Oxford-based Helveta has developed a system that tracks timber through its complex supply chain and enables its source to be verified in a move to help wipe out the global illegal timber trade.
Illegal logging is recognised as a major contributor to climate change. Deforestation and the degradation of forests is estimated to account for 17 per cent of global CO2 emissions and estimates of the extent of illegal logging range from 12 per cent to 17 per cent of the global timber trade.
National and international regulations have been evolving steadily in response to these issues. However, unique challenges exist in the monitoring and control of complicated timber supply chains – often in geographically and politically challenging environments – and in being able to prove that timber has been legally and sustainably sourced.
Helveta’s solution involves the attachment of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to trees when they are in the forest and mapping the boundaries of permitted logging areas using GPS devices. The Helveta software then enables the real-time tracking of any harvested timber as it progresses through different points in the supply chain, such as saw mills, to the point of exit from a country.
The software can ensure that no illegally harvested timber is introduced into the supply chain, allowing a real-time electronic inventory and audit trail to be created, avoiding errors that can be introduced through paper-based systems.
The company is currently deploying the software in Liberia, South Africa, Bolivia and Ghana and plans to soon enter other central African countries for whom the European Union is a key market. The company is also exploring potential applications in agriculture and livestock tracking.
It recently raised £1m in a second funding round from Carbon Trust Investments, Oxford Capital Partners, Albion Venture and Success Europe to support the further development and deployment of its software.