Populus3D: Digital innovation in the forestry industry

ProPopulus Team

In an effort to drive innovation in the forestry sector and enhance productivity in poplar cultivation, the University of León (ULE) has established a fruitful collaboration with Garnica, and its Research Group DRACONES. This partnership is part of the European project DIGIS3, which aims to promote the European Hub for Digital Innovation in Castilla y León. The main objective is to transfer the Populus3D tool to the forestry industry, an innovative system that utilizes 3D laser scanning technology to digitize and analyze poplar plantations with great precision.

Populus3D relies on the capture of 3D data using a mobile laser scanner, which enables the creation of dense point clouds that reconstruct each standing tree in a poplar plantation. This process generates an accurate digital twin of the entire plantation, facilitating detailed calculations of crucial variables, such as the total volume of wood in each tree, its height, diameter, and the usable wood volume required to produce specific industry-demanded timber.

This project represents a significant advancement for the forestry industry, as it replaces manual and subjective inventory methods with an operational, fast, cost-effective, and objective process. By digitizing and analyzing plantations with such precision, Populus3D provides valuable information to forest managers, potentially improving the efficiency and sustainability of the poplar industry.

The collaboration between the University of León and Garnica under the DIGIS3 project also involves validating and fine-tuning the methodology through field measurements of wood volume, ensuring the reliability of the obtained results. This initiative is pioneering in Spain within the poplar sector, and the first phase of the project, known as Smart Forestry, is expected to conclude in October 2023, followed by further validation in poplar plantations with varying characteristics in 2024.

In addition to the ongoing activities, the DIGIS3 project includes an advanced workshop scheduled for September 2023, where the DRACONES Research Group will provide training on the available 3D technologies for quantifying and estimating standing poplar wood volume. This workshop will encompass both theoretical classroom training, covering fundamentals and practical cases, and on-field data collection using near remote sensing sensors, such as the mobile laser scanner. The training is expected to continue in the following years, delving into the use of technologies like the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence for poplar plantation monitoring.

It’s worth noting that the collaboration between the University of León and Garnica is not new, as researchers from the School of Agricultural and Forestry Engineering at the Campus de Ponferrada have been working together since 2022 on projects aimed at transferring knowledge along the poplar value chain. Some of these initiatives include the free Chopo4D growth and production simulator and the AppPopuli and AppPopuli+ applications, which allow users to report damages in poplar plantations and identify their causes using only photographs taken with a mobile device.

In summary, the collaboration between ULE and Garnica through the Populus3D project under DIGIS3 represents a significant advancement in the forestry industry, promoting digitization and the implementation of advanced technologies to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of poplar production. This initiative will not only have a positive impact on the local industry but will also position itself as a national reference in the poplar sector, paving the way for a promising future in Smart Forestry and the application of cutting-edge technologies in forest management.

What's going on