case

NRD sets a new standard for sustainable forestry on Google Cloud

Case

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About NRD

NRD (Natural Resources Development S.A.) is a Liechtenstein based company specialized in sustainable forest management. They have large areas of forest in Liberia (440.000 hectare) and Brazil (430.000 hectare) which are maintained in a sustainable way ensuring a “green investment” for its shareholders.

NRD has divided their areas of forest in blocks of one square kilometer. Only once in 25 years some of the largest trees of a block will be taken out, allowing the area to grow new trees. Part of the benefits will be shared with the local society. This model will guarantee the preservation of the forest in a sustainable way, provides a fair share to the stakeholders and blocks incentives to cut large areas of forest for short term gains.

The harvesting process is strictly regulated by the respective local governments. For the cutting of each tree the government has to approve and NRD needs to provide a so-called chain of custody to prove that the wood is truly harvested from a sustainably managed forest and with the right permissions from the government. This means that every link in the chain, from the cutting to the finished product, needs to be tracked and traced. NRD took the decision to digitize all these processes and form a strategic partnership with Vanenburg to develop solutions for this purpose. This includes solutions for tracking forest operations, financial management, logistics and fleet management. With this software solution NRD wants to set a new standard in compliance management for sustainable forestry which can be used effectively to protect many more forests in the world.

Challenges

Registrations needed to be done in the field with difficult  offline situations. Many validations were brought in place to check data at the source requiring huge volumes of accurate data being preloaded on the device. Synchronisation had to be robust in situations with  instable bandwidth and low internet coverage. The former Filemaker based system was not able to do this in a scalable manner.

Vanenburg was tasked to solve the following challenges:

  • Provide simple and foolproof user interface which can even be used by illiterate field workers
  • Working in isolated areas with no internet connection
  • Secure compliancy for chain of custody and offer track and trace features
  • Integration of operations, finance and logistics processes
  • On- and offline availability for the solution

Solutions

A hybrid mobile app has been developed for usage in the field to register all enumeration, felling, extracting, crosscutting and transportation activities. The back office application is meant for data management and support of compliance processes. The entire solution is running on Google Compute Engine, with the data stored in a managed Google Cloud SQL instance. Google Data Studio and Google Sheets are used to generate reports on top of the data. The result is a fully integrated platform that supports the data management required for the logistics and compliance of the operations.

The system is running successfully for 3 years now and used to register enumeration, felling, extracting, crosscutting, transportation and sales activities in a reliable and compliant manner for more than 500.000 hectares of rainforest. Vanenburg is also responsible for further maintenance of the system, performing cloud operations and supporting the daily operations of NRD.

Key benefits of the solution

  • Low threshold for using the mobile app and enter data accurately
  • Works offline, and synchronizes with cloud based platform later
  • Lower operational costs
  • Real time insight in all operations, reporting, and the chain of custody

The same approach can be taken for all use cases where a robust and dedicated solution for data gathering in the field needs to be provided together with a web application for real-time insight, further administrative processing and integrations with other core applications.

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