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Forest Challenge

What we need is an open minded challenge with realistic testing in different forest types (tropical, temperate and boreal). Its aim being to deliver sustainable forest management practices, healthy ecosystems, reforestation, and the rapid growth of new forests. The following highlights the design of such a challenge.


Phases of the challenge

The challenge consists of the following phases:

» Promotion and submissions

» Specify and build

» Practical testing

» Evaluation

» Promote the winners

(Show more ↓)

More about the phases

The challenge is widely promoted because it is recognised that a range of diverse solutions might be beneficial. An expert Judging Panel and a group of Testers are also recruited.

Demonstration projects are specified for each challenge and locations are found for each forest type. The Testers will provide input into this process, particularly with regard to the practical aspects and challenges that might be encountered. A set of mandatory requirements will be specified, plus a set of desirable requirements. Competitors will then be allowed a number of months to build, or adjust, their prototypes so that they comply with the requirements.

The practical testing will be conducted in the presence of expert Testers.

The Judging Panel applies a scoring system, taking into account the test results and associated calculations, to determine the winner in each category. Prizes are awarded and the winners are promoted globally to encourage the rapid deployment of the winning solutions.

Multi-million dollar prize fund

A competitor can win one or more of the following prizes:

» Best data collection and forest information system

» Best forest planting technology

» Best sustainable harvesting and manufacturing technology

Turning the deserts green represents a key opportunity, but it requires more than just planting in the sand. It requires installing a vast infrastructure too (e.g. water supply and its energy needs). This could be added to this challenge as an additional category, or it could be a challenge in its own right - given its audacity.

Requirements to win

This lists the requirements to win a prize in each category. For a prize to be won, a competitor must satisfy all of the mandatory requirements. If more than one competitor does so in a given category then the winner will be the one that also satisfies the greatest number of desirable requirements.

(Show system requirements ↓)

Data collection and information system

Mandatory requirements

» Data definitions and units will be compatible with those of the FAO (UN).

» Data will be collected for every tree of sapling size or greater.

» Tree species will be identified and recorded.

» Tree health/status will be identified and recorded.

» Standard tree dimensions will be recorded.

» Branch data will be recorded, so that sustainable branch harvesting advice is given, and annual branch wood volumes for harvest are estimated.

» The system will provide specific forest management advice for the three field trials: what, where and when to plant. The Judging Panel will determine if that advice meets good practice.

» The algorithm will know what level of branch harvesting is sustainable.

» It will also provide data and advice for those that continue with the traditional practices of harvesting whole trees or trunks.

» Global dissemination of information will be in English via the Internet, and future support for other languages will be possible.

» Specific advice will be provided by the system on which trees, and which of their branches, to harvest and when. [The expert Judging Panel might want to reflect on whether specific graphic highlighting of individual branches is viable and/or necessary, or whether an approximate indication would be adequate (e.g. harvest the lower 10% of branches, with diameters of 30 cm or less).]

Desirable requirements

» Where data types are not defined by the FAO (UN), other industry/organisational standards should be adopted.

» Compatibility with leading global forest information systems is desirable.

» The data collection aspect of the above mandatory requirements should be achieved at the lowest cost (i.e. the cheapest of the successful solutions).

» Data collection hardware should adopt the good product design concept.

» Where new data types or algorithms are created they should be made open source.

» It is desirable for the accuracy of each metric and prediction to be good [greater than 70%].

» An indication of ecosystem health should be periodically obtained (e.g. water and soil quality, animal, plant, and insect species health and diversity) - comparable in scope to a manual survey but 10 times cheaper to implement.

» Concise educational content for consumers, manufacturers, forest communities and other interested parties should be available to explain the data, predictions, ratings and advice provided by the system. This will help people to understand eco-sustainable practices.

(Show planting requirements ↓)

Forest planting technology

Mandatory requirements

» The technology will plant saplings (of various species) [height 91cm (3 ft)].

» The saplings will have a biodegradable base containing the roots and soil, and may be enclosed in a biodegradable cylindrical sheath (where protection from animals is required).

» User configurable planting densities will be supported.

» The mix/density of different species can also be specified.

» An area (and shape) can be defined by a user, or by data in a standard GIS format.

» Individual points can be specified for planting individual saplings (e.g. where open patches exist in the canopy).

» Saplings will be planted at a faster rate than a professional person.

» Saplings will be planted at a lower cost (per unit area) than a professional person.

» The technology will operate in a range of soil types (clay, sandy, leaf mould, wet, dry).

Desirable requirements

» The technology should be provided at the lowest overall cost (i.e. the cheapest of the successful solutions).

» The fastest planting rate is desirable.

» The technology should adopt the good product design concept.

(Show harvest/manufacture requirements ↓)

Sustainable harvesting and manufacturing technology

This device turns branches into products. However, the manufacturing technology may also be used with tree trunks, for those that continue to adopt a traditional, less sustainable, form of forestry (during the transition to the new paradigm).

Mandatory requirements

» The prototype will be portable / mobile device (weight less than 20kg).

» It will be able to work in situ to remove branches, strip off bark, and turn the wood into products or product components: planks, and solid 3D structures (defined digitally).

» It will process branches up to 50 cm in diameter.

» Branches up to 5 metres above the ground (their starting height at the trunk) will be reachable by the prototype, in field trials.

» It will be able to process trees of any species, size and branch shape.

» It will be able to make products/components that are wider than the width of the branches harvested (i.e. the manufacture of a 1 x 1 metre square table top).

» Prototypes will have to manufacture a set of given digital designs (e.g. components for a table and chair).

Desirable requirements

» A modular design (power unit, branch cutter, manufacturing unit) could be useful: power units could be changed when empty; and the complete device can be used in the forest (e.g. near the tree) and/or manufacturing units could be used on their own (e.g. in a village or town).

» The device speed should be as fast as the traditional process (of logging, sawmill plus workshop - not counting transport times).

» The design should also allow for larger industrial versions to be readily manufactured.

» The design should allow branches at any height to be reached (in the final product).

» Although the paradigm shift is to harvesting branches, some might continue to chop down whole trees and so for those people a design that also works with tree trunks would be useful.

» The prototype should be readily mobile (e.g. have wheels) and be carryable (e.g. like a backpack harness) - so that it can be moved through different terrain and dense vegetation.

» It might be desirable to make products (or components) with a higher strength:weight ratio than a standard plank of wood (e.g. perhaps by alternating the grain of the wood in layers).

» The functionality and aesthetics of the products should be satisfactory (i.e. they need to sell).

» The device should not require water from the forest (as none may be available) - but a small amount may be included in the device (provided the maximum weight is not exceeded).

» If glues or chemicals are required in the manufacture they should be safe (non-toxic) and biodegradable [and perhaps local and natural].

» The most efficient use of the wood is desired (low quantities of waste).

» The most efficient use of energy is desired.

» The technology should be provided at the lowest cost (i.e. the cheapest of the successful solutions).

» The technology should adopt the good product design concept.

Mission complete ✓

Upon completion of the challenge we have solutions that provide a quick path to sustainable forests, and the growth of new forests.

Further reading

» The Good Product Design Concept

» Forest Innovation: Supporting Information (references to third party information)

» Sherwood Forest photos: probably the world's most famous historical forest, combining ancient woodlands and managed commercial forest. It includes the Major Oak thought to have been visited by the legendary Robin Hood. It also formed part of the research and inspiration for this mission.

Advice and support

If you require advice or support for this (e.g. developing the challenge, or creating the successful innovations) then Innovation Future Specialist can help. Just ask.

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