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This startup wants to plant a billion trees with a swarm of seed-bombing drones

Flash Forest

Every year, way more trees are cut down than are planted. Could drones help offset deforestation? The connection between those two points might sound tenuous, but for the folks at Canadian company Flash Forest, not only does it make total sense; it may be the only way to solve a major ecological problem.

Flash Forest’s concept is to use cutting-edge unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to plant a billion trees. Compared to current planting technology, this tech-aided reforestation would rapidly accelerate the rate of tree planting — and ecological restoration — on a planetary scale.

From 3D-printed prostheses to burgers grown in science labs to smarter mobility for the elderly or infirm, tech improves our lives every day in a million ways beyond simply making things more convenient. Tech can have a meaningful impact — that’s why we call it Tech for Change. Here are the companies and people fighting to make a difference.
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“We use drones to plant trees because it provides a rapid and scalable solution to deforestation and climate change,” Cameron Jones, co-founder of Flash Forest, told Digital Trends. “We are currently able to plant our pre-germinated seed pods at a rate of one per second, and anticipate we will be able to plant up to 20,000 pods per drone per day.”

The major issue currently holding back this important task is an investment for pod production. While the team of five people is confident that this can production be fully automated, they need to raise sufficient funds for a downpayment on a piece of equipment. The result is that they have turned to Kickstarter to raise the money.

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A project with these kinds of eco-ambitions might seem a bit far out for the ordinary Kickstarter crowd. Fortunately, it seems that users have stepped up to the plate. With more than two weeks left on the clock, Flash Forest has already raised more than $50,000 against an original target of $7,700. A variety of funding price points are available — from a single tree for less than a dollar to 2,000 trees for $1,500. People pledging their hard-earned cash can also pick up a range of supporter memorabilia, including jackets, mugs, and more.

“We are completely stunned by the amount of support received,” Jones said. “We thought we would hit our fundraising goal but did not expect to hit it as fast as we did. I think this speaks more to the goodwill of the public than anything. I sincerely believe most people want to do something about climate change and environmental degradation but don’t know how. We provided one solution and I think it resonated with people.”

As ever, we offer our usual obligatory warnings about the potential risks of crowdfunding campaigns. That can include projects which don’t ship on time, as described or, sometimes, at all. We hope that this is not the case here — the world would be a lot better off with a billion more trees.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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