Treeplanting search engine Ecosia to monitor reforestation from space

Berlin-based Ecosia, best known as the tree-planting search engine, has teamed up with French startup Kanop to monitor its reforestation efforts from space.

With around 20 million users, Ecosia is the world's largest not-for-profit search engine. It is also one of the biggest tree-planters in the world. The company claims to have planted 200 million trees since its inception in 2009. 

To date, Ecosia has monitored its tree-planting efforts using ground-based observations. But with the help of Kanop, it is about to take things up a notch.

Based in Paris, Kanop uses optical, radar, and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) satellite imagery from NASA, ESA, and the Japanese Space Agency. It uses this data to train AI algorithms and create “digital twins” of the forest.

These digital twins contain a wealth of information on the amount of biomass in the forest, enabling Ecosia to better monitor its reforestation projects and quantify their impact in terms of the amount of CO2 they suck out of the atmosphere.

“Overseeing the health and growth rate of all sites with over 200 million planted trees is a monumental challenge,” said Pieter van Midwoud, chief tree planting officer at Ecosia.

“This partnership highlights our ongoing focus on growing trees — not just planting them.”

Tree-planting is about more than just putting seeds in the ground. It's about restoring ecosystems so that they can effectively act as carbon sinks. 

Ecosia says that each search you make on its platform removes 1 kilogram of CO2 from the atmosphere. Only with accurate monitoring can it really back up this claim.

“This is an example of tree planting done right, and should be standard practice in the industry to ensure holistic reforestation efforts,” said Romain Fau, CEO and co-founder of Kanop. 

Large scale tree-planting programmes have exploded in popularity as a way to counter climate change. But, however well intentioned, these projects have sometimes been shown to make matters worse

Planting trees in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and using the wrong species can actually reverse efforts to heal our planet. That's why supporting the right projects from the outset, and monitoring their impact, is so critical. 

Ecosia says it believes that its approach to tree-planting helps to “hold the industry accountable when it comes to comprehensive and long-term reforestation.”

Ecosia makes its money via ad revenue. All of its profits go directly to tree-planting projects across the world. While it might sound too good to be true, the certified B-corp company is totally legit. Ecosia's servers are even powered by solar power plants it built itself. 

In 2018, Ecosia gave away its shares to the Purpose Foundation, to assure that it can never be sold and that no one, including the founder, can profit or receive dividends from the company. 

Also tagged with