Harrie, Arnout, Koen – Where we plant billions of trees vs climate change?

Koen van Seijen: You’re going to listen to an episode about trees and tree planting. Why we need to plant millions of trees is known to most of us. But how are we going to do that and how we’re gonna choose what to plant where and why. To regenerate the 2 billion hectares that are currently degraded around the world.

Koen van Seijen: Welcome to another episode of investing in regenerative agriculture investing as if the planet mattered podcast show where I talk to the pioneers in the regenerative food and agriculture space to learn more on how to put our money to work to regenerate soil people local communities and ecosystems while making an appropriate and fair return. Why my focus on soil and regeneration because so many of the pressing issues we face today have their roots in how we treat our land grow our food and what we eat. And it’s time that we as investors big and small and consumers start paying much more attention to the dirt slash soil underneath our feet.


Koen van Seijen: Before we get started I’ve been recording these interviews next to my day job and I will definitely continue to do so and release about an episode a month. At the same time I would love to take this further and share more interviews. There are many more stories to share on investing in regenerative Food and Agriculture more depth improved quality maybe even doing some video series.

Koen van Seijen: So I started a Patreon community which makes it easy to support creators like myself. If these podcasts have been of value to you and if you have the means I invite you to support me and make this happen. For more information please find a link to my Patreon account in the description below. And now without further ado the interview enjoy.

Koen van Seijen: Welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’m Koen van Seijen. And today I interview Harrie, Arnout and Koen of Land Life Company. I’ve interviewed the co-founder of Land Life before and the first episode of this podcast about two and a half years ago and will definitely link back this episode in the show notes below.

Arnout Asjes:  My name is Arnout Asjes at Land Life, I’m responsible for the technology department. I was just lucky to come in contact with the concept of planting trees in dry areas. My background is not as the gentleman on my right in in Wageningen in arid agriculture or in forestry but it’s in business administration

Harrie Lovenstein:  I have a background agricultural Wageningen agricultural university and background tropical crop sciences and actually I fell in love with desert climates

Harrie Lovenstein:  Looking specifically to the plant physiological aspects of trees and to see how they manage under dry conditions and in my perspective you see trees which are spenders, you have trees which has savers and those are same traits you see in human people when they are facing risk environmental risks.

Koen Kramer:  I’m a biologist really deciding to be a biologist at the age of 8 or so or 10 coming to trees and trees are really fascinating organisms standing on a single place for centuries and having to cope with anything that goes by. it is really necessary to use trees to use forests to sequester carbon to to protect biodiversity to protect areas and soils and to hand them over in a better state to the next generation. I mean the science and the government are not going to do this. That is a too lengthy too inefficient kind of process. So you really need let’s say a kind of can do organization

Koen van Seijen:  could you give us a short update where Land Life company is?

Arnout Asjes:  We started focused on the Cocoon a product that we use to protect trees and to grow them in dry areas. Then the last two and half years we really went from a product oriented company basically a seller of cocoons to an end to end reforestation company. Now our clients pay us for either for per hectare or per tonne CO2 sequestered.

Planting trees with the Cocoon technology

Arnout Asjes:  The way in which reforestation has been done is a pretty traditional industry. there has been nothing on a global level not a lot of science being done for the simple reason that there is not a lot of money to be made.

Arnout Asjes:  We work for a Dutch company called LeasePlan which has millions of cars around the world that they lease out to clients and they are planning to become fully electric in 2030. Their goal is to be fully electric in 2030 but until that time and up to that time all the CO2 that is expended they want to sequester.

Arnout Asjes:  We are engaging in a process called data driven planting where we basically want to plant as much trees as possible in a planting season we want to do it at the lowest cost possible and at the lowest impact to nature.

Arnout Asjes: But to plant as many trees as possible but to do go and engage into these contracts and build these machines and develop these machines that can do this at scale. We felt it was necessary to become a private company.

Arnout Asjes: We always joke that the villages in which we plant the youngest person is 60 or 70 and there’s a lot of urbanization in Spain a lot of youth has moved to the cities to get jobs don’t want to work the fields. So that’s another reason why we come in with a lot of mechanisation but these areas are very much of interest to us because there is a lot of erosion going on. and nature is not coming back unaided.

Arnout Asjes:  probably that in 50 years or 100 year trees will start and there will be primary species coming back but to to speed that up is why we plant there. Koen van Seijen: So it won’t rewild in itself in time to be of function for CO2 capture.

Koen van Seijen:  What are the considerations when you find a piece of land or even choosing a piece of land?

Harrie Lovenstein:  we first start to assess soil and climate the combination of the agricultural zoning that we see. we’d like to have planting trees which stay there for at least decades

Koen van Seijen:  do you also look at the carbon potential of the trees? What are differences between one type and another?

Koen Kramer: Well the kind of magnitude is huge clearly depending on local conditions water nutrients and so on. Scale is really important because you have to really build in a forest. So tens and hundreds of hectares are good at the end of the day, you really need to restorate landscapes catchments. The value of the tree is the value of the match. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, that’s why you want to build a forest.

Arnout Asjes:  Spain is actually the first European country that really has to deal with desertification.

Arnout Asjes:  Can we also plant nut types or can we do other types of trees as Harrie always says you can’t eat CO2 credits!

Arnout Asjes:  we get assigned several pieces of land and then our technology basically takes over we use drone and satellite imagery to go back look at vegetation that is there now but also what used to be done on the land. We take soil samples, very simply we take soil moisture measurements.

Arnout Asjes:  We need to understand first what are the objectives of the client: Is it habitat restoration or is it straight nature restoration? Is it CO2 sequestration or a combination of ecosystem services?

Koen van Seijen:  The database is yours? Those are your former projects that you’re monitoring to find out what’s working and what’s not?

Arnout Asjes:  On each tree we have a G.P.S. lock with latitude and longitude which are unique for a tree. Then we register the species, obviously. The vigor rating which is kind of qualitative but it’s a scale of how healthy a tree is.

Arnout Asjes: You can look at things like animal damage, branching length of the tree, the diameter of the stem and you track that over time and understand what is the best period of time to plant that tree and does it do better on a South facing slope or does it do better in a valley or on a slope or is it better for erosion or for CO2 sequestration.

Arnout Asjes:  We also have data scientists and a GIS specialist map making specialist that are writing algorithms with a drone to be able to capture every tree we’ve planted.

Koen Kramer:  Diversity it is a kind of risk management approach. What is also increasingly clear is that biodiversity has such results in higher productivity of ecosystems.

Harrie Lovenstein: I would really like to see the trees in purposed for mitigation of climate change. We’re looking to biodiversity and there’s no one single bullet or not one single tree which can do the trick.

Arnout Asjes:  there’s still a lot of trees being cut a lot of mining being done. There’s not a lot of trees being planted back and that should become at least in balance and obviously there should be more negative emissions in that sense or a positive balance to tree planting compared to tree cutting down.

Arnout Asjes:  I don’t think the public can imagine what the impact is. But I would say try to imagine what the other side of that impact is, if you go from brown to green.

Arnout Asjes:  I think this is becoming an industry and it’s becoming a moneymaking industry and really money making for good.

Koen Kramer:  We have to realize: what are the potential consequences of not acting!

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