UPATED WITH QUOTES, INTERVIEW: Mississauga-based reforestation company Flash Forest has completed an $11.4-million Series A funding round to support its plans to affordably, safely and sustainably plant one billion trees by 2028.
Founded in 2019 via Kickstarter, Flash Forest uses drones, artificial intelligence and geographic information systems mapping to reforest areas affected by wildfire and other events that are deemed unsafe for human tree planters. Flash Forest says it can plant trees five times faster and at one-third the cost of conventional hand-and-shovel methods.
“We started our Series A funding round last year. We’ve transitioned into the commercial scale phase from the R&D phase. It's really just to scale-up (operations) across the board," Bryce Jones, Flash Forest’s CEO and co-founder told SustainableBiz.
"So this is the actual field planting component, all of the drones and supplies, everything that goes into scaling that. There's the plant production element, but also our drone R&D, AI division, business development and scaling the team there as well.
“So it's certainly a scale over the next 18 to 24 months. As part of that plan, we're executing on planting over one million trees this year. We’re going to be doing four to six million trees next spring.”
Flash Forest’s Series A
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Flash Forest has also entered into a multi-year commercial agreement with Telus' sustainability and environment team to provide drone-planted trees for Telus customers. Telus will offer Flash Forest’s technology to help businesses from various industries with end-to-end digital forestry solutions.
Flash Forest was introduced to the Telus fund through the MaRS Discovery District.
“This contract is up to 12.1 million drone-planted trees by the end of 2025, that's over the next three years,” Jones said. “We can choose how many trees we want to plant with them each year.”
He also said Flash Forest would likely renew the contract.
According to the company’s website, its technology averages approximately 1,000 to 2,000 trees per hectare, although Jones explained it depends on the location. Canada’s boreal forests, for example, are high density.
According to a release, the world has lost over one trillion trees during the past 100 years. A Global Forest Watch report cited in the release says Earth loses an average of 26 million hectares of trees each year – roughly equivalent to the size of Mexico. Over 30 per cent of this loss can be attributed to wildfires.
The Canadian government has committed to planting two billion trees by 2028. Flash Forest is also planning to renew its government contract this year.
Jones said the company is pushing to automate as much of the planting process as possible.
“We’re on track to be 10 times faster than human tree planters,” he said. “Our goal is one billion trees this decade. Then eventually, we’re pushing to bring our technology worldwide finding tens to hundreds of billions of trees and basically use (the) technology everywhere.”
The CEO said the company will likely have its Series B funding round by the end of 2024.