Announcing our first large-scale deployment

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Map of Arnsberg with 20 deployment sites overlay

To our knowledge, what we deployed in North Rhine-Westphalia is the biggest multisensory forest monitoring network in Europe1.

That’s 180 devices in 20 forest sites, spread over an area of >100km² around Arnsberg, each device sensing its local environment and sending us >20 different indices every hour, measuring parameters of light, air, soil, growth and biodiversity. The monitored stands encompass a wide variety of tree species, management methodologies and forest health conditions.

The project

The creation of this forest sensing network takes place in the context of the Competence Center for Forest and Wood 4.0 , a project coordinated by the RIF Institute for Research and Transfer e.V. in its quest to accelerate the evaluation, knowledge transfer and proliferation of high tech solutions in Germany. In exploring new technologies and methods in the value chain of modern forestry, RIF and their collaboration partners aim to use the data generated by the sensing network to quantify the impact of management approaches, and enable climate-smart forestry. Learn more about it in this video .

The importance of good company

After deploying several small and mid-size networks within the course of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, we set our sights on large-scale, global deployments. In half a year, we estimated, our technology stack would finally be mature enough for prime time.

That’s when we won the project within the Center of Excellence for Forestry 4.0. With an extremely aggressive project timeline, the project was both a fantastic opportunity, and an enormous challenge — could we deliver in half the time? We could. But it wouldn’t be easy.

To really share with you how proud we are of this accomplishment, we need to tell you how much of ourselves we poured into making it happen. So indulge us for a short minute, as we sail through the thundering clouds of madness for an electrifying speed-run of the last few months at foldAI.

Here we go.

Chip shortages! Novel 3D printing material. What's a holiday again? Field-trip: flash, build, deploy, no sleep. Slice finger. Bug → fix. Sore backs. Live in a van for a week. Wooden bridge is rotting, fall straight through. Walk it off. Why does the police want to know why you are staying in a dark parking lot in a van full of electronics? Get ticks. Remove ticks. Get van out of the mud, just barely, while in a forest in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception.

A terrible time? Well, not really. It would certainly have been, with the wrong people, but we like to keep good company.

First of all — the foldAI people is certainly good company. Everyone knows you can’t just sail through the thundering clouds of madness with any random team, and expect to come out with a big smile on your face and hair still on your head.

Jake \& Can mounting a device on a tree.

But more to the point, our team was supported by amazing partners who made it their mission to help us succeed. It’s only with their help that we could reach the level of innovation and ecological integrity we set for ourselves. We extend our big, heartfelt thanks to:

  • The 3D printing & supply company Fillamentum , for being so flexible and responsive, for their cradle-to-cradle filament and for printing part of our housings.
  • Founder Anna Yona and her teammates Kristin Jung and Tim Neumann from Wildling shoes , for providing us with eco-friendly materials for our mounting system.
  • The manufacturer Mayerhofer , for navigating us through the global supply chain crisis, and for manufacturing high quality PCBs within a tight deadline.
  • Last but not least, thanks to RIF and the foresters from the Center of Excellence for Forestry 4.0 for planning and supporting the network deployments.

The future of this deployment

Device on a tree.

The devices are up, sensing, and providing us with lots of precious information about their surrounding forest ecosystems. But our work is not done just yet.

Our first large-scale deployment will in fact need a lot of love in the next few months, as we iron out some of its shortcomings on the one side, and further extend its capabilities on the other.

In the meantime, we are looking forward to do more great things together with RIF and their partners. Spoiler alert, this might happen very soon !

  1. Do you know of a bigger one? Let us know, we’d like to keep track. ↩︎