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Forest plants

New technology can save more forest plants

18 April 2024, 13:09

Every year, around 30-40 million tree seedlings are produced at Holmen Skog's nurseries around the country. Of these, around five percent are lost each year. Using hyperspectral cameras, RISE, together with Holmen and Umeå University, has in a unique project, Digiplant, investigated the possibilities of automating the monitoring of the seedlings. This can both reduce waste and open up new areas of application for the technology.

Automated optical measurement methods for quality control have long been used in paper and cardboard production. A method that Jörg Brücher, research and development engineer at RISE, believes has great potential to be used in agriculture and forestry as well.

"The tests have been done with hyperspectral cameras that see several hundred colors and can identify certain wavelengths. With this technology, we can objectively monitor the development of plants and prevent risks such as fungal attack or nitrogen deficiency at an early stage," says Jörg. 

Conducting the tests on living plants that change over a short period of time has been part of the challenge of the project. The nutritional status of the plants can be determined by evaluating changes in certain wavelengths of light, providing decision support for possible interventions. This leads to better use of, for example, fertilizers and irrigation, which increases the potential for efficient use of resources and reduced environmental impact.

"This is a very interesting collaboration where we see great potential. Automating the process and using data and algorithms to calculate, for example, the amount of nitrogen would significantly streamline our operations and mean that we can obtain measurement data and algorithms that are currently not possible. This helps us to grow with quality and good control," says Daniel Hägglund, head of Holmen's seed and plant operations. 

More work remains before the technology can be fully implemented in the business, but the project shows that there is a new way to go. 

"We have collected interesting data and gained new insights and experiences about the technology that exists and how it could be used in our business. For example, we can get an early indication that something is happening that can negatively affect plant quality, before it is visible to the naked eye. For example, nutrient deficiencies, drought stress, diseases and weeds. In the next step, it will be interesting to investigate which type of hyperspectral camera would be best suited for use in a mobile way over larger areas, both in greenhouses and outdoors, where the light intensity varies a lot. But also to identify suitable limit values for the detection of risk factors that are suitable for all the different appearances a plant can have," says Ingela Toljamo, cultivation manager at Holmen Skog.

The Digiplant project was carried out in collaboration with Holmen Skog's nursery in Gideå and Umeå University, where the tests were carried out. The project was funded by the Biorefinery Innovation Platform 2020-2023 within the framework of Processum's R&D Council. Do you have ideas for interesting collaborations and activities within the R&D Council? Please contact us.

Eleonora Borén

Eleonora Borén

Innovations- och processledare

+46 10 516 67 96

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