UAE: Drones plant 10,000 Ghaf trees within hours

Saman Haziq/Sharjah
Filed on March 16, 2021
Photo by Saman Haziq/Khaleej Times

The ghaf tree seed project is the brainchild of Rashid Al Ghurair, founder and CEO of Cafu.

Around 10,000 Ghaf trees will soon dot the green belt of Sharjah’s Mleiha desert, thanks to the high-tech drones that did the job and planted the seeds in just a few hours. Taking the tech even further, the start-up behind the project is now getting ready to move beyond ghaf and let the drones plant other native seeds.

It would normally take months to plant thousands of trees in the desert by hand. But Dubai-based tech firm Cafu has found a way to speed up the entire process by using unique seedballs. These were then dispatched in the desert by a highly sophisticated multi-rotor drone.

Cafu had earlier announced that its mega plan to plant one million Ghaf trees via drones in two years. On Monday, it said it had already completed two rounds of planting over 10,000 seeds in the desert this year. Since they started the project, the team has continuously developed its technologies. Now, it is using a first-of-its-kind planting mechanism designed by Cafu engineers.

The ghaf tree seed project is the brainchild of Rashid Al Ghurair, founder and CEO of Cafu.

Speaking at a conference where the team demonstrated how the artificial intelligence-powered drones work, Cafu’s sustainability and community manager Nabra Al Busaidi said: “In 2019, we did surface seeding, but with research and development over the past year, we learnt a smarter way of the germination process using seed balls that will protect the seed from getting spoilt...We then used our in-house custom built multipurpose drone to drop these seed balls in the soil at a certain pace so it penetrates to a depth of 1cm below the ground...

“We have accomplished a major milestone through the drone-tech powered planting, and we are ready to scale this project to explore other native UAE seed types.”

Ahmed Borik, a systems engineer at Cafu, said: “After much research, we built a multi-rotor drone with a payload that enables it to accelerate and automate the planting of ghaf tree seedballs in the desert. Our team of engineers and technology experts have designed and developed a pioneering in-house pressurised air mechanism built into the drone, which shoots the seedballs to the required depth, while also geo-tagging the location to track its progress.

“So far, the team have undergone two rounds of planting in the Mleiha Desert and expect germination over the coming months.”

To take this project to the next level, the firm has now partnered with the UAE University, where the company is offering students internship to involve the youth in the fight against climate change. Other important partners supporting the firm in the project include Sanad Academy; the Environment and Protected Areas Authority; Department of Civil Aviation Sharjah; and UAE Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure.

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