There are over 600 000 private forest owners in Finland. While most forest owners are used to taking care of their nearby forests, a significant part of them have inherited their forests and might live quite far away from them. During the last decades knowledge on forestry and an emotional bond to owning forests has little by little been vanishing among forest owners.
The group of so called “quiet forest owners”, who lack either knowledge or interest in forestry and give no thought at all to their forests, is growing. At the same time, the need to utilize forests economically and take care of them sustainably is increasing. This disconnect is a problem, not only here in Finland, but also internationally. Europe wide 60 % of the forest area is owned by private individuals and over half of them live in cities.
“Hacking Value from Forests”
The challenges around forest ownership could be relieved by taking advantage of new user-friendly digital tools. This was therefore used as one of the challenges to be solved in Ultrahack’s hackathon in April 2017. “Hacking Value from Forests” challenge arranged by Sitra, The Finnish Forest Centre, MHG Systems and DataBio project gathered international hacker teams to come up with solutions to support forest asset management and to help forest owners in decision making. The Forest Centre’s forest grid data and other forest estate data from Wuudis service were delivered to the teams to be utilized in the hackathon. The teams worked guided by the mentors intensively from Friday night until Sunday afternoon’s final judging.
The first prize, 5 000 euros, was awarded to Forest Designer VR team, which developed a virtual reality game of forestry based on real forest resource and topographic data. By this visual tool forest owners and forestry operators can plan silvicultural activities together. The game could also be used for getting so called digital natives, or people born in the digital era, acquainted to forestry.
The team Perfekt Forest won the second prize of 2 000 euros. The team created a prototype of a mobile application for joint-investment of forest estates. The prototype is targeted to younger people and can be used to create groups to joint-invest in forests based on the use of forest to be invested.
The third place in the hackathon was achieved by the team Silva with its application prototype for comparing three different ways of forestry and their expected revenue for long term. The solution was a good example of an easy-to-use tool to visualize forestry alternatives.
Other promising solutions were related to following the life cycle of wood-based products utilizing, for example, block-chain technologies. Combining software development and forest resource data created interesting new ideas. This was all enabled by putting together the expertise and enthusiasm of the challenge partners, the hackathon organizers and, of course, the challenge teams. All in all, the hackathon weekend was an excellent learning experience for all parties.
The circular economy is about increasing the value-added of natural resources by keeping products and materials in use as long as possible and fully utilizing their potential as well as providing new services on top of physical resources. A core part of the circular economy is bio-economy, which means substituting fossil resources based products with renewable environmentally friendly materials. Finnish forests as an abundant and renewable source of natural resources have a key role in the bio-economy and in preventing climate change. With the help of new tools forest owners could be encouraged to evaluate their forest related needs based on their values, take action and be part in promoting the circular economy. The digital leap will also reach forests.
Seppo Huurinainen, CEO
+358 44 581 4950