Defra uses IoT for forestry research

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has begun a project with Vodafone and Forest Research to use Internet of Things (IoT) devices for forestry research.

Sensors are attached to trees and connected through Vodafone’s narrowband IoT network to collect data on tree growth, temperature, humidity and soil moisture. Forest Research will analyse the data to assess the impacts of environmental change on the forests.

A three-month trial started in Forestry England’s Alice Holt Forest in Surrey and Harwood Forest in Northumberland.

Malcolm McKee, chief technology officer at Defra, said: “This exciting partnership uses newly emerging IoT technologies to improve our understanding of the impacts of environmental change on our nation’s forests, which will help inform our policy making.

"The new technology provides better quality data and importantly, allows us to monitor places that current technologies cannot reach," he continued, adding: “This initial focus is on the monitoring of forests, but the technologies will be applicable to monitoring ‘anything’ in the environment.”

Matthew Wilkinson, research scientist at Forest Research, stated: “The project will help us gather more data which is critical to targeting efforts to measure the contribution of individual trees to climate change.

"If the trial is successful, we hope it will expand to other areas of environmental monitoring and signify a step change in the amount of data we are able to collect and analyse.”

The project forms part of Defra’s 25-year Environment Plan, with an ambition to increase woodland cover in England, in line with the government’s commitment to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectare per year by 2025.

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