Freegro™ began after John Kendall, in his capacity as a Registered Professional Forester, did an audit in 1997 on a failed plantation for a forest company on Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). He observed that browse pressure on Haida Gwaii and other islands and areas that had prey-predator imbalances (i.e. no predators and introduced prey such as deer and rabbits) could be very intense and that, at that time, the physical barriers being used had significant problems that effected their efficacy. He started doing initial design and development work that was followed by full scale product development and research (https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/wvf.1e1.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/BC-Forest-Ext-Note-2005.pdf ). He focused on developing a fully nested tree protector adapted to the climatic conditions, tree species light requirements and soil conditions. He used strong, UV resistant, high density polyethylene fabric material and high quality 9 and/or 10-gauge steel wire that was configured into a friction grip clip that allowed for easy installation and very fast recovery for reuse. He contracted out some of the initial prototype work to a Prince Rupert BC machine shop and eventually gave that company (known later as Certified Plant Shelters) a manufacturing license. Full-scale manufacturing began in the year 2000 after a state-of-the art manufacturing facility.
Freegro™ was used extensively on the BC Coast and the Appalachian Region of Eastern North America from 2000 to 2010. The owner of Certified Plant Shelters became ill shortly after and production slowed down and was halted in 2011. By that time close to 1 million Freegro™ tree shelters had come off the Certified Plant Shelter line and were protecting seedlings from Tasmania to Scotland. Many of those shelters are still in use with some protecting more than 5 successive plantations over 15 years
The New Chapter with Cowichan Tribes
After a hiatus of 5 years, John Kendall, began doing more demonstration work with recovered tree shelters and started discussion in 2018 with the Cowichan Tribes of Duncan BC on the potential of a partnership on manufacturing Freegro™. In July 2019, the two parties agreed to form a LLP partnership to manufacture a new generation of Freegro™ shelters now called Khowutzun Freegro™ tree shelters. The manufacturing equipment was acquired from Certifed Plant Shelters and moved to the Quamichan Big House of the Qu’wutsun’ Cultural Center in Duncan BC. Production began on the 4th of November 2019 with the new partnership company Khowutzun Freegro TreeShelters or KFT being incubated initially by Khowutzun Development Corporation or KDC. An Indigenous Forestry Initiative grant was secured from Natural Resources Canada by KDC to help the new start up KFT with start up, capacity building and training. KFT is full production with orders of 130,000 new Khowutzun Freegro tree shelters for Spring 2019.