Scandinavian Forest Farming has devised a seed tube made of cellulose, which not only protects against large pine weevils, but also makes planting of young stands more efficient. The company now joins the Sting Bioeconomy family to prepare for a major market.
The large pine weevil (Hylobius abietis) causes considerable damage to newly planted forests, leading to multi-million losses for forest owners. But startup company Scandinavian Forest Farming has found a solution. Their patented bio-based seed tube called Tubesprout protects the plant from infestation by this beetle, and can also make the young stands grow faster and more efficiently. This means big gains, both for the environment and for the economy.
Made of biodegradable cellulose-based material, the tube functions not only as a protection for the seedlings, but also as a micro-greenhouse, creating a better water supply. Therefore, it only takes eight to ten weeks for the seedling to sprout, compared to one to two years with the traditional method. The protective tube also enables easy packaging in a small space without being damaged, which makes it well suited for mechanized planting. Also, many more seed tubes can be brought into the field.
”Today, all planting is done manually, often with imported labour. That’s not a long-term solution,” says Olof Guldbrandsson, development manager at Tubesprout.
Already in 1987, Carl Gustav Carlquist, the father of Managing Director Peter Rönneke, developed a patented product that would help in forest regeneration, when working as a forester. In 2010, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences began a ten-year research project to study the tube’s characteristics, and the evaluation in 2021 was positive. The fact that the process took so long has been an advantage, according to Olof, since it all uncertainties have been eliminated along the way.
“Trees need time to grow, and that’s the basis of the business concept. Through the slow process, we’ve built up the strength that has prepared us to launch a high-quality, well-proven product.”
One of the uncertainties in designing the tube was how to enable for the roots to penetrate the protective barrier. Previous seed tubes tested in forest regeneration have not been reliable, as the roots can grow the wrong way and damage the seedling, which is called root circling.
“But Tubesprout can now, thanks to multi-annual studies by the country’s most prominent experts in forest regeneration, demonstrate that our seed tubes don’t cause root circling. We can show that it works, and that hasn’t been done before,” says Olof.
Positive response from forest owners
The customers who have tested the product are positive, to say the least.
“As soon as you mention protection against large pine weevils, forest owners’ faces light up. They understand what a challenge this is. There are areas with over 80% of seedling depletion due to those beetles. With most insecticides being phased out, many forest owners are in a critical situation, because there is currently no 100% protection against damage caused by large pine weevils.”
Ready for launch
Today, the company works mainly with further development of the product. Together with researchers from Karlstad University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, they are investigating additional improvements to the characteristics of the tube. From Sting Bioeconomy, they hope to get access to a broad network, good advice as well as stakeholders and investors who want to join in on their journey. They are now in the startup phase of launching the product in the market.
“We primarily target forest owners, nurseries and forestry companies – basically anyone who wants to plant trees in an ecological and innovative way. We want to be part of the green revolution!”