Making It Work: Forestry data firm branches into mobile technology

Treemetrics has joined forces with a Swedish app maker to launch a tool which will allow forest owners carry out their own valuations

Enda Keane, chief executive of Treemetrics, says the company has already worked with about 800 private forest owners in Ireland. Picture: John Allen

Treemetrics, the Cork-based forestry data company, has launched a new remote valuation tool for private forest owners in partnership with Arboreal, an iPhone app developer in Sweden.

Enda Keane, Treemetrics’ co-founder and chief executive, said the company had developed technology that combines satellite imagery with mobile data to help forest owners map, value and manage their crop.

He said the partnership marked the first step in the company’s plan to make its technology more easily available to Ireland’s 22,000 private forest owners under a new Software-as-a-Service business model.

“Until now, we’ve mainly been a service business, going out to forests ourselves, doing the measurements on the ground and then using our technology to value crops and put together management plans for clients,” Keane said.

“Now, we’re moving to a new model, which will allow the forest owners to value their forest themselves using mobile technology. We want to help make the valuation process more transparent for them.”

The Arboreal app uses the cameras in iPhones to gather tree measurements such as height and diameter.

“It does away with the need for callipers, measuring tape and all the other equipment foresters would typically use to do the same job,” Keane said.

“Once you’ve taken some sample measurements of different trees on your plot, you upload them to Treemetrics and we can value your plot based on the percentage breakdown of saw log, pallet wood and pulp.”

The service is priced at €120 for a year-long subscription. Keane estimates that Treemetrics has already worked with about 800 private forest owners in Ireland.

“We agreed a partnership a few years ago with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA). That was a big break for us, because the IFA encouraged their members to use us to value their forest,” he said.

“There are 22,000 forest owners in Ireland though, so there are a lot more out there we still want to reach.

“A lot of these owners started planting in the late 1980s and early 90s and their crops are maturing now. They need to know the value of their crop before they can sell it.”

Treemetrics is a client of Enterprise Ireland and has raised just over €1.5 million in funding from both the state agency and private investors.

The company has worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) on a number of projects over the past 16 years. Treemetrics signed its latest contract with the ESA in January.

It will work with a number of European partners to develop an online platform that will make it easier for forest owners to secure certification proving sustainable practices.

“It’s a growing trend globally that big companies like Ikea and B&Q will only use sustainably produced wood that is certified as such,” Keane said.

He established Treemetrics in 2005 with Garrett Mullooly, the company’s chief operations officer. The company employs ten people at the Rubicon, a business incubation centre in Bishopstown in Cork linked to Munster Technological University.