How will precision farming technologies help save forests?

Art21 @ 2022-12-27

The preservation of forests is becoming an acute problem in the world. Every summer, we hear about terrible wildfires raging worldwide from the coasts of California and Australia. The statistics show merciless numbers - during the last decade in North America, an average of about 18,000 fire accidents occurred annually (this year, the number is approaching 57 thousand), which destroyed almost three million hectares of forests and bushes in 2020. In Australia, 33 million hectares were burned.

With the onset of drought, many wait anxiously for the next wildfire to break out. In addition, native and invasive insects, which can destroy entire forests, contribute significantly to the health of trees. We can be happy that advanced solutions are starting to appear on the market that could help solve these challenges.

The need for forecasting technologies is emerging

The interviewed experts are unanimous - although advanced technologies are often initially developed to solve the challenges of a specific sector, most of them cross the boundaries of their discipline. Their application is much broader. Innovative solutions can significantly contribute to society's social, infrastructure, and physical security in these geopolitically, economically, and socially uncertain times.

Augustas Alešiūnas, the owner of the agrifood tech innovation house "ART21", agrees that the relevance of forecasting, and real-time monitoring technologies adapted to other sectors will grow. According to the entrepreneur, the need for future forecasting technologies based on calculations and data, real-time monitoring of large areas, and enabling drone solutions (which the company has been doing in the agrifood sector for a long time) is increasing rapidly.

For example, A. Alešiūnas presented the "Icaerus" initiative, in which technology companies, universities, and non-governmental organizations from various European countries united to enable and use drones to create a better, more convenient, and safer life for society.

It will warn about the danger of fire or the changed health of trees in the forest

"Each tree has its temperature and other parameters that can be monitored when processing satellite images. In this way, it is possible to monitor huge areas worldwide in real time and then, after identifying dangerous trends, send drones with hyperspectral cameras to a specific location. Algorithms of advanced, artificial intelligence-based software would immediately evaluate the images captured by these cameras. Thus, extremely detailed and reliable data would be obtained very quickly from objects located very far away," - said Augustas Alešiūnas about the tendency to apply technologies that have become widespread in the agrifood sector.

According to the owner of the technology development company ART21, this would allow to make informed decisions and act quickly to minimize the likelihood of a fire or its consequences. Moreover, this technology-enabled model would allow tree diseases that can destroy large areas of forests to be detected early and prevent them from spreading. In addition, this continuous monitoring, which requires relatively few resources, will allow us to notice inexplicable and unpredictable insect attacks, which can have a huge negative impact on the entire forest ecosystem.

The results of continuous observations will later allow a very accurate assessment of the trees' characteristics, their location, and the degree of risk, which will lead to future forest planting decisions.

For years, an experienced technology company focused on using satellite photos, drones, hyperspectral cameras, and artificial algorithms to detect plant diseases at a latent stage and measure micro/macro elements non-laboratory. But now, the company actively uses that expertise in other areas, including those critical to public safety. This is an excellent example of how competencies can be applied in other areas. As a result, the company provides greater added value and diversifies its services from agrifood to forest solutions.

The technology can also be used to monitor wild boars or even rhinos

A second example of the employment of this type of technology in another sector is boar monitoring. A synergy of artificial intelligence algorithms and drones with hyperspectral cameras is being employed to help monitor the number of wild boars in forests and their migration routes and alert farmers of impending danger to their property. Also, it will provide an opportunity to react rapidly in case of African swine fever and pave the way to prevent the spread of this dangerous disease at a very early stage. The adaptation of the mentioned decision has already attracted a lot of interest from foresters and investors from Africa, who are looking for ways to monitor animals in wild parks and protect them from poachers.

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