AI Technology Helps Garment Factories Eliminate Deforestation

Pioneering Artificial Intelligence technology is helping Cambodia’s garment and textile industry cut down on their potential contribution to deforestation by identifying the origins of wood sources at factory gates.
A factory worker using WoodAI app on wood (Photo: supplied)
A factory worker using WoodAI app on wood (Photo: supplied)

An innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has launched to help garment and textile factories reduce their potential contribution to deforestation.

H&M Group and WWF in Cambodia have joined forces to develop Wood Artificial Intelligent (WoodAi) Application. The app uses pioneering technology to test the origins of wood sourced to produce power.

“The WoodAI App can quickly identify wood species and can further support garment factories in tackling the lack of information around biomass sourcing,” said WWF in its news release this week.

It added, “The app enables wood species to be identified using only a smartphone and a macro lens at the factory gate, helping factories to verify that the wood they source for power generation is from H&M Group approved residues of plantation species like mango and cashew, which are less likely to contribute to deforestation.”

At the WoodAi launch, WWF-Cambodia’s Country Director, Seng Teak, said,

“WWF’s mission in Cambodia is to conserve the country’s rich biological diversity. The forests of Cambodia remain relatively contiguous and contain a large diversity of threatened species.”

He stated that WWF “look out for new and innovative technology like this WoodAI app, as it can play a role in helping to address some of the pressures threating our natural forests”.

Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State to the Ministry of Environment, at the launch event (Photo: supplied)
Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State to the Ministry of Environment, at the launch event (Photo: supplied)

“We appreciate this innovative initiative by WWF and H&M Group, and welcome H&M Group’s commitments to address climate change and reduce pressures on natural forests through its production chains,” said Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State to the Ministry of Environment (MoE), at the launch.

“The WoodAi App represents an important contribution to addressing some of the drivers that are causing deforestation. The Ministry encourages other clothing brands to follow this example and also support efforts to save natural forests and wildlife for the long-term benefit of people and nature,” he added.

Providing factories with the technology to make better decisions is an active step to contribute to reducing the pressures on forests, protecting the rich biodiversity and stabilising the global climate.

This is particularly key in the fashion sector, where the energy used to produce clothing is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. This energy is used in processes such as washing and ironing of clothing, and has traditionally come from coal, gas and biomass, such as wood.

“It is exciting to pilot this new technology in Cambodia and find new ways to work with suppliers that can help reduce negative impacts on Cambodia’s natural forests,” said Christer Horn af Aminne, Country Manager for H&M Group in Cambodia.

When used in combination with other solutions, the WoodAi app can provide an important resource to support the efforts needed in Cambodia to responsibly manage plantations and forests. H&M Group aims for projects like this to play a part in its broader efforts to help forest ecosystems stay healthy and continue storing CO2.

Reducing deforestation is critical for keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5C, and therefore also essential for H&M Group’s goal to achieve net-zero by 2040.