Measuring the forest: OCELL revolutionizes forest inventory analysis

AI-based technology digitizes surveying and analysis methods for forest and woodland management.

The climate crisis is creating enormous challenges in forests and woodlands. To withstand the weather extremes, forests must be rebuilt to be climate-resistant. However, the next generation of forest managers is scarce, and those few who do take up the profession are looking after even larger areas. To enable forest managers to make more informed decisions based on the latest data, the startup OCELL has been working on a new technology for the forest and its management since 2018: it enables a fast and economical forest inventory analysis. What previously took years can now be done in days.

With an operating system for digital forestry, OCELL helps forest managers to run their businesses more efficiently and sustainably. For this purpose, the startup around the founders Christian Decher, David Dohmen and Felix Horvat has developed the "Dynamic Forest" app. It provides forest managers with an optimal data basis for making scientifically based management decisions and implementing smoother processes in forestry.

Ultralight aircrafts record image data

"We commission pilots to flexibly fly over the target areas with ultralight aircrafts and collect the necessary data for us," explains David Dohmen. To do this, the startup equips the pilots with specially developed sensor and camera modules developed in-house, as well as their own flight navigation app, which guides them to the target area and directs them to the perfect flight paths. The quality of this image data is much higher than that of satellite imagery and, unlike using drones, can also be scaled to really large areas. "We also pull in many other data sources, such as from harvester machines, compile governmental data as well as scientific data for our customers, and digitize their analog or partially digitized data sets," Dohmen says.

OCELL then derives interpretations for forest managers from all the data. For example, the company's AI technology can measure, recognize and classify the forest as a 3D model. Each individual tree can be determined, including its height and state of health. The evaluation goes as far as statistical statements about wood volumes, bound CO2 or expected growth.

David Dohmen, Co-Founder of OCELL

All of this happens fully automatically thanks to artificial intelligence, reducing waiting times from years or months to days compared to traditional forest inventories.

All stakeholders in a forest –  from forest managers to foresters and forest workers to external service providers –  can access this data via the app. "You can think of our app as a mixture of Google Maps and Trello for the forest," describes Dohmen. This, he says, is the basis for making forest work more efficient and optimizing processes. Complex forestry measures with different responsible parties can be easily created, carried out and tracked in status. This can create a previously unheard of clarity, more efficiency, and much smoother communication and a faster and more accurate flow of information.

Technological breakthrough for forestry

"OCELL's technology is a major breakthrough in forestry. Previous surveying and analysis methods for forests seem to be from another century once you start working with OCELL. We can confirm that the technology works and it will be the next big thing in forestry," says Armin Elbs, head of forestry at Graf Toerring-Jettenbach, one of the largest private forest owners in Bavaria.

OCELL is convinced that the forestry industry can only successfully meet its challenges, from climate change to personnel problems, if it can operate more modern and efficient. "This requires up-to-date and reliable data as well as good software," says Dohmen.

Tina Dreimann, founder better ventures

With OCELL, forestry companies can focus more on their actual core competencies in order to preserve the forest as a cultural, ecological and economic asset for mankind.

Seed investment also from the BayStartUP investors' network 

Venture Capitalists also from the BayStartUP investors' network have invested a high 6-digit number in this technology, among them Christoph Behn with better ventures and the serial entrepreneur Julius Göllner. Further investors are Andreas Kupke (Finanzcheck), the experienced investor Wolfgang Seibold as well as the founders of Foodora and Kaia Health, Manuel Thurner and Konstantin Mehl as well as the Intiatitive for Industrial Innovators. The fresh capital is to be used to improve products and quality, and to expand OCELL's communications, marketing and sales departments. Tina Dreimann, founder of better ventures, was convinced by OCELL's business idea: "OCELL impressed us within a very short time with a very strong team, a customer-oriented product and a sustainable business model. We are convinced that the team will sustainably improve our environment with its AI-based solution. We are happy that BayStartUP introduced the team to us and that we were able to come together as a result."

Big plans – and enormous potential

Adding up all the economic, environmental and climate change factors, the value of forests is around $150 trillion (BCG, "The Staggering Value of Forests-and How to Save Them". 2020). This  brings a huge potential of their solution. The investors of better ventures are also convinced of this: "As an operating system for sustainable and data-driven forestry, we see OCELL as the most important starting point for many other interesting use cases," says Tina Dreimann.

Thanks to OCELL, applications for subsidies could already be made more easily and tax settlements in the forest simplified. OCELL's data also contains precise information about stored CO2 and expected growth. The company is therefore already working with certifiers to be able to offer CO2 certificates via its platform in the future. Customers and forests will then continue to benefit from this. In the future, forest growth simulations can even enable optimized recommendations for measures, harvesting and planting, which will enable forests to develop even better in order to generate more growth on the one hand and at the same time bind more CO2 in wood.

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