Helveta, a company based in Oxford, has developed a unique system that ‘barcodes’ forests, allowing timber buyers and governments to detect when trees are being chopped down illegally. The technology will help prevent deforestation and has been developed as forthcoming EU regulations will force buyers of timber to demonstrate they have not bought from forests not legally permitted to be harvested.
Helveta was established in 2004 and is run by chief executive Patrick Newton. The company specialises in technology and systems that allow companies to track every item in their supply chain.
This technology could have real benefits for the forestry industry, and the key benefit is the transparency it offers. Barcodes and radio tags can be attached to each individual tree, and then linked to GPS and other satellite-mapping tools. Forestry watchdogs and international buyers are then able to ensure the timber they have purchased comes from a legal source.
Newton commented: “If [the wood] doesn’t have the tag or the audit trail attached to it, they will know it is probably illegal.”
Stamping out illegal logging has become something of an international concern. Brussels is expected to introduce regulations that would ban the importing of illegal timber within the next few months, while in America the Lacey Act, which originally targeted illegal game trafficking, has been extended to cover illegal logging.