Building A Diverse Team One Employee At A Time
When Bryce Jones started Flash Forest, he didn’t realize that his idea for a reforestation company would inspire people around the world.
Bryce, and others, launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the Toronto and Vancouver-based start-up company that uses drones to replant trees in areas that have been devastated by forest fires. The team hoped to raise a total of $10,000. In less than a day, the campaign had received over $100,000 from people around the world.
“We were shocked by the response,” says Marc Apduhan, innovation and business development manager at Flash Forest. “Clearly, something about the way we were using technology to help the environment resonated with people.”
With the seed funding, Flash Forest was able to get its business off the ground, hiring a diverse team that includes employees such as Sheaza Ahmed, Wilhelm van Husen, and Aditya Rathod, who were hired with support from BioTalent Canada’s Skilled Newcomers Internship Program.
“I’m proud of the relentless energy and the unwavering focus that this team brings to the company’s mission of reforesting our planet,” says Ahmed, who is director of research and development at the company. “The passion for making a positive impact on the environment is evident in everyone on the team.”
Today, Flash Forest uses cutting-edge aerial drones to target and embed seed pods into the soil of areas that have experienced high-intensity forest fires. Areas typically too unsafe or uneconomical for humans to reforest. As Flash Forest tells it, demand for reforestation services is growing around the world due to climate change.
According to the Canadian National Fire Database, Canada experiences more than 8,000 wildfires each year that collectively burn an average of 2.1 million hectares of forested land annually – numbers that have steadily risen in the last 30 years.
In addition to fire devastation, Apduhan says that Flash Forest is seeing demand grow from governments and sustainable foresters that want to replenish areas where trees have been deforested.
Wilhelm van Husen, a plant scientist at Flash Forest, says he’s proud to be part of a rapidly growing team of 30 people who are spread across Canada and include biotechnologists, many of whom have PhDs and post-doctoral degrees.
Moving forward, Flash Forest wants to continue to scale its operations and has set some lofty goals for itself, including aiming to plant one billion trees by 2028. The company is scheduled to plant at least one million trees this spring alone.
With its goals in mind, Flash Forest is engaging with indigenous and remote communities that need to have the forests around their areas reforested.
“We’re a group of passionate climate activists,” says Kaleigh Bruijns, brand specialist at Flash Forest.
For his part, Apduhan says that Flash Forest is grateful for the support provided by BioTalent Canada. Apduhan has not forgotten his own participation in BioTalent Canada programs and continues to rely on it in his hiring practices today. He adds that BioTalent Canada inspired him to want to increase social impact.
Today, over 70% of Flash Forest’s workforce come from underrepresented groups and include women, newcomers, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. “We believe that diversity is a huge benefit to our work,” says Apduhan.
Flash Forest’s diverse team remains hard at work, perfecting its technology and the species of trees they plant. To date, the company has tested at least 22 different species of trees and planted nine species within the natural environment.
Aditya Rathod, who is Flash Forest’s financial director, says that building a team of enthusiastic go-getters that believe in the company’s climate mission has been key to their success.
“Our company culture is that we tackle challenges with dedication and enjoy the process along the way,” he says.