum, and we're doing that with tech and science," Walker said.

Another company that has been putting its hands up to help with bushfire recovery has been FireFight, which designed an airborne mapping system using thermal imaging cameras to provide real-time fire maps and post-fire hot maps for fire managers and agencies.

Deployed in a single engine aircraft, the system, which features thermal imaging cameras, GPS, and data processing software, was recently used to map in real-time existing fires and hotspot fires on Kangaroo Island.

According to the company, the data captured was recently used by the Australian Army as part of post-fire recovery operations.

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