rePlant project prepares the forest of the future, Cidade FM

23 de March de 2021

The rePLANT project, which aims to showcase new technologies and create services in the areas of integrated forest and fire management, has an investment of 5.6 million euros and will be launched today.

Speaking to Lusa, Carlos Fonseca, scientific and technological director of ForestWISE – Collaborative Laboratory for Integrated Forest and Fire Management, which will manage rePLANT with The Navigator Company, said that the nationwide project will “make all the difference in the forestry sector.

rePLANT, supported by Compete Portugal 2020, through the POCI and Lisbon 2020 programs, brings together 20 entities and involves more than 70 researchers and specialized technicians, being developed until June 2023.

It is divided into three major areas of action and includes initiatives such as forest monitoring through optical cameras, the development of new models of sustainable forest management for the main Portuguese forest species and the use of robotics in forest operations.

“This project arises under the mobilizing programs and is a unique opportunity to create the basis for the transformation that is needed in the forestry sector,” said the scientific and technological director.

According to Carlos Fonseca, one of the strengths is the junction of entities, the union of companies with greater relevance in the forestry sector with companies in the energy and technology areas that are associated with the academy and knowledge to define the best strategies for this transformation.

“We are talking about the valorization of the rural world, one of the central themes of our country, and we are also talking about the valorization of people, of the landscape, which is very relevant for other activities such as tourism,” he stressed.

According to Carlos Fonseca, rePLANT may work as a starting point for the transformation “towards a more sustainable forest, more in line with what future generations will be”.

The multidisciplinary consortium brought together by ForestWISE will implement eight strategies, structured into industrial research activities in three major sectors: forest and fire management (led by Sonae Arauco and Instituto Superior de Agronomia), risk management (REN and the University of Coimbra), and circular economy and value chains (The Navigator Company and ForestWISE).

“The first, forest and fire management, is aimed at researching new models, researching one of the most common species in our country, but which needs a more specific vision, which is the pine tree,” he said.

This line of action, he added, will rely on the very direct involvement of forest owners and their organizations, namely in obtaining information that allows them to better understand the forest they are managing.

“A second line of action, risk management, aims to create monitoring systems and forest surveillance through the installation of optical cameras on REN’s own high-voltage poles. This will allow us to obtain real information, meteorological information and information about the vegetation itself, about the growth of the vegetation, but it can also provide information about the behavior of the fire.

Finally, the circular economy and value chains strand is geared towards the field application of technologies that bring added value to biomass.

“Naturally it is used for different purposes, but it has relatively high operation and removal costs, and there is a whole process here that involves technology and automation in order to reduce operation costs,” he stressed.

Carlos Fonseca also told that the project will have incidence all over the country, but most of the pilot areas are in the regions of the country with most forest: North and Center.

Still, the estimated impacts are national and it is expected that the applied technologies and management models can be later exported to other countries, including the Mediterranean basin, with characteristics more similar to Portugal.

As far as results are concerned, Carlos Fonseca pointed to the medium/long term.

I believe that the forest will have results in the medium, long term. It is thinking about future generations, it is not to have immediate results. We are creating the basis for the transformation of the forest, for a better forest, more sustainable and that brings wealth, in fact, to the territories and to the forest owners, he concluded.

In, Cidade FM, 23 March 2021 (PT)