If Shubhendu Sharma could have his way, this blue planet would very quickly be transformed into a green expanse. The founder of Afforest, a three year old company, Shubhendu works towards reforestation and bringing back greenery into urban spaces. Afforestt can create dense forests with three to five trees per square metre, in areas as small as 1,000 square feet, just within three years, using a unique process called the Miyawaki Method.
“All this started when I was working at Toyota four years ago where I met Dr Akira Miyawaki, who gave a presentation about the afforestation methodology (known as the Miyawaki Method) which makes forests grow ten times faster. I was fascinated with his work and joined his team as a volunteer to cultivate a forest in our Toyota factory premises,” says Shubhendu, who was recently taken in as a TED fellow for 2014.
Although they’ve been around for three years, Shubhendu feels that it’s difficult to get takers for this concept. “The problem is that even today there’s no real market for what we do. Our very first challenge was to find our first customer, which ended up being a furniture company in Stuttgart, who said they’d plant a tree for every piece of furniture that they sell, which worked out quite well,” he says. Over the course of the last three years, the company has grown forests for residential as well as corporate clients in cities like Delhi, Uttaranchal, Bangalore, Nainital, Indore, Pune and more. The team has already planted 36000 trees and hopes to bring back about 30 percent of total forest cover India needs to balance its ecology.
The company provides two kinds of services: consultations and end to end services, the latter of which is only provided in Bangalore. The consultations involves giving information and training to the client, who will in turn execute the process; whereas in end to end service, the team takes care of everything from recce of the area to planting saplings.
Shubhendu now plans to dedicate the rest of the year to research and development to take afforestation to a wider base, while shifting administrative duties of the company to someone else for a while. “I want to enable anyone and everyone to take up afforestation. I would like to build a new platform to spread the message. I’m also working along with a California based company Soil IQ, where we’re developing hardware that will allow us to test soil through a probe, which is now usually done through lab tests,” he explains.
Shubhendu is also looking at creating forests in public spaces. “So instead of having parks with green lawns, you can walk through dense forests. This will, however, only work out if the public contributes small amounts of money, so they can see greener spaces in their everyday environment,” he says.