TreeTape in the News
Forestry and Land Scotland Press Release Friday, 05 June 2020
Solution to tree seed problem
shows true worth in face of
An innovative prototype system for automating tree seed planting and propagation has been hailed as a saviour for Scotland’s tree planting programme impacted by COVID-19
The new system was a response to an open competition - run by the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme in 2019 on behalf of Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) - that challenged companies to find new ways to make better use of Scotland’s limited tree seed bank.
The ‘Tree Tape’ technology – developed by Cumbria Tree Growers - allows for a significantly greater amount of tree seeds to be processed – but does so without the need for intensive, close proximity manual labour.
Alan Duncan, FLS’s Head of Plant & Seed Supply, said:
“Like every public agency, our priority is the same as the Scottish Government’s – to implement the public health guidance to help prevent the spread of the virus, protect our NHS and save lives, including our staff and also the public.
“As a result we have had to make some serious adjustments to our work plans because establishing saplings in a tree nursery is an intensely manual process that requires people to work in close proximity for long periods during the short and intense spring seed sowing season.
“Clearly that is not possible in light of physical distancing and other Scottish government and NHS guidance and our fear was that 2020 would go by without a single new tree being germinated at our forest nursery. None - against a target of nearly ten million.
“This could have had a serious impact on Scotland’s woodland creation and Climate Emergency targets, as well the availability of downstream work and economic activity in the forestry sector.”
Without tree seed being sown there would be no work for nurseries, no planting of new forests and no replanting of areas felled for timber. All this would ultimately lead to longer-term, knock-on effects for sawmills and the timber trade that make up Scotland’s £1 billion pound forestry sector. It would give rise to problems that might take years to resolve.
“FLS and the CivTech team had intended starting field trials with the seed and tape technology in the spring to plant 400,000 seeds. However, under the circumstances we decided to go up a notch and we’ve asked Cumbria Tree Growers to plant four and a half million seeds starting in September.
“It’s an amazing coincidence that we happened on an ideal solution before the problem even arrived.”
Prior to the seeds being prepared for planting via the new method, work is being done via a mechanised approach to get the seeds sown so that they will germinate and grow-on enough to cope with autumn dormancy.
Barbara Mills, who managed the original ‘challenge’ at CivTech, said;
“The revised approach has its risks, and ordinarily we wouldn’t consider going this big this early”
“But these are not ordinary times, all innovation has uncertainties, and the real risk here is doing nothing. So we set about working out all the practicalities and legal considerations around this unprecedented approach.”
Michael Ashby, CEO of Cumbria Tree Growers, added;
“For us, it came a little out of the blue. We were really pleased to be going ahead with a modest field trial but to then be asked to scale-up 1000% in a few weeks was a whole new challenge in itself. It was a big ask – but we’ve managed to do it.”
FLS, CivTech and Cumbria Tree Growers worked around the clock to get the initiative off the ground and into the field with legal agreements signed and seeds secured.
Josh Roberts, Innovation Manager at FLS , said;
“Everyone’s response to this unprecedented circumstance has been phenomenal and by working collaboratively and constructively, we have come up with a fantastic solution that will have positive repercussions across the forestry industry.”
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