Wild about forestry innovation and technology
Founder and CEO of Wild + Pine, Chris Kallal, received the Spirit of NAIT Award for his leadership in Canadian climate action, passion for sustainability and transformative approach to doing business.
Growing up in Edmonton and extensively exploring Canada’s national parks, Chris Kallal (Forest Technology '10) gravitated toward environmental stewardship from an early age.
“Our Canadian identity is defined by nature, so that’s really in the hands of foresters,” says Chris, founder and CEO of Wild + Pine, an Alberta company committed to delivering a sustainable, innovative approach to land reclamation and strategic natural resource management. “I want to bring an unrelenting sense of creativity and curiosity to hopefully solve some of the [environmental] challenges we’re facing.”
Dedicated to environmental stewardship
After graduating from NAIT’s Forest Technology program, Chris was driven to use his skills to create positive environmental impact. In 2011, at just 21 years old, he co-founded NiKal Environmental Solutions to offer land reclamation and reforestation services, all while completing his Bachelor of Science in Forestry at the University of Alberta.
“I was in my second year of university, lining up contracts while trying to balance schoolwork and business as best I could,” he says.
In 2017, Chris says he recognized an opportunity to lead the generational shift of foresters into a more advanced and technology-driven industry and rebranded his company as Wild + Pine. Their goal: to engage businesses to build forests and create thriving habitats to offset carbon production in support of achieving net-zero emissions.
“We didn’t want to be considered as just another oil and gas contractor anymore,” he says. “The rebrand was very much part of our creative process and kind of identity-finding. It was also very much an effort to diversify our business.”
Among their first clients was NAIT’s Centre for Boreal Research, offering insights and advice on reforestation projects. The centre works with industry and communities to support best management practices and reclamation of the boreal forest.
An Alberta-made company
Working in the heart of industrial development across Canada is something Chris says he is extremely proud of as a born and raised Albertan — but it comes with some unique challenges that he is determined to overcome.
“It’s made Wild + Pine and it’s made me the business owner that I am today,” he says. “But we are selling a service that is very polarizing. It’s very challenging when Albertans hear ‘carbon’ and they think ‘carbon tax.’ It’s polarizing, it’s political and that’s a tough barrier to overcome."
Leaders in innovation
Wild + Pine’s innovation-driven approach led to the creation of the Bioprism Advanced Vertical Greenhouse facility. Located at Edmonton International Airport's Airport City Sustainability Campus, it’s the first commercial facility of its kind in Canada for native tree and shrub seedling production.
With a 365-day per year growing season they can produce triple the crops of a typical growing season. More plants mean greater flexibility in project development and future carbon removals. This technology has caught the attention of business and political leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who toured the facility last April.
“As a small business, to build something that would get the interest of our prime minister, the leader of a G7 nation, it is an incredible accomplishment,” Chris says.
Another proud moment for Chris was Wild + Pine achieving B Corp certification in 2021 for balancing profit with purpose and his company’s exceptional impact on environment, workers and governance.
Chris was named an emerging leader for 2023 as part of the Canada Clean50, an annual award that recognizes 50 individuals or teams who have made significant contributions to sustainability. But he’s only just begun.
“Innovation is part of my DNA,” Chris says. “We are going to continue to create things and build things that are really important to our work and to our community.”
Spirit of NAIT
The Spirit of NAIT Alumni Award is awarded to alumni who have made exceptional advances or achievements in their career within 12 years of graduation.
Story photos supplied by Chris Kallal.
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