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Partnership to tackle climate change with ForestFactory concept

Blenheim Estate has announced a new partnership with British climate tech catalyst A Healthier Earth on a ForestFactory concept, which will use innovative farming methods to help address the effects climate change.

The partnership brings together the best of British climate and agriculture tech innovation, forestry and estate management to improve the speed, effectiveness and survival rate of plants, to help mitigate climate change-related land and forestry challenges affecting the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Factors including a European shortage of available seeds and tree-stock, changing climate, changing soil conditions and low seedling survival rates are negatively impacting reforestation efforts at historical estates like Blenheim. A Healthier Earth's ForestFactory concept tackles these issues, using synthetic biology to deploy geo-specific and genetically diverse forests that sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

ForestFactory is made up of three core elements that will increase the effectiveness and speed of reforestation projects at Blenheim Estate:

  • Micro-propagation: using source material, such as buds and twigs, native to local ancient woodland to create genetically relevant plant stock, negating the requirement to grow from seeds
  • Autonomous Vertical Farming Systems: growing local seedlings and saplings in vertically-stacked layers in a controlled, autonomous environment, monitored and operated by smart software solutions, to create beneficial characteristics which aid survivability and health.
  • Biochar: applying circular biochar to soil before trees are planted, improving water retention and fertility, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere for over 500 years.

For the last three years, A Healthier Earth has been working on a research and development pilot project to experiment with the ForestFactory concept and most recently operating out of Blenheim Palace's Walled Garden. The space has been used to test environmental factors such as light and nutrient conditions in a controlled environment to grow more resilient trees in a shorter timeframe.

Scaling learnings from this pilot project, the partnership aims to plant 600,000 trees over the next three years across Blenheim Estate, using only trees that are local to the Estate. A Healthier Earth will be working with vertical farming technology, data, and manufacturing specialists Vertical Future to first grow a target of 50,400 saplings in a trial phase, with a view to jointly developing a large-scale facility capable of producing a minimum of one million saplings per year at full-scale.

Alastair Collier, Chief R&D Officer at A Healthier Earth, said: "The effects of climate change on our trees, soil, and sapling survival rates mean we urgently need to amend our forestry practices to meet our national reforestation targets. ForestFactory will use a geo-specific and multi-disciplinary approach to support the growth of the country's most beautiful and biologically diverse forests, starting at Blenheim Estate."

"Our team of leading researchers and scientists have developed ForestFactory into a scalable climate solution that has the potential to directly fight the effects of the climate crisis on our forests. This new partnership with Blenheim Estate is a milestone moment for us as we look to scale our solutions that solve the most urgent regional and global sustainability challenges."

Roy Cox, Managing Director from Blenheim Estate, said: "At a very basic level, we know getting more trees back into the ground is a vital weapon in this climate emergency fight, but today there simply are not enough trees being grown and what trees are being grown are sometimes not right for the areas they are planted or with such volatile weather patterns are just not surviving those early years.

"What we aim to do with the ForestFactory is create a truly scalable and economically viable model for tree production, using offspring from local plant stock, grown throughout the year and planted out in a more resilient way to capture carbon year-on-year for many generations. This project will not only help Blenheim's pledge to become carbon neutral by 2027, but also others wanting to make a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change."

Jamie Burrows, Founder & CEO of Vertical Future, said: "We have been working with the A Healthier Earth team for several years now and have admired their approach to innovation and overall ethos, which very much aligns with ours. Reforestation is such an important topic, and we must all take immediate action to address the climate crisis that is unfolding before us – and at a much faster rate. The ForestFactory concept is an example of an innovative solution that can benefit from Vertical Future's integrated hardware and software technologies, working with the A Healthier Earth team to assist them in reaching their goals and even going much further. We look forward to further working with the A Healthier Earth team and the Blenheim Estate on this exiting initiative."

The project will be funded by Blenheim Estate, with A Healthier Earth operating and delivering the project with partners, including Vertical Future, a global vertical farming technology and data company.

For more information:
A Healthier Earth

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