INNOVATION / ROBOTICS

This Tree Planting Robot Is Dropping Tree Seedlings All over Canada

This little robot wants to make tree planting faster and more efficient.


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Meet Tree Rover, a tiny tree planting robot. The helpful robot is the brainchild of two University of Vic electrical engineering students, Nick Birch and Tyler Rhodes. Tree Rover is designed to plant pine tree seedlings in Canada, a job normally done by a large temporary workforce. Finding ways to more efficiently and cheaply plant trees is a hot topic not only in Canada that plants about 200 million tree seedling per year but in many nations where forestry is a big industry. Robots and seed drones are being developed by many different startups, though they all face similar problems.

Like the Tree Rover, many other tree planting robots have trouble navigating rough terrain. Tree Rover co-founder, Nick Birch explained further, "One of the main reasons we still use humans has to do with the terrain navigation. Especially with the mountains, there's a lot of steep slopes, and a lot of these sites that have been recently logged leave a lot of stumps. Planters have to navigate around that, and it's quite difficult to program a robot to do that."

The other problem that the Tree Rover team are working out with their robot project is the ability for the robot to make a judgment call about the right place to plant a tree. In theory, you can say that you need to plant a tree every X meters, however, the exact placement relies on other factors. Erik Brinkman, special projects coordinator for Brinkman & Associates Reforestation Ltd, who plant millions of trees in Canada each year explains: "You might need to plant on the high spot, the low spot, the dry spot, the spot next to an obstacle to maintain heat in the winter and coolness in the summer.” Birch and Rhodes are currently preparing the Tree Rover for more testing to try and are hoping to iron out some of these challenges before they try and scale up the prototype.

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