Former Microsoft CEO to drive high-tech global land restoration efforts

Drone tree planting ecosystem restoration at Land Life Company

Courtesy of Land Life Company

Coming January, Amsterdam-based tree planting venture Land Life Company is welcoming the current CEO of Microsoft Netherlands, Ernst-Jan Stigter, as its new CEO. The news is accompanied by the announcement of a successful €6 million funding round that will ‘push the company to the next level’.

Land Life Company enables businesses to offset their carbon emissions by planting trees and restoring lands struck by desertification, wildfires, and drought. Since 2013, the company has planted millions of trees and sequestered hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide.

In its aim to help restore the world’s two billion hectares of degraded land, the company has partnered with likes of LeasePlan and Nefit Bosch, whose customers benefit from CO2 compensation for their use of lease cars and boilers.

The recent funding round by Achmea Innovation Fund, Meewind, DOEN Participaties and the Grantham Environmental Trust illustrates the growing interest in Land Life’s high-tech tree planting method, which is driven by drones, satellites, big data, and artifical intelligence.

“Ernst-Jan Stigter will use this investment to push the company up to the next level in the coming years,” says Jurriaan Ruys, the company’s current CEO. “This is great news for all stakeholders of Land Life Company, as well as local communities where nature is being restored.”

While Land Life Company stands to benefit from the new investors’ expertise, its investors understand the potential of its highly efficient approach to land restoration and carbon offsetting.

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“Land Life Company has an ambitious mission and uses technology to create a continuous improvement loop,” says Katharina Maass, Achmea’s Innovation Fund Manager. “The cooperation with Land Life Company is also valuable because we are starting to develop customer propositions with them. Carbon removal will become more and more important in the coming years for companies, institutions and individuals.”

Indeed, while still relatively small, the global carbon offset market has tripled in the past three years and is estimated to continue its upward trajectory. Estimates are that the market could be worth $200 billion by 2050, as a growing number of companies and governments are buying voluntary carbon credits in order to achieve net-zero emissions.

Ernst-Jan Stigter, who joined Microsoft in 2004, says he is “looking forward to making an active and impactful contribution to the sustainability and livelihood of our planet together with the entire Land Life Company team.”

“After a career of 25 years in the tech sector, I want to commit the second half of my working life to this mission and to make sure we apply technology in an optimal way and create a better world for everyone.”

– Ernst-Jan Stigter, current CEO of Microsoft Netherlands

Land Life’s restoration projects range from the Wind Wolves Preserve in California to overgrazed areas in northern Spain, and from degraded lands in Australia to the creation of a Green Refugee Camp in Cameroon.

In the refugee camp, the company not only restores soils and ecosystems, but also creates sustainable food production systems, provides jobs and training opportunities, and develops eco-friendly cooking and building alternatives.

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Land Life Company and other businesses in the land restoration field are emerging at a time at which preventing and reversing worldwide ecosystem degradation is more urgent than ever. For a good reason, the United Nations have announced the coming ten years the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

The UN lists ten actions that power a wide-scale restoration strategy, one of which is financing restoration on the ground: “While the benefits of restoration far outweigh the costs, initial investments in the magnitude of billions are needed. Governments, international lenders, development agencies and private business will all have to ramp up their support.”

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