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TED2014

Shubhendu Sharma: How to grow a tiny forest anywhere

March 16, 2014

A forest planted by humans, then left to nature’s own devices, typically takes at least 100 years to mature. But what if we could make the process happen ten times faster? In this short talk, eco-entrepreneur (and TED Fellow) Shubhendu Sharma explains how to create a mini-forest ecosystem anywhere.

Shubhendu Sharma - Eco-entrepreneur
Shubhendu Sharma creates afforestation methods that make it easy to plant maintenance-free, wild and biodiverse forests. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I'm an industrial engineer.
00:12
The goal in my life has always been to make
00:14
more and more products
00:17
in the least amount of time and resources.
00:18
While working at Toyota,
00:21
all I knew was how to make cars
00:22
until I met Dr. Akira Miyawaki,
00:24
who came to our factory to make a forest in it
00:27
in order to make it carbon-neutral.
00:30
I was so fascinated
00:33
that I decided to learn this methodology
00:35
by joining his team as a volunteer.
00:37
Soon, I started making a forest
00:40
in the backyard of my own house,
00:42
and this is how it looks after three years.
00:44
These forests,
00:48
compared to a conventional plantation,
00:49
grow 10 times faster,
00:51
they're 30 times more dense,
00:54
and 100 times more biodiverse.
00:56
Within two years of having this forest in our backyard,
01:00
I could observe that the groundwater
01:03
didn't dry during summers,
01:05
the number of bird species I spotted in this area
01:07
doubled.
01:10
Quality of air became better,
01:11
and we started harvesting seasonal fruits
01:13
growing effortlessly
01:15
right in the backyard of our house.
01:17
I wanted to make more of these forests.
01:19
I was so moved by these results
01:22
that I wanted to make these forests
01:23
with the same acumen with which we make cars
01:25
or write software or do any mainstream business,
01:28
so I founded a company
01:31
which is an end-to-end service provider
01:33
to create these native natural forests.
01:35
But to make afforestation as a mainstream business
01:38
or an industry, we had to standardize
01:42
the process of forest-making.
01:44
So we benchmarked the Toyota Production System
01:46
known for its quality and efficiency
01:48
for the process of forest-making.
01:51
For an example, the core of TPS,
01:53
Toyota Production System, lies in heijunka,
01:56
which is making manufacturing
01:59
of different models of cars
02:01
on a single assembly line.
02:03
We replaced these cars with trees,
02:05
using which now we can make multi-layered forests.
02:08
These forests utilize 100 percent vertical space.
02:11
They are so dense
02:15
that one can't even walk into them.
02:15
For an example, we can make a 300-tree forest
02:19
in an area as small as the parking spaces of six cars.
02:22
In order to reduce cost and our own carbon footprint,
02:27
we started utilizing local biomass
02:31
as soil amender and fertilizers.
02:33
For example, coconut shells crushed in a machine
02:36
mixed with rice straw,
02:38
powder of rice husk mixed with organic manure
02:42
is finally dumped in soil on which
02:46
our forest is planted.
02:48
Once planted, we use grass or rice straw
02:49
to cover the soil
02:52
so that all the water which goes into irrigation
02:54
doesn't get evaporated back into the atmosphere.
02:57
And using these simple improvisations,
02:59
today we can make a forest
03:01
for a cost as low as the cost of an iPhone.
03:03
Today, we are making forests in houses,
03:07
in schools, even in factories with the corporates.
03:09
But that's not enough.
03:13
There is a huge number of people
03:15
who want to take matters into their own hands.
03:17
So we let it happen.
03:20
Today, we are working on an Internet-based platform
03:22
where we are going to share our methodology
03:26
on an open source
03:29
using which anyone and everyone
03:31
can make their own forest
03:32
without our physical presence being there,
03:34
using our methodology.
03:36
At the click of a button,
03:38
they can get to know all the native species
03:40
of their place.
03:41
By installing a small hardware probe on site,
03:43
we can do remote soil testing,
03:47
using which we can give step-by-step instructions
03:50
on forest-making remotely.
03:54
Also we can monitor the growth of this forest
03:57
without being on site.
03:59
This methodology, I believe,
04:03
has a potential.
04:05
By sharing, we can actually
bring back our native forests.
04:06
Now, when you go back home,
04:09
if you see a barren piece of land,
04:11
do remember that it can be a potential forest.
04:13
Thank you very much. Thanks.
04:16
(Applause)
04:18

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Shubhendu Sharma - Eco-entrepreneur
Shubhendu Sharma creates afforestation methods that make it easy to plant maintenance-free, wild and biodiverse forests.

Why you should listen

Industrial engineer Shubhendu Sharma was working at Toyota in India when he met Japanese forest expert Akira Miyawaki, who'd arrived to plant a forest at the factory, using a methodology he'd developed to make a forest grow ten times faster that normal. Fascinated, Sharma interned with Miyawaki, and grew his first successful forest on a small plot behind a house.

Today, his company Afforestt promotes a standardized method for seeding dense, fast-growing, native forests in barren lands, using his car-manufacturing acumen to create a system allowing a multilayer forest of 300 trees to grow on an area as small as the parking spaces of six cars -- for less than the price of an iPhone. Afforestt has helped grow forests at homes, schools and factories. Sharma seen improvement in air quality, an increase in biodiversity -- and the forests even generate fresh fruit. Afforestt is at work on a platform that will offer hardware probes to analyze soil quality, allowing the company to offer step-by-step instructions for anyone who wants to grow a native forest anywhere in the world.

The original video is available on TED.com
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