REVIEWED COMMENTARY: FACTORY-GROWN WOOD, THE FUTURE OF FORESTRY?
Recent developments in factory-grown foods suggest that factory-grown wood (FGW) may be on the horizon. In fact, recent work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology introduces tunable plant-based materials, an early indicator of what may evolve into a new source of raw material for forest sector companies, and others. Industry and academia would be wise to monitor developments in this field as they may present significant opportunities and/or adjustments for both. We explore the state-of-the-art in this budding area of science and contemplate implications of successfully growing wood or other lignocellulosic materials in factories. Given a changing climate and focus on carbon emissions, the pressure to drastically reduce CO2 production will continue climb. Could reduction of their footprint via FGW be an important part of this equation for forest sector companies, going beyond the need to “make every tree count”? In other words, might FGW present an environmental and climate protection breakthrough? Or might it simply trade forest-based environmental impacts for others? What other consequences does FGW promise for companies? And, what might it mean for wood science programs, critical suppliers of research & development and skilled employees for the industry? We explore each of these questions and contemplate potential actions and outcomes.
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