Terraformation is hoping to restore billions of acres of native forest using techniques more familiar to high-tech startups than environmental non-profits
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Spotted: When ex-Reddit CEO Yishan Wong decided to start a new project focusing on solving climate change through mass reforestation, he didn’t follow the same route as most NGOs. Instead, he decided to apply the startup philosophy of scalability to the problem. The result, Terraformation, is a hugely ambitious project to rapidly restore 3 billion acres of native forests around the globe.
Forests act as natural carbon sinks. The problem is that it takes a great deal of time to plant and grow new forests. Terraformation is tackling this by developing repeatable ways to scale and accelerate the successful planting and nurturing of trees. It is doing this by targeting the main bottlenecks in successful reforesting — the availability of land, freshwater and seeds. Like other startups, it is tackling each of these area by building unique, modular, sharable solutions.
Terraformation has developed a seed bank housed in a standard shipping container and includes all the equipment (and solar power) needed for on-site storage of native seeds required to replant a whole forest. It has also developed a flat-packed greenhouse, also containerised, which can be put together by two people and used to start seedlings. To solve the issue of water availability, it is working on building solar-powered desalination plants that can be easily transported and operated.
Although the company has so far only planted a few thousand trees, it claims to have achieved a reforestation work-rate of around five times the industry average. Wong told TechCrunch that, “The very, very nice thing about mass reforestation or mass restoration as a solution to climate change is that it’s extremely parallelisable. You can plant any tree at the same time as you’re planting some other tree. This is the primary reason why this solution can potentially be implemented within the timetable that we have left.”
While Terraformation is an ambitious, large-scale effort at tackling climate change through reforestation, we have also seen a number of smaller-scale projects that are non-the-less making a dent. These include innovations such as an urban rewilding project that cleans city air and a Kenyan project that tackles reforestation with carbon balls.