rePLANT use new technologies for forest knowledge, PME Magazine

11 de May de 2023

rePLANT brings together 20 entities, including companies from the forest sector and non-corporate entities of I&I, and aims to contribute to a greater valorization of the Portuguese forest.

The first major project from ForestWISE and PME Magazine wanted to meet it through the eyes of Carlos Fonseca, this CoLAB´s CTO.

PME Magazine (PME Mag. )- In what does the project consist of?

Carlos Fonseca (C.F) – rePLANT is the first major initiative and operational project from ForestWISE Collaborative Laboratory, which brings together 20 entities, including leading companies from the sector and non-business R&I entities, in a common and coordinated effort to contribute to a greater valorization of the Portuguese forest through the implementation of strategies for integrated forest and fire management.

The 20 entities are: CoLAB ForestWISE, The Navigator Company, REN, Sonae Arauco, Altri Florestal, Amorim Florestal, DS Smith, E-REDES, Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência, University of Coimbra, Instituto Superior de Agronomia from University of Lisboa, Whereness, EDP Labelec, Trigger Systems, Frazivel, Tesselo, Florecha, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária I.P., the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto and the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro.

PME Mag. – How did the idea behind rePLANT first come up?

C.F. – The Portuguese forest is a source of environmental, social, and economic wealth, which mobilizes about 24 thousand companies and is responsible for about 100 thousand jobs, as well as 10% of Portuguese exports.

rePLANT was born, from the necessity to develop integrated and innovative solutions that ensure the sustainable management of Portuguese forests, so that they are maintained, protected, and a source of wealth for people, communities, and the country.

At a time when it is urgent to find sustainable development models, this is perhaps the best opportunity to dedicate to the forest and its agents a truly forward-looking attention. rePLANT, as a mobilizing project, embodies this challenge and does so in an intergenerational and multidisciplinary way – new approaches and new technologies are also new opportunities.

PME Mag. – What are the rePLANT projects you now have in hand?

C.F. – rePLANT is structured in three major areas of activity and these are the key projects in each:

Forest and Fire Management (led by Sonae Arauco and the Instituto Superior de Agronomia of the University of Lisbon): has been carrying out research into more productive Pinus species/provenances which are better adapted to climate change, as well as new models for sustainable forest management for the main Portuguese forestry species, in order to increase their productivity, resilience to fire and adaptability to climate change. In addition, research is underway into digital and remote sensing technologies that will advance the level of knowledge of forests and forest biomass at lower costs than the methods currently used.

Risk Management (under the coordination of REN – Redes Energéticas Nacionais and the University of Coimbra): The aim of this area is to provide greater protection, forecasting and anticipation of the impact of rural fires, both on forest assets managed by companies which transport energy and on energy infrastructures in rural areas. A surveillance system was developed through the installation of optical cameras on REN poles located in the forest. These systems provide real-time images, georeferencing the ignition point, meteorological information of the location, and information about the vegetation, through the placement of sensors, which send a communication to information systems created for this purpose. The scientific research will provide these technological tools with dynamics to detect potential fire outbreaks, but mainly for fire behaviour simulation and fire monitoring, contributing to the resilience and integrity of electrical infrastructures. In the territory, these innovative tools will have an impact on the improvement of prevention systems, firefighting and risk reduction for the teams involved, and on the management of other existing infrastructures in the territories, such as energy, road, railroad, and industrial infrastructures, among others. A set of surveillance systems have already been installed in the northern and central regions of Portugal, which will make it possible to better manage rural fires in an area that could reach around 226,000 ha of the country’s forest cover.
Circular Economy and Value Chains (managed by The Navigator Company and CoLAB ForestWISE): area that is investigating the application of Forest 4.0 technologies and concepts to increase the efficiency and sustainability of supply chains, logistics, and forestry operations in Portugal. Some of the technologies under study are sensing, robotics, automation and integration with advanced planning and decision support systems. The intention is to drive the digital transition of forestry operations, with new generation equipment and more agile decision-making processes. In this way, the goal of contributing to a greener economy and to carbon neutrality through the mitigation of the environmental impact of forestry operations, including the reduction of emissions and the improvement of soil conservation, and by increasing the potential of the forest as a major carbon sink, prevails.

PME Mag. – How do you combine technology with the environmental aspect?

C.F. – rePLANT makes use of new technologies for forest knowledge, collecting information to assess the current state of forests, which represents the initial phase of proper forest planning. In Portugal, remote sensing techniques, sensors and technologies are already being used to complement, and sometimes replace, conventional techniques for collecting forest information, increasing knowledge and reducing labour costs. The processing of this data supports the decision-making process, allowing a better intervention and management of the forest. On the other hand, the new equipment contributes to reduce the impacts of the operations, contributing to environmental improvement.

PME Mag. – What investment was made and where was it applied?

C.F. – The rePLANT has an investment of 5.6 million euros, supported by 3.3 million euros by Compete/Portugal 2020, through the Competitiveness and Innovation Operational Program (POCI) under the Lisbon Regional Operational Program, Portugal 2020, and the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund. This investment has been made for the development of new products, processes, services, and various technologies, in the scope of the different lines of activity.

PME Mag. – What is the result of these last three years of work?

C.F. – As a first big result, we highlight the strong involvement of the various partners that enabled the development of knowledge and its transfer to meet the needs of the forestry sector.

As far as the products of the project are concerned, we can highlight the following:

• The testing of different species and provenances of pine, more productive and adapted to climate change;

• The collection of low-cost remote sensing data that has led to products for proper forest planning and management. One example is a new land use map using satellite imagery, which can be updated frequently and is available to the user in a user-friendly app;

• The development of a service to optimize the acquisition of LiDAR data for biomass quantification, which allows the optimization of the necessary interventions near the infrastructures that cross the forest area;

• Another example is the use of new technologies for forest inventory, using mobile applications that will allow owners and other agents to quantify their forest accurately;

• In the scope of risk management, the implementation of an innovative fire surveillance system, composed of video, thermal, and optical cameras, and a weather station, allowing the detection of fires to be allied to their monitoring, predicting where they may evolve, and making the fight more proactive; In terms of forestry operations, new multifunctional and precision implements are being developed that combine soil mobilization with fertilization;

• Advances are also being made in new equipment for cleaning brushwood in forest stands, as well as new devices attached to harvesting and filling machines for collecting data on the volumes and productivity of operations, making it possible to consolidate and share information with various agents in the forestry chain, for proper monitoring of relevant indicators on the sustainability of operations and improving planning and decision-making.

In, PME Magazine, 10 April 2023 (PT)