What does cutting-edge artificial intelligence have to do with a walk in the woods? To Steve Hawkes, Vice President of LandVest’s Forest Resources division, it’s the future.
Two of LandVest’s foresters recently launched a trial of a cutting edge technology created by a startup led by two Harvard and MIT grads.
Gaia AI is a Boston based tech startup, co-founded by Peter McHale and Matt Carpenter – two of this year’s Forbes 30 under 30 for Manufacturing and Industry. They use LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), satellite data, and AI to quickly collect forest data that can be used to make decisions regarding timber harvests and carbon credits. The data is collected walking through the forest wearing Gaia’s proprietary backpack unit.
In a recent demonstration on a raw, rainy day, LandVest’s team, including Forest Analyst Patrick Smerczynski and Spatial Resource Analyst Colton Burgess, tested the technology firsthand. Trekking through one of LandVest’s managed forests, the team stress-tested the unit through dense trees, brush and even swamp conditions, measuring, counting and marching.
Back at the computer, after the field trial, LandVest analysts began the real test: whether the unit was able to accurately collect and interpret the data. The team was impressed with the results. What used to take several minutes per tree using conventional measurement techniques, was accomplished in mere seconds. The LIDAR backpack had collected information on tree count, DBH (diameter), and height and then projected the binary data into a three-dimensional picture.
Gaia’s Chief of Staff Steve Poleskey believes companies should “invest in technology to support foresters and supplement the workforce.” His philosophy is to provide powerful features but keep them simple and easy to use. Through collaboration with front-line managers like LandVest, they can refine their engineering back in the lab. They already plan future iterations of the technology – with the weight of the unit currently at twenty pounds, Gaia AI aims to reduce it to a more manageable fifteen. Battery life is currently one to two hours and can be extended by easily swapping in additional batteries while in the field.
Hawkes added, “Technology has come a long, long way in my 30-year career. By exploring opportunities with companies like Gaia AI, we hope to empower foresters to easily achieve more in less time, while continuing to deliver cutting-edge services to our clients.”
LandVest Forest Management and Consulting
Forest management has been a core service provided by LandVest since our founding in 1968. Currently, we manage over two million acres of private, industrial, and conservation timberland. Our dedicated management personnel in regional offices throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic provide a full suite of front-line management and back-office operational support, tailored to each client’s needs.
LandVest Timberland & Institutional Land Group
LandVest’s Timberland & Institutional Land Group is the top independent timberland broker in the United States. With over $800 million in annual sales in 2023, the group specializes in valuation, marketing and planning services for families and institutions. LandVest’s project teams are drawn from a variety of forestry and land disciplines including, GIS cartography, finance, biometrics, land use planning—always delivering valuable and timely results.