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Dendra Systems Raises $10 Million in Series A to Restore Ecosystems by Drone

BY Zacc Dukowitz
23 September 2020

Australia-based drone technology company Dendra Systems recently raised $10 million in a Series A fundraising round.

$10 million is a solid first round of fundraising, but the amount is even more impressive when you consider that Dendra Systems’ work is focused on saving the environment with drones.

dendra-systems
Photo credit: Dendra Systems

Using drones as its primary data collection tool and its primary tree-planting tool, the company provides an end-to-end solution for ecosystem restoration.

While companies like Airseed have developed technology that allows drones to fire seeds from the air to reduce the costs of reforestation, Dendra Systems’ work goes beyond just replanting and considers the big picture of what’s required to rehabilitate an entire ecosystem.

With land degradation counting as one of the biggest contributors to climate change, accounting for at least 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, Dendra combines AI, drone technology and deep ecological expertise to help rehabilitate land and restore biodiverse ecosystems at scale for Fortune 500 companies across regulated industries.

Dendra Systems

How Dendra Systems Helps Restore Ecosystems

Dendra Systems has created a drone that can shoot seeds from the air to help with reforestation efforts, but its work is much more far-reaching than that.

In short, the company has created technology designed to restore entire ecosystems, using drones as one of its tools.

What we’re building today is really the full toolkit that you need to restore the ecosystem.

– Susan Graham, CEO of Dendra Systems

Here’s how Dendra Systems’ ecosystem rehabilitation system works:

  • Site identification. First, a degraded area is identified for restoration. This could be monocropped farmland, where the earth has been leached of nutrients, an old mine, or some other degraded ecosystem.
  • Initial land survey. Project leads conduct an initial survey of the site by drone to collect visual data on the state of the land.
  • Survey analysis. Researchers combine the drone survey data with data collected by ecologists, then use AI to analyze the data and identify flora, fauna, and other relevant information.
  • Identify interventions. Using the findings from the analysis, researchers identify the specific interventions needed in the area to help return it to a balanced, healthy state.
  • Implement interventions. After identifying the interventions needed, researchers implement them. This work often includes using Dendra Systems’ drones to fire seed pods from the air in order to plant the specific species needed in the area (these drones can plant up to 120 seeds a minute).
  • Tracking progress. After implementing the initial intervention, researchers continue to monitor progress toward ecosystem rehabilitation, identifying and implementing new interventions as needed until the area returns to a healthy state.

Here are some example images of reporting created by Dendra Systems’ platform:

dendra-systems-survey

dendra-systems-examples

The Forest for the Trees—From Planting Trees to Saving Entire Ecosystems

Dendra Systems was originally founded in the U.K. in 2014 as Biocarbon Engineering.

Under that name, the company announced a mission in 2017 to plant one billion trees a year by drone. According to Biocarbon Engineering, this goal could be accomplished by using its unique seed-planting drones, which could plant 100,000 trees a day.

A Drone That’s On A Mission To Plant One Billion Trees | Mach | NBC News

The “1 billion tree goal” wasn’t just a publicity stunt, ambitious as it may sound.

The number was actually derived from a combination of scientific estimates regarding the amount of new trees needed on the Earth in order to make a dent in climate change and realistic projections for what was considered possible at the time.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that it’s necessary to plant 1 billion hectares of trees—a forest roughly the size of the entire United States—to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

FastCompany

Despite the proactive measures countries are taking all over the world, it’s estimated that we’re losing a total of seven billion trees a year—which means that one billion trees would just be a start to the work that needs to be done.

dendra-systems-seed-device
Photo credit: Dendra Systems

Planting trees by drone can reduce the cost of reforestation efforts by as much as 75%, making it a powerful tool for working to reverse climate change. But, as Biocarbon Engineering discovered over time, planting trees was only one part of a much larger picture.

This realization led to the creation of Dendra Systems, a company focused on reversing land degradation and restoring ecosystems.

[Related reading: Drones for Good—Inspiring Examples of Drones Doing Good around the Globe]

The shift meant going from providing a single solution (a drone that plants trees) to providing an end-to-end system which can diagnose the problems in an ecosystem using drone data and AI, and then address those problems using every method needed, including—but not limited to—planting new trees and other species of plant life.

Progress Made So Far

To Date, Dendra Systems has planted 8.67 million seeds across hundreds of acres, both in Australia and elsewhere.

And the $10 million the company just raised will be used to expand its work into new areas, including North America.

When you’re standing at a site that you’re about to restore, when you look ahead of you, you have this barren landscape. And then if you turn just 180 degrees and look behind you, you can see what you’ve done in the previous years. When you keep looking beyond that, you can see an area that you don’t know whether it’s native or not from that distance. It just looks like a woodland.

– Susan Graham, CEO of Dendra Systems

One thing that will help the company’s expansion efforts are carbon credit incentives from large corporations.

For companies operating under carbon credit systems, some of which may require them to offset their carbon emissions through proactive efforts like reforestation, Dendra Systems presents a powerful solution. By tracking data on ecosystem rehabilitation projects, Dendra can give companies detailed reporting on the success of their efforts, helping them log results over time to help ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

Excited to hear about Dendra Systems’ work, or know of other drone companies developing environmentally-focused technology? Chime in on this thread in the UAV Coach community forum.

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