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Optimization of the production line of an innovative biodegradable water reservoir to be applied in efficient landscape-scale ecosystem restoration plans

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FTI Cocoon (Optimization of the production line of an innovative biodegradable water reservoir to be applied in efficient landscape-scale ecosystem restoration plans)

Reporting period: 2016-12-01 to 2018-03-31

Global land resources are under pressure in the face of growing demand from an exponentially growing population and the impacts of climate change. The numbers demonstrate that we are wasting our natural capital at an accelerating pace. The time to act is now, by initiating large scale land restoration programs involving tree plantings. The ecosystem restoration market is globally estimated at US $300 billion.
Towards this goal we have developed a unique, fully functional product (TRL 7), called ‘Cocoon’, to promote tree establishment in dryland environments. Acting as a tree incubator the Cocoon nourishes tree seedlings, resulting in high survival rates and increased resilience to adverse growing conditions, while maintaining water efficiency. The scope of this FTI is to prototype an innovative manufacturing line in the EU with the following objectives:
1. Reach a production capacity of 1 million Cocoons per year
2. Maximize production output of units per hour
3. Reduce the manufacturing costs drastically per Cocoon
4. Reduce energy consumption & manufacture with 100% renewable energy
5. Integrate local agriculture waste materials or grasses in the product
When production cost can go down, completely new, large-scale markets will open up. Our project will stimulate private sector investment in land regeneration projects and promote trans-disciplinary research & innovation (industrial design, organic waste recycling, biomass, renewable energy). Our sustainable innovations address societal needs of restoring degraded areas, especially in times of increasing pressures from climate change. They also create a viable business opportunity for the private tree planting sector (forestry companies, fruit & nut producers, etc.). FTI Cocoon is highly business-driven and clearly demonstrates a realistic potential for quick deployment and market take-up.
By the end of the project, partners reached a production capacity of 1 million Cocoons per year with its corresponding expected output and manufacturing costs were drastically reduced. Further research is required for producing with alternative raw materials while still keeping production costs low. The modularity of the pilot production line was tested and successfully implemented in Poland, showing potential clients that locally produced and cost-efficient Cocoons is possible and desirable. As production costs have come down, a new large-scale land-based restoration business model has become possible, stimulating private sector investment. With the improvements reached with the FTI funding, LLC’s targeted users can now be governmental institutions, NGOs and private companies interested in reforestation projects and mitigation of their organisation’s emissions. Currently, LLC has a growing portfolio of clients that are using the Cocoon technology to offset their emissions, with three large carbon sequestration projects set to be closed in the first half of 2018.
Regarding the exploitation of project results, the research and testing done throughout the project has led to many innovations in the material and functionality of the Cocoon, improving it's performance on land as well as heightening production capacity. Regarding market strategy, the results of a lower production cost and higher production capacity has improved the viability of the Cocoon-based business model as well as opened the possibility of a larger, land-based restoration model for clients interested in holistic carbon sequestration and land restoration projects at broader scales.
Regarding the dissemination of project results, a 2-day pitch/promo event for potential clients was organized by the project partners, the Cocoon was presented at 2 trade fairs and 1 international course on land restoration. An interactive online digital map of Cocoon projects from around the world was created, as well as an app for geo-tagging trees planted with the Cocoon. 3 project videos (available at www.fticocoon.eu) were created, showing the planting trials, the key steps in production and the 2-day promo event.
The innovative Cocoon is a state-of-the-art planting technology that enables trees and plants to establish in arid conditions, revitalizing ecosystems and communities. It is low-cost (10 times cheaper than traditional tree planting), 100% biodegradable (Cocoon dissolves into organic substrate for the plant) and Low maintenance (after planting, no follow up irrigation or maintenance is needed). The Cocoon incorporates other beneficial elements such as mycorrhizal fungi to improve the plant’s root system, a sturdy tree shelter to help protect the sapling and a paper-based pulp made from organically-certified organic compounds and residual plant-based material. Additional research during this project has provided improvements to the structure of the reservoir and lid, as well as more efficient waxing and pressing processes.
The societal and socio-economic impact of this project is immense. Land Life Company has planted trees with the Cocoon in more than 20 countries with survival rates of 80-95%. The various applications of the Cocoon include nature restoration, landscaping, highway planting and productive trees- during the FTI Pilot project, approximately 10 Ha were be used as demonstration sites for 4,000 Cocoons.
In terms of the impact in the production, the final objective of 1 million Cocoons per modular pilot line means reforesting 2,000 ha, opening Land Life Company up to new markets in many countries and lowering cost-price in order to reach a wider audience and volume capacity. Its impact on the environment and social wellbeing will be extremely valuable since:
• Sustainable nature restoration and urban landscaping with the Cocoon creates value for nature and people.
• Using the Cocoon, degraded land can be turned into valuable land with more potential. Degraded land can typically be acquired at a low cost, while the value of surrounding fertile, vegetated lands is 5-10 times higher.
• As the production and usage of resources is interlinked (food, water, energy, soils, CO2), integrated solutions must be developed and deployed. Restoring nature by planting trees on degraded land is the most water efficient way of addressing this challenge and has a positive impact on the long-term availability of resources.
•Trees are the earth's natural way to capture CO2. A full-grown forest may absorb between 1 and 10 t/ha of CO2. A healthy mycorrhizae system may increase the CO2 uptake by a factor of 2 to 3.
•Planting native trees is a starter for ecosystem revitalization. As trees grow, they have multiple positive effects on the ecosystem: water retention capacity, barriers to erosion, shade and humus for vegetation to grow, improved soil quality and soil life.