Innovative Agroforestry Planning Tool Recently Released By Hawaii Team Helps Users Visualise Their Diverse Plantings Grow
The Agroforestry Design Tool helps users select species and a planting pattern, as well as presenting dynamic visualisation
Two long-standing Hawaii-based agroforestry innovators, Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR) and Forest Agriculture Research Center (FARM Center) announce the launch of a free online platform called the Agroforestry Design Tool.
This tool and associated webinars were developed in consultation with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) under an ongoing Conservation Innovation Grant to assist planners and growers in developing agroforestry plans.
Integrating several types of plants together into a multi-layer system has been proven to give growers several advantages including greater productivity, resilience to weather extremes, and building soil. However, planning a multi-layer forest can prove challenging because there are many options in plant spacing and species selection.
The project’s co-founder Dr. Craig Elevitch of Holualoa, Hawaii Island notes, “The roots of the Agroforestry Design Tool lie in the indigenous agricultural systems of Hawaii and elsewhere throughout the Pacific Islands and tropical world. The tool assists people who are aware of the benefits of agroforestry and would like to customize an agroforest for their particular site and goals in an easy-to-follow framework.”
The Agroforestry Design Tool guides the user in selecting from a range of planting patterns suitable for multistory agroforestry. The user can then select species from a list of more than 200 fruit, nut, timber, native, and culturally significant plants from throughout the Pacific Islands (Hawaii, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa, and Marshall Islands). Because pruning is especially significant when growing fruit crops together harmoniously, the user can also specify if and how much their selected plants will be pruned. Finally, the tool provides visualizations and an animation of the growth of the user’s agroforest, as well as a summary report in pdf format.
“Multistory agroforestry plantings continually change as they grow, so it takes time to learn how they work. We spent over 18 months distilling decades of knowledge into a form that is easy to follow and understand. It can be used to learn how agroforests change over time and to help build a successful implementation plan,” states co-developer Neil Logan.
The tool also assists users in meeting standards for multistory agroforestry set by USDA NRCS and in meeting a standard for regenerative agroforestry. Both of these standards set a high bar for the number of species included in a planting, as well as the number of individual trees and shrubs planted. In choosing to meet these standards, the user can surpass a goal of sustainability to reach a regenerative system, one that improves growing conditions year after year.
In addition to the online tool launch, PAR and FARM Center will hold two free webinars to introduce the tool and its use. The webinars will present the advantages of multistory agroforestry and demonstrate the tool using specific examples. The webinars will be held on Wednesday, December 2 and Wednesday, January 13 at 1:00–3:00 pm Hawaii time.
To register, visit AgroforestryX.com and click on the “Support” tab for instructions. For more information on the Agroforestry Design Tool and to register for the free webinars, visit AgroforestryX.com.