Q&A with Dave Hochhalter of Wild + Pine
From innovative construction to sustainable management, ONE Properties is a committed leader in development sustainability. As property managers of YEG’s Airport Sustainability Campus, we share this interest with a YEG tenant at the forefront of environmental restoration and carbon removal. We recently spoke with Dave Hochhalter of Wild + Pine to get insight into what this unique company is doing to restore Alberta’s landscapes.
Q: What is Wild + Pine?
A: Wild + Pine is an environmental firm that helps organizations make an impact through the reforestation and restoration of Canadian landscapes. We bring companies together to leverage the potential of nature-based climate solutions.
Q: What are Wild + Pine’s projects?
A: Since 2011, Wild + Pine has been providing environmental services to the energy, forestry, and mining sectors. As our operations grew between 2011 and 2018, it became clear that there was a greater need for more infrastructure that supported the growth of tree seedlings.That’s what led to the creation of our Bioprism Advanced Vertical Greenhouse platform; with the first Bioprism facility commissioned in late 2020. We grow a wide variety of species year-round by utilizing a controlled indoor environment in a vertical growth system.
Bioprism provided our team with the ability to develop our own projects rather than solely serving industrial restoration needs and was the foundation to launch Wild + Pine Sustainability (WPS). WPS takes advantage of our expertise in forestry and environmental restoration and combines it with our own Bioprism-grown seedlings to carry out tangible and transparent climate action projects right here in our own backyard. Now in its third year, WPS has successfully implemented one project and is in the process of deploying our second project.
Our first project in 2021 was Forest B and was our first restoration project funded completely through voluntary action. We worked with 33 Canadian B Corps and the Nature Conservancy of Canada to bring necessary restoration work to a conservation site near Pine Lake, AB.
Our second project, StoneWoods Forest Carbon, builds upon what we learned with Forest B. With a larger footprint, StoneWoods has the scale to intersect with the carbon market, which brings a rigorous validation and verification process. The extra transparency and potential financing from the carbon market is a tremendous tool in expanding the role of restoration into global climate resiliency.
Q: What is the first step when you start a new project?
A: When we start a new project, the first thing we do is identify the ecosystem we are trying to restore. Our work seeks to rebuild habitats and that requires the planting of a community of species of varying trees, shrubs, and forbs. There are a lot of factors that go into the successful progression of a forest through its natural lifecycle and we hope to give our projects the best chance for success.
Q: Tell us about your partnerships.
A: Each partnership provides a complementary service and value to Wild + Pine. As a small business, many of the traditional operational burdens can create significant resistance to growth and innovation. Our partners enable us to turn our size into an advantage, allowing us to move fast and stay on the leading edge of climate action.
Q: Tell us about your partnership with YEG.
A: YEG has created an incredible ecosystem of businesses with their Airport City initiative, and in particular their Sustainability Campus that Wild + Pine is a part of. As Canada’s leading air-cargo hub, YEG attracts many different businesses and initiatives to the area allowing for greater exposure to a diverse range of collaborative opportunities.
Q: How is your space being utilized at YEG?
A: We have about 900 square feet office space and 3,500 square feet of warehouse operational space at Edmonton International Airport. Our space has been designed and outfitted to act as a demonstration space, a research lab, and operational base. The warehouse plays host to our pilot Bioprism facility that is a first-of-its-kind application for tree seedlings.
Q: Where does your passion come from?
A: Our passion comes for our love of Canadian nature, and the desire to restore and protect it for future generations.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A: Knowing that the work we do contributes to a livable planet for future generations. We are creating new forests that not only remove carbon from the air, but they create jobs, restore habitats and maintain biodiversity.
Q: Are there any unique challenges you face?
A: There are lots of misunderstandings about the work we do, who we do it for, and the different ecosystems that our work contributes to. Climate change is not just a problem facing large companies and governments, and they aren’t the only ones who can move us back in the right direction. Small businesses, households, and individuals hold a tremendous amount of capability when it comes to environmental impact. If we can educate and empower everyone from multi-national organizations to your neighbor across the street, we are hopeful for the future.
Q: Where do you see Wild + Pine in 5 years?
A: We see ourselves as one of the leaders in Canadian sustainability and nature-based climate solutions as a brand recognizable across the country for the work we do. We want to have a portfolio of voluntary restoration projects across Western Canada supported by a network of Bioprism greenhouses in communities local to those projects.