Seed-scattering drones are crisscrossing Croatia’s skies in an airborne attempt to replant remote forests damaged by fire, an initiative its backers aim to promote internationally.
The tactic is not new, but the venture in Croatia disperses seeds in larger containers than those seen elsewhere — the size of a golf ball — releasing ingredients to form a favourable micro-environment for a seed to take root, its creators say.
“Besides an acorn we also put sand, grass, clay and chili inside”, said Goran Ladisic, one of the leaders of the Magic Forest company running the project.
“Importantly, we put chili because, in this way, the wild animals — in case of an oak it refers to wild boars — will not eat the seeds.”
Croatia’s summer forest fires often happen in areas hard to reach on foot, so the airborne method makes sense, project leaders say. This week Magic Forest dispersed the seed balls in the Promina municipality in the south of the country.
“We opted for this innovative method as we have had a lot of forest fires in our area, the last big one in 2009, and what’s growing now are just low bushes,” said Tihomir Budanko, the mayor of the Promina municipality.
The venture has been in development for more than two years. Ladisic said that in tests, more than 40 percent of the seeds dispersed had managed to take root.
Ivan Vidakovic, who controls the drone flights, said that in eight hours, using four or five drones, the project can cover about 10 hectares (24 acres).
The idea is to replant an area with trees native to it, and while the project so far has used only the seeds of various types of oak, it says it can work with any tree seed.
Magic Forest says it has been in contact with partners in Ukraine, Bosnia, Montenegro, Austria and California with a view to deploying the product next year.
The Croatian innovators also aim to take part in a European Union drive to plant three billion additional trees by 2030 to fight climate change and biodiversity loss.