A case study on TreeTape, an innovative nursery production system for key commercial coniferous forestry species.

Tackling the climate emergency is one of the key challenges organisations all over the world face. Scotland were one of the first countries to declare a climate emergency in April 2019, and we continue to set bold targets in our mission to become a Net Zero Nation.

One of the key components of our Climate Change Plan is how we use land and manage our forests.

To ensure forestry and woodlands are utilised to cut emissions and sequester carbon we have pledged to plant 12,000 hectares per year, rising to 18,000 by 2024-5. To meet such ambitious targets, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) needed innovation - to find new ways that use less manual labour and make more efficient use of the supplies of seed.

In 2019 FLS took part in CivTech 4.0 and set the challenge ‘How might we use technology to make better use of Scotland’s valuable but limited supply of high quality tree seed?

Cumbria Tree Growers brought forward their solution ‘TreeTape’, - a true innovation of a traditional nursery production system for the key commercial coniferous forestry species grown in Great Britain.

Inspired by new developments in vegetable production, the solution uses the most efficient means of production and triples the typical yield of seedlings produced from a kilo of seed. It is a method of transplanting that has never been used before with trees, reducing production time significantly and providing further efficiencies throughout the whole production system. Initial field trials carried out at Newton Nursery in Elgin allowed a team of three (one tractor driver and two people feeding the tapes in to the machine) to plant 150,000 trees in an hour. In stark contrast to previous technology, that would allow a team of seven to only plant 60,000 trees in one day. Showing that TreeTape will have a hugely positive impact on seed propagation in years to come.

Josh Roberts, Innovation Manager with Forestry and Land Scotland, said:

“Working with the Scottish Government’s CivTech team to harness and apply the lateral thinking skills of technological innovators to a range of forestry issues has been remarkably successful.

The new technological approach is a great leap forward in itself but is anticipated to deliver even greater benefits when combined it with other products developed in the CivTech Challenge, including moisture retaining seed coatings and seed priming technologies.”

Michael Ashby, Director and Founder of TreeTape UK Ltd, said:

“This has been a very rewarding experience that has let us bring our knowledge of agricultural techniques to a new field. Everyone involved has learned a lot from each other and as well as having huge potential for forestry, this project will open up new markets for us.”

Barbara Mills CivTech Programme Manager Programme, said:

“The FLS and TreeTape challenge is great example of what can be achieved when an organisation embraces innovation to tackle a challenge so key to sustainability and we are delighted it has been recognised through these awards “

This incredible innovation has been instrumental in helping Scotland reach it’s tree planting goals, proved invaluable during the Covid 19 pandemic, and won a Scottish Public Sector Service Award in 2020.

Through collaborative and constructive work this one project has contributed to tackling climate action, supporting the economic recovery and changing the landscape of Scotland itself.