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UVic students develop tree planting robot

WATCH: Two young Vancouver Island entrepreneurs are hoping to bring robotics to B.C.’s forest industry. Kylie Stanton gives us a look at their prototype.

Like a tree seedling, an idea hatched by two University of Victoria students started small and has grown into something big. Nick Birch and Tyler Rhodes have developed a tree planting robot that has the potential to be commercially viable.

The project, which was developed during an entrepreneurial co-op term, started with a Fisher Price scooter with a tree-planting arm attached and evolved to the point where a prototype is ready.

How does the tree planting robot work?

The device, dubbed the TreeRover, is powered by compressed air and two wheelchair batteries operated by remote control.

“We send commands to the robot via a wireless radio module that’s connected to our laptop,” said Birch.

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“The seedling hopper will slide forward, it will drop a single tree seedling into this main spike tube. The pneumatic piston drives the tube into the earth, leaving the tree seedling in the earth and then it retracts the spike tube and the tree seedling has been planted.”

WATCH: UVic students create tree planting robot

They say the technology will not take away jobs, but rather help those who work as tree planters.

Given the wildfire situation across B.C. this summer, many believe there is going to be a demand for the TreeRover.

“We’re looking for ways to replant these areas,” said Mark Logtenburg of Davey Tree Experts. “By hand, it takes a long time to do it. So machines, that’s what we’re looking for in the future.”

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Birch and Rhodes say there is still plenty of work to be done.

“We’re hoping to add more autonomous aspects such as GPS and obstacle avoidance,” said Birch.

A campaign to raise $5,000 to cover the costs of further development is now underway.

-With files from Kylie Stanton