An entrepreneur from India has developed a “tiny forest” system that is winning over cities, neighbourhoods and businesses around the world.
Shubhendu Sharma is the founder of Afforestt, an Indian company that creates “super” forests that are maintenance-free and very-low cost (a few hundred dollars). To do this, he developed an approach to stimulate the reforestation process: he creates tiny forests that grow quickly due to a careful selection of plant species and a multi-layer planting technique. As an example, in an area equivalent to six parking spots, it’s possible to grow a dense forest with 300 trees in a short amount of time.
These forests grow up to 10 times faster, are 30 times denser and are 100 times more biodiverse than natural forests. These tiny forests can also be easily planted in all sorts of places and environments, including residential neighbourhoods, factories or schoolyards.
Sharma came up with this idea while working as an industrial engineer at Toyota. He met Dr. Akira Miyawaki, a Japanese botanist who is an expert in plant ecology. For Sharma, this meeting ignited a passion that inspired him to learn this methodology and join the doctor’s team as a volunteer.
Once he learned the method, he started to develop a forest in his own backyard. After two years, he noticed that the zone of saturation no longer dried up in the summer, that the number of bird species had doubled and the air quality had improved. This success gave him the confidence to try creating forests using the same approach that Toyota uses to build cars: he therefore developed a standardized process modelled after Toyota’s famous Lean production system.
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Given the many problems resulting from deforestation, urbanization and climate change, Afforestt’s tiny forests are attracting a lot of positive attention around the world: similar projects have been developed in The Netherlands, Singapore and Iran. Since the company was founded in 2011, 96 tiny forests, with a total of over 355,000 trees, have been created in 34 cities. Afforestt is also now offering its open-source methodology online to help anyone interested in planting their own tiny forest.