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Reforestation Project Uses RFID Data for Forest Analytics

HLH provides RFID-based data to customers, as well as to partners such as Paradise Helicopters, and analyzes that information to better manage its forest of koa and sandalwood trees.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 19, 2017—By Claire Swedberg

Since launching its koa tree reforestation operation seven years ago, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) has used radio frequency identification technology to identify its koa and sandalwood trees as they are planted, and to link those trees to those who purchase them. By employing ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags on each sapling and grown tree, as well as the GPS location of every tree as it is planted, the nonprofit organization can track the trees' growth and provide that information to customers who adopt them (see RFID Helps Foresters Grow Koa Trees). At the same time, HLH uses the technology to confirm the identity of each tree planted, and then harvested on the commercial side of the business.

During the past few years, says Jeffrey Dunster, HLH's CEO, the company has expanded its use of the RFID system to capture each step of the trees' care, then leverages the collected data to analyze the trees' health and growth rates, as well as identify ways to manage the forest for optimum tree performance. The firm is also developing two types of handheld RFID readers for use in the field, to read tags at a short range, and with a form factor that spares workers from having to repeatedly bend over. One version will capture GPS location data within about 1 meter (3.3 feet).

At present, the company has about 350,000 trees tagged, including 16,000 rare Hawaiian sandalwood ('Iliahi) trees. Its nonprofit division, known as the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, operates a 12,000-acre property on Mauna Kea in Hawaii for permanent koa tree planting. Each tree is being grown as part of a carbon-neutral effort (meaning that the carbon reduction provided by tree growth offsets some of the carbon use caused by human activity), Dunster says. Partnering businesses, such as Paradise Helicopters, an air tours and charters company, are using the program to enable individuals to purchase and plant trees, or to buy carbon credits so that their flight is carbon-neutral. . Paradise Helicopters has sponsored part of HLH's dedicated ,1,200-acre property.

William Gilliam
HLH now includes five other companies: Hawaiian Legacy Tours for ecotours, Ecotech Nurseries, Legacy Carbon, Hamakua Mill Company and the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative. In addition to the nonprofit Legacy Carbon and Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative. HLH allows customers to invest in sustainable koa timber trees, sold in lots of 100, and then earn funds at the time of harvest.

The HLH Legacy Reforestation Initiative allows an individual to sponsor what it calls a Legacy Tree, often in memory of a loved one, for the price of $60. Of that amount, $20 goes to a charity of the customer's choice.

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