A startup is using a unique, on-the-ground data collection method to help get the most value from every tree
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Spotted: Forestry management is about more than just making sure the trees are healthy. Increasingly, it is about managing forest assets used for carbon credits, timber, wildlife, tourism, and more. But in order to manage a forest, you need accurate data. A number of startups gather this data using satellites or drones, but these can have difficulty seeing below the canopy, where the trees hold most of their biomass and carbon.
Instead of measuring from the air, startup Gaia AI is taking a different approach on the ground. The company, which was spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is using LiDAR and computer vision to gather data.
Gaia AI has developed a sensor backpack that takes measurements automatically as the forester strolls through the woodland. The system collects geotagged tree metrics, including tree count, height, and species. This data is then combined with satellite imagery to provide insights into harvesting, timber sale negotiations, and carbon credit options. Perception AI processes the data to provide improved measurement accuracy at a lower cost than current manual solutions.
Peter McHale, co-founder and CEO at Gaia AI explains the startup’s mission: “Longer term, Gaia AI will be the Google of forestry, utilising advanced data capabilities to solve the biggest problems holding back the potential of nature and make timber companies a lot of money along the way”.
Gaia AI has recently completed a $3 million (around €2.8 million) pre-seed funding round led by E14. The company is also developing a pilot programme to deploy the backpacks with some of the largest timber companies in the world.
Developing a sustainable forest ecosystem is about more than simply planting trees – it is about getting the most out of each and every tree. And doing this requires data. Some projects Springwise has recently spotted in this space include a platform that verifies nature-based carbon offsetting, and technology that lets foresters gather data such as log count using a smartphone.
Written By: Lisa Magloff