Robots Save Earth

Science Fiction has been less-than-kind when it comes to giving robots an environmentally friendly outlook. Robots are supposed to destroy the world, not save it, right? Nay. Nay I say. And so also says Anna-Karin Bergkvist, designer of this tree planting robot. Reforestation on the horizon, that’s what this robot says. Four legs, extendable planting arm, and planting head. That’s what we’ve got here. One green robot walker.

This machine is built to be small and tread lightly so that it has as little negative impact on the plants and animals it must walk through in order to get around the newly planted forest. By using hot steam to destroy competing vegetation (choking vines that kill trees, for example), it poses no threat to the animals that afterward come upon planting spots. Each seed is planted with a biodegradable plastic protective barrier, protecting it from bugs until it’s old enough that they could take chomps and it’d still survive. The robot itself is run on steam and fueled by “forestry waste” such as animal pellets and wood chips.

One robot can carry around 320 seedlings in one load. Seeds are fed into the machine at the front and loaded onto a revolving cartridge until full – at which point the robot begins it’s cycle. The robot stands in place, planting as many seeds as is reasonable and it can reach in one location. Once finished, the arm retracts to fill up again as the robot moves on to the next location.

There is a trailer involved in this situation also, the one that brings the robot to the locations it’s going to seed. Once in place, the robot uses this trailer as a base camp, returning as needed to re-fill with seeds, fuel, and water automatically. The robot can work in patterns, a complete “virtual forest” can be programmed into it for planting. Landscape Architects, get out your pencils and pads!

Designer: Anna-Karin Bergkvist


  • Ryan says:

    Yeah. There is no way a machine could plant quality trees. Cool idea but humans are always going to be faster and more able to choose good microsites. Most of all, theres no love coming from a machine. Take your awful idea and burn it, we like our jobs and were good at it, thank you very much.

  • C4TH says:

    Having done tree planting, even though it is a very gratifying job, I would not do it as a volunteer. Not because I am cheap or anything, because it is such an hard job (physically but mostly mentally challenging). Tree planting hurts, you get poked in the eyes by branches, you fall from dead lugs, you turn crazy with bugs, heat, cold, hail, rain, staying wet/humid for 10 hours. Without mentionning the common injuries from the repetitive work day after day over the span of a season. Basically, it is so demanding that I doubt people would be willing to do it for free for a full season.

  • C4TH says:

    That being said the reforestation companies give tree-planters a decent piece rate salary according to the block’s condition and other factors and planters are happy to do something nice while making good enough money. I don’t think it is much more cheaper to have that machine doing it instead. And planting camps are usually between 15-75 people so I doubt the efficiency of the machine would outpass the one of the human planters…

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  • Zach Heth says:

    This could be accomplished with crowd sourcing. Get money for a prize have teams win the prize only after successful completion of a working tree planting robot. What would be a reasonable sum for such an innovation? Employed on a large enough scale and coupled with multiple technologies this would be quite beneficial. Read the book Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World. By Peter Diamandis This is something that is doable.

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