Lanworth uses satellite tools to estimate biomass supplies

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy
Biomass resources in a given area can be ascertained via satellite, thanks to technology developed by Itasca, Ill.-based Lanworth Inc. The information technology company specializes in the application of aerial and satellite remote sensing for natural resources management, as well as geographic information system (GIS) analysis, digitization and software development. Its technology is individualized for the agriculture, real estate, electricity and gas, transportation, government, and academia sectors, and the data can be updated daily.

The company was founded in 2000 under the name Forest One Inc. Fittingly, it focused on timber supply studies, GIS-based land management systems, due diligence on land acquisitions, and higher- and better-use analyses. It recently expanded its forestry focus to include woody biomass resources. Previously, companies in the forest products industry had used the technology to estimate pulp and timber volumes. "Now, we added another module that will help clients figure how much woody biomass can be extracted beyond sawmill and pulp extractions," said Shailu Verma, vice president of Lanworth. "It has been a natural extension for us to deploy our tools to organizations pursuing wood-pellet plants, biomass boilers, cellulosic ethanol or other woody biomass-based facilities."

Using data of global forest covers that date back to the 1970s, Lanworth tracks forest cover growth and can estimate the trajectory of growth of any forest in the world, according to Verma. "Then we build proprietary models that can tell us how much woody biomass is available," he said. The models use soil, elevation, slope, wetlands and other data layers to estimate extraction costs, as well as the total delivered cost of fiber to a processing site. The models also show the environmental impacts of additional biomass harvesting. "I believe we can help make these significant investment decisions, which not only have an important impact on the economics of fiber supply in a region, but also help manage the region's environmental balance," Verma said.