Challenging Deforestation with New Heavy Machinery Technology

In the wake of a climate crisis, a third of our planet’s nature reserves are threatened by the activity of humans. Forests are an essential part of the Earth’s biodiversity and oxygen production, yet according to the FAO, the annual rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares in 2015-2020. A revolutionary new technology is aiming to fight this at its source, by targeting the machinery used in illegal logging operations.

Code of Conscience is an open-source software, restricting the use of heavy-duty machines in protected forests for illegal activities. The WWF defines the process of illegal logging as timber being “harvested, transported, processed, bought or sold in violation of national or sub-national laws”, and it can also occur when the land is being cleared for palm oil plantations. The ever-growing demand for paper, timber and palm oil is putting increasing pressure on our world’s precious ecosystems, which are maintained by forest reserves.

Logging operations causing deforestation

Code of Conscience is a self-described “cyber shield around natural reserves”. Using the United Nation World Database of Protected Areas, the Code of Conscience software combines data from protected areas and the geolocation of heavy-duty machinery, thus restricting machinery from entering areas where deforestation is illegal.

According to INTERPOL, illegal logging accounts for 50-90% of all forestry activities in key tropical forests, i.e. the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia. Around 15-30% of all wood traded globally is illegally logged. These shocking statistics evoke questions of who is at fault. Code of Conscience are urging the plant manufacturing industry to take action, and to take more responsibility to stop illegal logging.


The software is free to download or otherwise available as a chip to be retrofitted in older machinery. Code of Conscience is an IoT (Internet of Things) device, which cuts the switch providing the machine’s fuel supply upon entering a restricted area, consequently stopping the machine in its tracks. The GPS technology is able to monitor the location of the machine, while the database of protected areas is constantly updated via 4G (or otherwise from cached data). As most plant machinery made today already comes with this technology, Code of Conscience can be implemented with no further need to change the machine’s design. Their hope for the future is that the leading equipment manufacturers will be on board with their idea, and that the Code of Conscience will be installed in all new machinery before leaving the factory. With our climate under threat, it is more important than ever to work with the plant manufacturing industry, and to take accountability for the way these machines can be used.

The agency of human behaviour is difficult to police, but Code of Conscience is opening up a new discussion about what role the heavy machinery industry plays in the destruction of our planet’s natural resources, and how they are able to intervene. It is difficult to track how many people are logging in protected forests, but if more major plant manufacturers took up this technology, the change could start with heavy machinery itself.

Read more about this in the next issue of Plant Planet.

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