The forests of the future are connected to the internet

The start-up ReTree digitally creates forests that end up being planted in deforested areas. The Prosegur Forest, one of its latest projects, has innovative technology that enables its environmental impact to be measured in real time.

Gonzalo Miguel Gómez Lezcano designs forests. He is not concerned with ensuring that the trees planted are pleasing to the eye or that the whole is balanced. The design, in forestry terms, has more to do with the biological aspect and with the ecological fit. "It entails studying the land and, based on its characteristics, determining what type of species is the most suitable for reforestation," explains this biologist, the COO of ReTree.

ReTree is a start-up specialising in the creation of smart forests. At first glance, technology and forestry might not appear an obvious fit, but this company has managed to create a useful project at the intersection of these two worlds. The aim is to associate companies with a cause by helping them to plant corporate forests. And Prosegur has been doing so since last November, when it began a reforestation project involving the company's employees in Perales del Alfambra in Teruel province.

The forest already has more than a thousand trees planted and its impact can be viewed live online. "Through our digital tool, which uses cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence (AI), we are able to report on the absorption of CO2 in real time and the amount of rural employment that is being created", explains Pedro Pérez de Ayala, a founder member of ReTree. This gesture is more than intriguing: Prosegur employees maintain a link with the trees so that they can see how what has been planted continues to impact the environment years later. "The idea is that this permeates each of the volunteers and the day-to-day activities of other employees. That it is not a one-off initiative. Our aim is to ensure that planting a tree is the start of the story rather than the end", confirms Pérez de Ayala.

A connection point with the local

The design of the forests is a far more complex process than it seems. And it does not just involve complex studies and digital tools. At times the most practical thing to do is approach local people. "We draw on the knowledge of the residents of the area and the local public administrations, who are very familiar with the land", says Gómez Lezcano.

Technology does not overshadow the human element of the project, it is a process that is developing organically, in discussion with the nurseries and with the people… "Also because our idea is to create links with the rural population and even generate a small economic driver", says Gómez Lezcano.

Public-private collaboration is one of the key factors behind ReTree's success. Public administrations, with limited budgets, cannot invest enough in reforestation. In addition, private companies such as Prosegur are becoming increasingly aware of climate change and are keen to do their bit. ReTree serves as a link between these actors and ensures that a forest grows from partnership.

The actions of humankind destroyed the forest in this area. The extreme climate meant it did not regenerate naturally. Now, thanks to the collaboration between ReTree, Prosegur and public administrations, the forest will once again flourish on these high moors, five centuries after it was felled.