June 13, 2002
Aquatic Cellulose Uses Robotic Technology to Harvest Trees Underwater
by William Baue
Canadian company offers an environment-friendly alternative to traditional forestry and a socially
responsible alternative to other forms of underwater tree harvesting.
Trees play an integral role in the global ecosystem by absorbing carbon dioxide and emitting
oxygen. Trees also, however, are a vital resource for economic growth. This creates a dilemma.
One possible solution is harvesting trees that no longer absorb carbon dioxide or emit oxygen. But
where could such trees be found?
"In reservoirs behind many dams around the world,
you will find millions of acres of forest that were never cleared prior to flooding. No longer
living, these woods are beautifully preserved in the fresh water," said Michael Lacy, manager of
Investor Relations for British Columbia-based Aquatic Cellulose International Corporation
Aquatic Cellulose (ACQI) went public in 1997 to exploit this timber,
which represents an environment-friendly alternative to cutting live trees. Although this is not a
new concept, Aquatic Cellulose pioneered a novel approach. Other methods of underwater forestry
risk the safety of divers. Aquatic Cellulose uses a patented robotic technology called the Aquatic
Timber Harvester (ATH). The ATH enables safe and efficient recovery of underwater timber without
divers, which is a first in the industry.
Currently, the ATH-60 enables Aquatic Cellulose
to harvest timber at depths of up to 60 feet. A new model, the ATH-120, will double this reach.
The company is in the final stages of software development.
"The ATH-120 represents a
significant evolution in our technology," Mr. Lacy told SocialFunds.com. "We have upgraded the
system software to enhance operating performance, expanded underwater reach capabilities to over
120 feet, and widened load capacity to enable harvest of timbers up to six feet in diameter. The
ATH-120 will allow us to safely harvest virtually all of the more than 400,000 acres of timber
inundated at Tucurui Reservoir [in Brazil]."
In January, Aquatic Cellulose bought out
ECOMAB, the joint venture the company created with the Brazilian company Sulpam Maderias to log the
underwater rainforest at Tucurui Reservoir.
"The acquisition gives ACQI 100 percent
control of our timber leases at Tucurui Reservoir and all resulting revenue from sales," said Mr.
Lacy. "Additionally, we have removed logistical barriers to substantially improve our efficiency
and enhance our production capabilities. The ECOMAB project at Tucurui is roughly valued at $1
In April 2001, Aquatic Cellulose entered into an exclusive supply agreement with
Milwaukee-based Timber Holdings Ltd. (THL) for its total production of underwater harvested Ipe
hardwood. THL placed orders totaling more than $1.5 million, a portion of which is for a boardwalk
reconstruction project at Asbury Park in New Jersey. This decking installation is currently in the
second of three phases, according to Mr. Lacy.
ACQI's stock price has been steadily
climbing this year, closing yesterday at $0.08 after opening in January at $0.01. The stock price
reached its peak at $1.28 two years ago, in April 2000.
While the environmental benefits
of underwater forestry are evident, Aquatic Cellulose's operations offer significant social
benefits as well. Besides protecting employee safety by harvesting the trees remotely, Aquatic
Cellulose supports the local economy in Brazil through its Micro-Industry Program.
"Micro-Industry is a unique economic and social program designed to assist low-income families,
maximize efficient use of indigenous forest resources, and significantly enhance our revenue," Mr.
Lacy told SocialFunds.com. "Working with local communities, Aquatic Cellulose will partner with
education and economic agencies to provide the tools, training, and ongoing support for local
families to create successful home-based businesses. Each business will craft useful and
interesting products from the hardwoods harvested by Aquatic Cellulose."
In the future,
Aquatic Cellulose plans to stockpile reserves of salvaged underwater timber to ensure its future
stability and generate long-term growth.