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January/February 2023 | Muedanyi Ramantswana

Progress in testing autonomous regeneration

Tree Planting


Towards the end of last year, the Autoplant project demonstrated the automatic planter. Forsilvitech featured the project in 2021 (Autoplant) when it was initiated and project plans and milestones were specified. Since then, various partners have been at work integrating the complex parts of the machine. The most recent result was the demo of the machine which took place on a site outside Bräcke.

How the machine functions
From the little information available and observed on the functioning of the machine, the seedlings trays are delivered to the site using a drone. The machine has a single soil preparation and planting light weight (200kg) head which is attached to a swing boom type crane. The planting position is prepared through a form of drilling motion with very little ground disturbance. A planting point selector developed by Skogforsk that works based on an obstacle map to find possible planting points then autonomously steers the crane to the required location. Furthermore, through image analysis and artificial intelligence a stereo camera can be used to recognize stumps, stones and tree parts in real time, which is used to build up the obstacle map and facilitate precise navigation of the planting unit. However, much work remains to be done to find a robust technology that works in varying weather, light, and ground conditions. Overall, the machine can perform soil preparation and planting activities with precision autonomously. Basically, the entire series of activities from picking the plants located in the plant cassettes to the actual planting of the seedling can be conducted without any human intervention.

Sentiments and outlook
Linnea Hanson, researcher at Skogforsk and project manager for Autoplant says “"I am very satisfied with what the project group has developed and demonstrated in such a short time. It is nice that the forestry industry has regained interest in forest management technology and that we can work together to find the best solutions that combine different goals such as environmental considerations, climate and economy ". Stage 2 of the project ends in February 2023, but the project can potentially proceed to stage 3 where the focus is on developing a prototype for a product, large-scale tests and a commercialization plan. This is an interesting machine development and Forsilvitech will continue to monitor developments of this project as it unfolds.

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