Reviving land makes businesses grow

How innovative companies make money by restoring forests and farmland

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Five years ago, Jurriann Ruys, a successful partner at management firm McKinsey in Amsterdam, did something his former colleagues could never have predicted. He quit, to help solve the problem of land degradation.

Nearly half of Earth’s forests have been cleared or degraded. This presents many global challenges, including collapsing biodiversity and loss of ecological function. Forests, which provide critical wildlife habitat and remove carbon from the atmosphere, continue to be threatened by human exploitation: every year, our planet loses an area of forest the size of Panama. One-quarter of agricultural lands are also under threat, under-producing at a time when population growth is driving higher demand for food. And as soil becomes infertile, the mostly poor communities who depend on the land are forced to migrate, fueling civil conflict.

But Ruys reckoned that a business opportunity lay hidden in the great challenge of land degradation, and he started Land Life to help restore the planet’s critical ecosystems. Land Life has developed a patented product called the Cocoon, a tube made of recycled paper pulp and coated with an organic wax to keep it watertight. According to the company, the Cocoon boosts survival rates of young trees from 10% to 90%, dramatically reducing water usage and costs compared to manual watering or irrigation, making it well suited to dry and severely degraded areas. Land Life, which provides a full suite of restoration services, from advising nurseries to collecting satellite data, has grown to 23 employees and has projects in 20 countries, with a special focus on the US, Mexico and China. 

Read the full article in The Guardian