Chris Kallal, CEO and founder and Kaitlyn Scaber, Director of Projects & Sustainability
As Canada joins countries around the world in building a strategy to meet its greenhouse emissions goals, the federal government has recently announced their two billion tree commitment. The goal? To strengthen our vast, healthy, and resilient forest ecosystems and mitigate carbon emissions by planting two billion trees in the next 10 years.
At the same time, companies, organizations, cities, and even celebrities who have similarly made commitments to curb, or in some cases eliminate, their contributions to climate change, are signing on in droves for a seemingly simple tactic to do so: buying carbon offsets. Offsets have become a wildly popular strategy in reaching net-zero targets, but they’re also hugely controversial. Carbon offset projects have a long history of over-promising and under-delivering, and they lack the transparency needed to truly prove that they’ve accomplished meaningful reductions in emissions.
At the intersection of these two strategies sits a local sustainability company, Wild + Pine, Canada’s first full circle, Nature-based Solutions carbon offset provider. Their innovative approach to carbon offsets is growing in popularity. Their strategy is simple – engage the business community in projects that translate into actual trees being planted and carbon offsets produced.
“When you look at a tree, you are looking at our most effective tool in the regulation of the carbon cycle to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Chris Kallal, CEO and founder of Wild + Pine. “At Wild + Pine, we work on behalf of the environment and that means we’re transparent about the offsets we are offering to our clients. They’re able to see a real-world impact from their decision to partner with us.”
Planting trees is a nature-based climate solution that can reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon in forests to help fight climate change, while providing other benefits such as better air and water quality, supporting our well-being, lowering the risk of wildland fire to rural communities, and building biodiversity.
It sounds like a pretty simple plan – but did you know it takes several years to plant a tree? For most people, when we picture tree planting, we think of being handed a seedling (or a bag of seedlings) and a shovel and pointed to a marked spot to dig a little hole and tuck the tree in to grow. In other words, all you need is a seedling, a plot of land and some sort of plan – but that makes it sound much simpler than it is.
It’s critical to carefully consider the soil and the ecosystem where the tree will make its new home, including what the goal is — a forest, a canopy for an urban neighbourhood, reducing wildfire risks, or mitigating climate change. Seeds need to be sourced, planted, and grown into hardy seedlings, and you need to include different tree varieties to build a truly sustainable ecosystem. That’s where Wild + Pine’s innovative approach to adopting technology has proven itself to be really successful.
Wild + Pine used technology from another local company, G2V Optics, to build its Bioprism Advanced Vertical Greenhouse. As the first of its kind in Canada, their Bioprism produces multiple crop rotations annually to meet the rising demand for tree seedlings caused by infestation, wildfires and other challenges related to climate change. As light is one of the main environmental signals affecting plant biology, their Bioprism, uses G2V’s innovative multi-spectral horticulture lighting to control a number of a plant’s physiological responses, such as root and shoot growth. By tailoring light quality, quantity, and photoperiod they’re able to reduce plant loss during the growing and planting periods, making their ability to produce the quantity and quality of trees needed much more successful. Bioprism utilizes a vertical farming environment to maximize space efficiency, where they also embody circular design to recycle water during their irrigation cycles. Wild + Pine’s intelligent system allows them to remotely control the facility to grow 365 days a year, growing up to three times as many trees as a traditional growing process per year.
“The aim of our technology is to reduce seedling loss during the growing and planting periods,” said Chris. “We can grow seedlings suited to the exact ecosystem where it will be deployed to give them every chance of survival once out-planted. Our technology and facility can mimic any solar spectrum globally, being located at the Edmonton International Airport’s Sustainability campus is certainly an advantage – it means we can get our seedlings to a global market.”
This is important because Canada isn’t the only country with tree planting goals. Chris points to countries like Ireland and China and a group of over 450 private US companies that have similar goals. The lens on sustainability is changing quickly, and it’s critical that countries and companies are able to adapt and innovate – and Wild + Pine is doing just that.
“We commissioned a study to see if being located in a region that is traditionally seen as all about the oil and gas industry, damaged our ability to land opportunities with companies with high ESG scores – companies like Lululemon for example,” said Chris. “And it’s true. We are constantly challenged to overcome how the rest of the world sees Alberta. However, we are incredibly well positioned to be at the forefront of this fight against climate change – there is no better place for innovative solutions to be borne. There’s incredible things happening here; a passionate entrepreneurial spirit, there is ambition and there is creativity. Albertans are problem solvers with a relentless drive to succeed – and this is just another problem for us to solve.”
Chris says the region already has all the skills and expertise it needs to be world leaders in leveraging technology to tackle climate change.
“We must start to focus on what we’re good at, not as what has defined us in the past. The way I see it, an oil and gas trucking company is not an oil and gas trucking company; they are logistics masterminds,” said Chris. “And an oil and gas exploration company, is so much more than an exploration company; they are data wizards with expertise in engineering and geology. We are a community of entrepreneurs and innovators that are hungry for success, and we just happen to be at ground-zero of a global transformation.”
“All it takes is one person and a computer to change the world,” said Chris. “And maybe some trees. We’re using this approach to make a big impact on our corner of it.”