Over the past 18 months, Terraforming, a global forest restoration startup, has launched 13 reforestation projects in 10 countries. The Hawaii-based company has launched projects from Armenia to Ghana and Ecuador to India. Granular data will become one of the most powerful tools for reforestation and carbon reduction where logging, agriculture and property development have cleared trees and vegetation. Terraformation and its partners have planted more than 350,000 new plants and trees. It has planned to plant another 1.6 million over the next few years.
Terraforming analyzes, banks, and replants seeds and seedlings that include the full range of flower species in a given forest area. As new forests take root, further analysis builds a more complete picture of what species and in what concentrations create the strongest and longest-lasting green mixes. To reproduce the plants, Terraformation uses a variety of different AWS Cloud computing tools, including Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) AND AWS Secrets Manager.
“We want to be able to accurately capture and track projects around the world at every stage – from collecting seeds to planting to measuring trees for carbon,” said Dr. Marian Chau, head of Terraformation’s seed banking efforts. “Initially, this will give us a quantifiable sense of our progress in reforestation – how much we’ve planted globally, how much has survived and how biodiverse our new forests are. Later, we can translate those input into knowledge that can make forestry projects more successful.”
A major area of focus will be optimizing supply chains to monitor progress and gaps in the reforestation process, including identifying and collecting seeds, storing those seeds safely, and growing seedlings to prepare for planting. Knowing which seeds are more likely to produce viable seedlings or which specific species to plant in a given area makes a forest more resilient, Chau said. Having constant updates on each step in the growing plan ensures that each geographic area has enough plant species ready to plant at the right time. More and more, data is key. Terraformation’s biggest challenge is figuring out how to capture detailed, verifiable information in a way that’s sustainable and doable in areas with limited access to technology and internet connectivity.
Most of Terraformation’s work happens away from a computer. The seeds are collected using scissors or telescopic poles and stored in light mesh bags to prevent rotting. Seeds are often assessed in the field by cutting them in half with a pocket knife. Once inside, the seeds are kept in climate-controlled environments and monitored by sensors that send data to the cloud, capturing not only temperature and humidity, but also the health of the seed. Terraformation has developed a mobile app for documenting each stage from forest to greenhouse and back again. Chau said the company takes guidance from local residents about best practices.
“We love working with partners in indigenous communities who apply local expertise and traditional knowledge of how to collect and store seeds, while integrating the latest technology, including things like sensors, to enhance their work,” she said. .
Terraformation recently launched an accelerator for scaling reforestation projects, The Seed to Carbon Forest Accelerator. The company is recruiting its first batch of forestry teams now and applications close on 27 November. The program will provide early-stage funding and training to help participants carry out large-scale reforestation projects. Funders of the group, including corporations with net zero goals, will receive a share of the carbon credits these teams produce.
To learn more, you can watch an episode of Now Go Buildin which Amazon Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Werner Vogels visits Terraformation and learns how its goal of planting 1 trillion trees has been made possible with the help of solar-powered desalination, seed banking and cloud-based technologies.