Replanting forests from the air is not a new approach, with planes or helicopters often used to disperse seeds. Experts say that method is cheaper and easier than traditional hand planting but may not be as effective.
“Just throwing forest tree seeds out of airplanes can be successful, and it’s a lot cheaper than manual planting,” said Ralph Schmidt, a professor at the Earth Institute of Columbia University. “Growing seedlings in nurseries and manually planting them will always have a much higher success rate than aerial sowing, but it is much more expensive.”
Selecting the right species of seed and the right place to drop them is key, Schmidt added.
DroneSeed is trying to find a middle ground with its proprietary seed vessels. The specially designed packets consist of a combination of fertilizers, nutrients and pest deterrents that help the seeds take root more effectively — without having to be physically buried in the ground.
“The vessel is a dry fiber, so it absorbs moisture. It’s soaking up and expanding,” Canary said. “So that helps it avoid desiccation or drying out, which is one of the biggest causes of seed mortality.”
It’s also squirrel-proof.
“We want to be able to have the seed not get eaten, so … really super spicy pepper is one of the ingredients,” he added. “Squirrels eat it, they get the message and they’re like ‘no thank you.'”