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Spanish Wildfire Sparked by Blockchain-powered Autonomous Tree Planters, Again

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: July 21, 2022
A blockchain-powered autonomous tree planting company sparked one of the wildfires that has destroyed 115 square miles in Spain in only a few days.
Aerial footage of the wildfire in Ateca, Spain. Multiple wildfires have caused 115 sq. miles of terrain to burn in only a few days. The Ateca blaze was sparked by a contractor for a blockchain-powered tree planting company operating a backhoe during the peak of afternoon heat against recommendations. (Image: Zaragoza Provincial Council via YouTube Screenshot)

A self-described “technology-driven reforestation company” relying on the much-hyped blockchain technology has sparked a wildfire in Spain that has contributed to the incineration of 30,000 hectares (115 sq. miles approx.) in only a matter of days.

Spanish news outlet Heraldo reported on July 20 that a company called Land Life was facing heat from a local mayor after a subcontractor conducting mechanized tree planting during the middle of the day amid Europe’s unprecedented heatwave sparked a massive wildfire in Ateca. 

The catch is, it isn’t the first time Land Life has started a fire. 

The article explained that a backhoe digging trees around 4:00 p.m. on July 18 sparked the blaze, which has become serious enough that several towns have had to evacuate.

Just a month ago on June 20, Land Life sparked a similar file in the same area that caused 20 hectares (0.07 sq. miles approx.) to burn, but the company continued work in the area undeterred.

Mayor of Bubierca, Antonio Borque, told the outlet, “It is not good that it happens once and that they continue working,” according to Google Translate. 

“The Government of Aragon, instead of recommending that the activity cease, should have prohibited it, because there is time to repopulate these hills, where fire breaks out as soon as they throw iron on the stone.”

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According to the Land Life website, the company is headquartered in the Netherlands, with offices in the United States and Spain and says its mission is to provide corporations and organizations “a sustainable and transparent way to take climate action and compensate carbon emissions through nature restoration” using “data and technology, such as drones, artificial intelligence and monitoring applications, to every step of the planting process.”

A 2018 Press Release announcing the firm had obtained Series A funding stated its “patented planting technologies” showcase “autonomous planting, remote monitoring and blockchain verification.”

The Technology portion of the company’s website explains that when it plants trees it uses drones to create a map before a “GPS enabled automated-planting system to drive speed and efficiency in the field” is deployed. 

Afterwards, GPS and drones are deployed to track the trees once they grow to 1 meter high. After the trees are five years old, the company uses satellites.

“All of the data is stored in our database, which is used for further analyses and creating a continuous feedback loop,” they state.

The company posted a Statement to its website, in Spanish only, where Land Life Director of Spain and Portugal Francisco Purroy stated the company is “devastated and devastated.”

Purroy said the work was justified and conducted “in accordance with local regulations and following strict preventive measures to deal with the increased risk due to extreme conditions of drought and heat.”

However, Heraldo stated that Purroy conceded in the letter that the company was advised to not conduct work amid the drought due to fire risk, and was forced to admit, “Due to what happened, it is clear that one should not have been working at that time in that place.”

Although Land Life has been incorrectly accused of starting the entire fire by some English-language online media reports, a July 19 article by Spanish media outlet SUR in English explained that the Ateca fire has only consumed about 1,000 hectares (3.86 sq. miles approx) “and was, reportedly, still raging out of control.”

Although the particular blaze is relatively small, the outlet explained it is one among at least 6 other fires that have torched 30,000 hectares in a matter of days. 

This chain of fires amounts to almost half of the nearly 70,000 hectares lost to wildfires this year.

The Ateca fire alone, is, however, significant enough that it has been picked up by NASA’s MODIS that is equipped to the Aqua Satellite and available for view on the web.

July 20 reporting by Madrid Actual explained that the blaze has caused the suspension of train service between Madrid and Catalonia.

Aerial footage posted by the Zaragoza Provincial Council of the blaze and republished on YouTube show fires burning out of control and consuming fresh territory.

Spanish President Pedro Sanchez toured the wildfires on July 20, reported Presna Latina, calling on citizens and businesses to exercise caution. 

Sanchez attributed the blaze to “climate change.”