Award winning idea keep track of saplings

Researcher and entrepreneur Jonas Bohlin likes honing his own ideas and trying them out in various exciting projects. With the innovation TreePlanterXY he combines new technology with old methods, to meet the demand for information in the field of forestry.

Jonas has developed TreePlanterXY together with his colleague Daniel Nilsson (Umeå university). The invention won the SLU Umeå and Sparbanksstiftelsen Norrland Innovation Prize 2022.

<em>”It feels great to get confirmation that our idea is interesting and that we’re on the right track with the process of making TreePlanterXY into a finished product</em>,” says Jonas Bohlin, a researcher at SLU Umeå.

Jonas is a senior researcher in forestry remote analysis with a wide experience in collecting and analyzing forest data from satellites, aircraft and drones. He also teaches in the area, and is a mentor for entrepreunerical students.

<em>”Some colleagues and I started a company nearly 15 years ago. We were among the first in Sweden to actually build commercial drones for remote sensing. Then the big Chinese companies came along and started building cheap drones, and took the market shares”</em>, says Jonas.
<h2><span class=”uk-h2″>Combining skills</span></h2>
He got to know his colleague Daniel Nilsson when the latter was a student. Daniel is currently a doctoral student in physics at Umeå University. His expertise is the whole field of electronics and building things.

Jonas thrives at the interface between research and entrepreneurship, where there’s room for innovation. The idea for the TreePlanterXY project arose just over a year ago.

<em>”The idea was based on my seeing what’s happening within forestry and research. In the field of forestry there’s a need to identify seedlings after planting them. The hard part is seeing the plants – which are 2 dm high – in grass and on clearings. The questions are which ones are they and where are they? Although we have AI in the drone that can recognize that this is a seedling, we want to know if it’s the one we planted and not a self-seeded one. We came to the conclusion that it’s possible if you know where to look</em>, Jonas explains.

With his experience of drones and the technical developments of recent years, with everything getting smaller and smaller, Jonas thought it was time to combine the demand from the forestry industry with the technology.

<em>”GPSes are now so precise that they provide accuracy to the nearest centimetre. They’re so small that they can easily be carried around on the planting tubes used for the planting of trees”</em>, says Jonas.
<h2 class=”uk-h2″>Improving innovations</h2>
The planting tube is a one-metre iron tube, at the bottom of which there’s a big lever that you step on to open two jaws. The tree planter puts it in the ground, opens its jaws and chucks in a seedling.

<em>”Every time the jaws open we get a measurement. What we can see is how often they’ve planted a seedling, whether there are enough seedlings, how far apart they are, whether the entire clearing has been planted, etc. All this is obtained automatically through a report in our system”</em>, Jonas explains.


<img class=”alignnone wp-image-1594 size-full” src=”” alt=”” width=”700″ height=”934″ />


This means the planting companies and forestry companies get access to new valuable data. The unique thing about the idea, says Jonas, is that there’s nobody doing this at the moment. Combining new technologies with the traditional planting tubes.

<em>”In the longer term we’re talking about precision forestry – being able to control management at individual-tree level. It’s also about forest continuity and biodiversity. If we keep track of all individual trees, we know which are industrial clones and which are natural trees – and this can be beneficial when we need to go in and carry out selective felling, if we want to increase biodiversity. Having more information at individual level also improves the environment in the long term”</em>, says Jonas. He believes it’s very important for the future.
<h2 class=”uk-h2″>From prototype to product</h2>
Currently Jonas and colleagues have developed technical prototypes that work, and provide good information and data. Engineering students have helped them build the prototypes. Jonas has recieved VFT-funds from SLU Holding to facilitate product development for test runs.

Forestry companies are the initial customers. The team are now managing their business model to meet the needs of the companies. It´s an iterative process and team TreePlanterXY are looking for an early customer with whom they can run prototype projects the next summer.

<em>”It’s a matter of them being able to do test runs out in the forest, and come up with ideas and feedback. The dream is to have the system on the market within one to two years.</em> <em>Sweden is our market initially, but quite soon we’ll probably start looking at Finland too,”</em> says Jonas.
<p class=”uk-h2″>The innovation prize provides new opportunities</p>
They’ll use the innovation prize money to start a limited company, and in the near future they’ll be seeking a third person for the team who’s good at software and likes business.

<em>”We’ve looked at Umeå University, which has an engineering degree that includes business and economics – maybe we’ll find a student from there”</em>, says Jonas.

Jonas believes the need for TreePlanterXY will increase, and foresees a problem in that fewer people will want to work manually on thinning and clearing work in the forests.

<em>”We’ll probably be seeing robotisation: a robot or an automatic off-road vehicle. It will then be important to know which seedlings have been bred, as well as their position”</em>, says Jonas Bohlin researcher at SLU and Innovation Prize winner.

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<em><span class=”uk-h5″>Daniel Nilsson (in the middle) co-winner of the Innovation Prize.To the left Göran Ericsson, dean Faculty of Forest Sciences. To the right Frida Anundsson, CEO Sparbankstiftelsen Norrland</span></em>
<h2><span class=”uk-h2″>VFT funds</span></h2>
Researchers, students and employees of SLU can apply for funding from Vinnova’s validation programme VFT through SLU Holding. The funding is to develop and validate innovative ideas and research findings. VFT has been created to streamline the process to allow knowledge from universities to come to use in society in the form of products and services, or through other forms of utilisation.

<a href=””>Funds are applied for in consultation with an innovation and business advisor from SLU Holding.</a>


Jonas Bohlin. Foto: Jonas Bohlin

Jonas Bohlin – vinnare av Sparbanksstiftelsen Norrland och SLU Umeås innovationspris.

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