Forests provide essential resources, vast ecosystems, and remove carbon from the environment — they are essential for all life.
But replanting logged forests is a costly business. It’s why DroneSeed co-founders Grant Canary and Ryan Mykita launched a startup they believe can reduce those costs by at least ten-fold using drone technology.
Almost a year ago, the two launched DroneSeed out of Beaverton, Ore. — Oregon, incidentally, was the first state to require replanting of trees. DroneSeed uses drones with sensors to create detailed 3D maps of logged areas. They determine “microsites” where trees will have the best chance of survival, then use those same drones to fire custom-designed seed capsules.
This video shows how DroneSeed, now working as part of the current Techstars Seattle cohort, uses drones to help restore forests:
“We hope to impact carbon in the atmosphere and build efficiency into the industry,” said Canary, who serves as CEO. “Tropical forests are next.”
We caught up with Canary for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Precision Forestry — forestland analysis, planting, and care by drone.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We realized that trees are still the best way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. So let’s grow them faster, safer, and more cost-effectively!”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “VC or angel. We enjoy working with investors to build value, have been backed before, and have a capital-intensive business with corresponding economics.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Forestry analytics, or precision forestry. Our drones are neat and they have the ability to deliver seeds or spray, but our best bet is on our ability to determine ideal planting sites down to centimeters, assuring tree survival and growth.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Our team selection. As well as focusing on forestry — a giant industry trying to keep up with innovations in agriculture, which is where we can have a big impact.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Iteration on our seed capsules and designing our drones to maximize speed, payload, and accuracy, all at once, has been a challenge.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates. He takes the long view and gives back.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: “Spikeball. Have you played? A total blast. Surprisingly, we don’t fly drones for fun as often as you might think. It’s a great technology but we are mostly interested in its application.”
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Integrity and motivation. As a small team, we are all asked to learn about every side of the business. We also trust one another to carry work along independently, never losing sight of the end goal to make a positive impact on the environment. Helping forests and people.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Talk to customers early and lean in. Make sure you have strong, open-minded product and technical teams.”
Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the companies participating in Techstars Seattle’s class of 2016 in the lead up to Demo Day on May 18.