Forest products innovations at Fieldays

Friday 2 Dec 2022

New and innovative uses of forestry and wood products will be on display at 35 stands in New Zealand’s Fieldays Forestry Hub near Hamilton between 30 November and 3 December, including a revolutionary treatment for radiata pine and a super carbon-storer – biochar.

Planted trees are the raw material for more than 5,000 products we use every day. They also form the foundation of New Zealand’s next-generation bioeconomy, with the demand for new biomaterials only set to grow as fossil fuel-based products are replaced with renewable alternatives.

The revolutionary treatment for radiata pine allows it to be used in place of imported hardwood timber for decking, interior bench tops and as a fortified exterior cladding. Called Sicaro, this timber treatment technology is being distributed by Motueka-based architectural company Genia. It uses a fortification process that replaces water within the cell structure with a water-borne solution that cures to a resin.

Genia’s architectural specifications representative Chris Mooney says Sicaro is revolutionary in the timber modification sector. “It’s sustainably-sourced with the qualities of a hardwood and is quite a ground-breaker.” Sicaro timber is made using New Zealand-grown, FSC-certified radiata pine which is hand-selected to ensure it is free from imperfections. Testing has been carried out independently in Germany and it has a 75-year warranty.

Another product on display in the Fieldays Forestry Hub is biochar, which has many uses including improving soil health for agriculture and storing carbon. Biochar is made from heating organic materials in a reduced oxygen environment, in a process called pyrolysis. It is used widely overseas including in Australia.

Ideal materials are forest, plant and agriculture residues. Pyrolysis temperatures can range between 400°C to 800°C. Biochar is similar to charcoal although the carbon within is not burnt but stored, providing many other uses and benefits. Biochar Network New Zealand spokesperson Phil Stevens says biochar is being produced in New Zealand in low and high-tech ways, from home kilns to Hot Lime Labs’ new CO2 capture system.

“We’re on the cusp of something big in New Zealand with a number of new biochar projects expected to commence operations in the next 12 to 18 months.”

Hot Lime Labs based in Wellington is converting wood and crop waste into clean CO2 allowing commercial greenhouses to increase productivity by 20%. High quality biochar produced as a byproduct is being tested as a filter to treat wastewater. Biochar safely stores up to half the carbon in its source material for hundreds of years. It is one of a few negative emission technologies recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Fieldays Forestry Hub is a collaboration between Fieldays and an advisory group comprising Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service, Forest Growers Levy Trust, Scion, NZ Forest Owners Association, Red Stag, NZ Farm Forestry Association and Future Foresters.

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