Skygrow’s blue-sky vision: using tree-planting robots to fight climate change
Posted on May 18, 2018
3 min read
Planting a tree is a considerable task, even for someone who knows what they’re doing. Multiply that task a hundredfold and it’s even more daunting – except if you’re using a team of highly specialised tree-planting robots to lay the groundwork for you. SkyGrow, one of our muru-D #SYD5 startups, has a high-tech solution that will be part of the future of fighting climate change and sustaining biodiversity and ecosystems.
SkyGrow founder and CEO Mark Stewart believes that this, more than anything else he’s done before, has the potential to address climate change and environmental issues on a massive scale. Mark has a background in environmental regulation, and has a longstanding passion for trees and addressing the growing problem of deforestation in countries around the world.
It’s a grand vision: creating a sustainable world for future generations. But to get there, SkyGrow’s mission is deceptively simple. It’s a mission of scale: planting trees faster than the rate at which they’re being cleared by development and deforestation. For that, SkyGrow and Mark Stewart are turning to technology. Stewart isn’t shy about the potential: “Everything we’re doing is breaking new ground – quite literally, in some cases.”
“…our vision is to be out there – planting trees, making a more sustainable environment for humanity.”
With the economic cost of land degradation to communities and governments pegged at $US231 billion per year and rising, it’s clear that we need to do more to address the growing lack of established trees and vegetation – and that’s before you consider the overall impact of climate change. Tree planting is the obvious solution, but it’s not so simple. And it’s a worldwide problem, one that Stewart says you can see if you go for a drive, not just one restricted to faraway places like the Amazon.
It is true that the face of massive forests like the Amazon have changed in recent decades; in fact, Russia now has the world’s largest forest area. Deforestation due to industrial logging continues and the solution is simply planting more trees. The problem with current tree planting methods is that they’re highly manual, requiring lots of physically fit planters who have to be trained and traditional planting methods are just far too slow to counter the rate of deforestation. Other robotic techniques use flying drones to disperse seeds, but this method is not suitable for native plants that don’t grow well from seeds and it is also not effective where hard soils exist.
With the help of our muru-D startup accelerator, SkyGrow is getting the resources it needs to succeed. From laying out business plans to refining the way the founders make decisions, along with startup funding, the #SYD5 cohort entrant appreciates the help. “It’s been both challenging and rewarding; it’s really busy, but we’re covering a lot. There are components of the accelerator that have driven me to critique certain aspects of our business and this has helped us become stronger and more resilient.”
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