Friday Offcuts – 26 February 2021

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In line with the wood transport component of the eagerly awaited HarvestTECH 2021 event, one Canadian forestry company has decided to take the testing of autonomous trucking out into the forest. Up until now, trials have largely been undertaken on closed test tracks and highways. The in-forest testing on logging roads will be using a pair of autonomous logging trucks, led by an experienced driver in a third vehicle, and is planned to get underway shortly. As well as anticipated improvements in productivity and safety, the innovation is expected to go some way to address the serious issue of driver shortages being experienced in this region – and around the world.

One of the two days at this year’s HarvestTECH 2021 event has been set aside to review the significant advances that have been made on automated measurement, log scaling and tracking through the wood supply chain. As well as some very clever innovations on measuring truck loads and log piles, new electronic log docketing systems have been developed and are being used operationally. How they’ve been integrated and used will be outlined for the first time by leading forestry and log haulage companies.

As an added bonus, local companies are going to get an insight into how the world’s largest Eucalypt pulp producer in Brazil is tackling their significant wood transport scheduling operations across their estate. For those still yet to register, a reminder, that discounted early-bird registrations to this event finish in just two weeks and seats are going to be limited. Click here if interested in picking up on this opportunity.

From autonomous trucking we move to developments in autonomous tree planting. Establishment foresters as part of last year’s ForestTECH 2020 event got a first-hand look into the new technology on offer from around the globe as well as the operational trials for larger scale mechanised tree planting across both New Zealand and Australia. A couple of weeks’ ago we carried the story from one of the presentations, where FCNSW had just completed trials in the Nundle area using tree planting equipment manufactured by Risutec in Finland. Early results showed the planting technology was able to offer a number of advantages to the bushfire recovery planting programme.

Now in Sweden, the forestry industry and researchers are investing EURO $2 million into the development of a new autonomous planting system, Autoplant. Aside from improvements anticipated in the seedling survival rates and in reducing soil consolidation, like the issue of driver shortages in Ontario, the project managers see it as another way of getting over the shortage of planters over the planting season. Bracke Forest who manufactures mechanised planting equipment are also going to be playing a key role in this new project. And another robotics manufacturer in Europe, which started off building autonomous tanks, is also trialing planting trees from driverless (robotic tree planting) ground vehicles. You can check out these tech stories in this week’s issue. Enjoy this week’s read.






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Further investment in Robotics Plus technology

ACC’s Impact Investment Fund has taken a share in one of the world’s top 50 innovative robotics companies in a partnership to improve the wellbeing of those working in some of New Zealand’s most dangerous industries.

Tauranga-based Robotics Plus is the first successful opportunity for ACC’s new Impact Funds which has twin objectives – to improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of New Zealanders and provide a strong investment return that helps Kiwis pay less in levies for accident cover.

The technology being developed by Robotics Plus is designed to keep forestry, agriculture and transport workers safe and is attracting global interest. Its innovations include a Robotic Scaling Machine (RSM) that can more quickly and accurately measure the volume of timber on logging trucks, eliminating what is a dangerous manual task at ports, forestry sites and sawmills.

ACC’s investment sits within the target range of NZ$2 million to NZ$15 million that is consistent with the initial announcement for the Impact Fund. “We are excited to partner with Robotics Plus to take this innovative Kiwi technology to the rest of the world” says ACC’s Head of Private Markets, Martin Goldfinch.

Robotics Plus co-founder and CEO Steve Saunders (who is presenting this year at the upcoming HarvestTECH 2021 event welcomed ACC on board as an investor. “It’s great to have ACC investing in Robotics Plus alongside the continued support of Japan’s Yamaha Motor Co.,” he said.

“The investment will help us accelerate the development of our advanced technologies that help solve complex global problems, including robotic log scaling technology, as we scale up rapidly and enter new markets internationally whilst providing solutions domestically,” Saunders says.

Logs are New Zealand’s third-biggest export, worth NZ$4.5 billion in 2020. But log handling is also a major cause of workplace injuries, with some 17,000 active claims costing NZ$75 million last year, ACC data shows.

Mt Maunganui-based port logistics company ISO Limited, which handles more than half of New Zealand’s log exports, has recorded no injuries or fatalities in log scaling since installing 11 RSMs at sites across the North and South Islands. The move has also allowed workers that were doing this task manually to be moved to higher skilled positions.

“It’s safer and more productive than the previous manual system used throughout the world which requires people to manually scan and measure the logs by climbing on to trucks and trailers to perform the task,” says Paul Cameron, CEO of ISO.

The RSM, developed in collaboration with ISO, led to Robotics Plus being listed on Robotics Business Review’s top 50 most transformative companies in the global robotics sector in 2020. The technology is among a suite of innovative projects Robotics Plus has developed, including robotic fruit packers that reduce the musculoskeletal strains and injuries associated with repetitive manual tasks, and robots capable of a variety of tasks in horticulture.

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Autonomous logging trucks being rolled out

Robot trucks are coming to Northwestern Ontario in 2021

Nawiinginokiima Forest Management Corporation says it plans to use a pair autonomous logging trucks, led by an experienced driver in a third vehicle, on logging roads, to bring felled trees to nearby mills in the Pic and White River Forests, in partnership with Provectus Robotics Solutions Inc. Testing is expected to begin immediately and will be conducted throughout the spring and summer.

“Bringing the advanced technology that has been developed for off-road applications in extreme climates from desert heat to ice and snow, has enabled us to bring a robust and viable solution to the logging industry,” said Jason Scheib, director, business development for Provectus Robotics Solutions, in a recent release.

“We believe this will be a valuable advancement to address the driver shortage in Northern Ontario and around the world, while making the transport of lumber to the mills safer and more efficient.”

NFMC manages about 1.5 million hectares of Crown Forest in the vicinity of Pic River and Pic Mobert First Nations, and Hornepayne, Ont., supplying wood to major mills in the area. General manager Carmelo Notabartolo said his organization is the only Crown corporation of its kind in Ontario and has been tasked to seek out innovative solutions in the forest industry. Autonomous logging trucks fit the bill perfectly, he said.

“When we were created, part of the vision was that NFMC would be a leader in bringing new technologies to the forest industry and provide opportunities to pilot these technologies on our management area. Today we are proud to announce our partnership with Provectus Robotics Solutions, with the assistance of CRIBE, that will enable us to begin testing new autonomous trucking technology in our forests with the ultimate goal of assisting the forest industry in this very competitive global sector,” Notarbartolo said.

Source: tbnewswatch



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Euro $2m to develop autonomous planting machine

Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Agency, together with the forest industry and researchers, invests 20 million SEK (approx. 2 million EURO) on development of an autonomous planting system, the Autoplant. The project is expected to improve forest planting with regard to precision, environmental impact and working environment.

Autoplant is the second step in a research program that aims to solve societal challenges through collaborative projects that contribute to the sustainability goals in Agenda 2030. “As it is difficult to find labour for manual planting, and machine operators in the forest suffer from vibrations, we believe that an autonomous, small planting machine is the way ahead.” says Linnea Hansson, Project Manager at Skogforsk (Swedish Forestry Research Institute)

Autoplant addresses a series of challenges that connects to the sustainability goals in Agenda 2030:

The climate challenge . Autoplant contributes to that new forest is established faster through better planting spots, higher survival rate and more energy efficient machines.
The environmental challenge. There will be less soil impact as less area is scarified.
The working environment challenge. Autonomous machines will do the hard job, and no operators have to sit in the machine as in today’s scarifiers.
The labour– and equality challenge. Autonomous machines, that in the future could be controlled from cities, could attract new groups of labour and make family life easier.

The initiative comes from SCA who wants to increase the survival rate among plants and secure an efficient forest rejuvenation. “This would also contribute to Sweden’s competitiveness and good reputation for Swedish forest technology,” says Magnus Bergman, responsible for technique and digitalization at SCA Skog.

Bracke Forest, who is a manufacturer of equipment for reforestation, will have a key role in the project. “This is a good opportunity to develop cutting-edge technology in close cooperation with researchers and users. We have a long history within scarifying and mechanized planting, and we see this project as part of securing our product range for the future”, says Klas-Håkan Ljungberg, CEO at Bracke Forest.

Photo: A vision of an autonomous planting machine, Skogforsk

Source: forestry.com



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Wood is Good rolled out to NZ schools

Thanks to funding provided by Te Uru Rakau and Forest Growers Levy Trust the new primary school programme, “Wood is Good” is being rolled out across New Zealand this year.

Led by the Southern North Island Wood Council and developed by their CEO, Erica Kinder, this school-based session is based on the old “Share the Road” days that have been running in the North Island for many years. All eight Wood Councils around New Zealand are coordinating with a new full time programme manager to ensure schools are targeted in each region.

The funding provides books, resources, high vis vests and in Canterbury’s case, a collaboration with the NZ Trucking Association’s Safety Truck. Educational sessions are based around bringing a fully loaded log truck to a primary school and holding presentations with local forestry reps around where those logs have come from and where they are going, as well as safety with log trucks on the roads. Students get to view the truck, discover the blind spots and talk about the logs.

The aim of this programme is to inform students and teachers of how our sector operates in their community and the benefits and uses of pine. A range of child friendly forestry books, puzzles, math’s activities and wooden prizes round out these sessions and to this end a log truck safety video has been filmed in Rotorua and funded by the Log Transport Safety Committee.

View the video here.



You can also follow the progress of these school days over the year on Facebook.

If you’re in New Zealand and your company would like to support of one of the 50 forestry and safety sessions booked across NZ for 2021, please contact Angelene Jones woodisgoodnz@gmail.com



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From tanks to robotic tree planters

Robots help us in many ways – from assembly lines to looking after the elderly. Now they’re turning their attention to combating climate change by helping to plant trees.

Milrem Robotics, an Estonian company which started off building autonomous tanks, has developed an autonomous robot forester that can plant and nurture young trees. The new robot planter carries up to 300 seedlings and can plant a hectare of forest in less than six hours.

Although the robot forester is primarily designed for working in commercial forests, the designers say they believe it could be used to restore natural forests too.

The robotic planters are equipped with Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) which uses laser pulses to build up a three-dimensional image of the robots’ surroundings and global positioning (GPS) to navigate precisely across the terrain.

The position of each sapling is logged in a database as it is planted, which means that a specialized brush-cutter version of the robot forester can cut back competing growth without harming the young trees. Makers Milrem Robotics say their robot vehicles can also be used to prepare the ground for planting by towing ploughs.

The robots were developed in partnership with the University of Tartu, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) and the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the project has been backed by a $2.4 million grant from the European Union.

Photo: Milrem Robotics, Mock ups of robotic forester designs

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OneFortyOne appoints Executive GM, NZ

Brent Guild has been appointed Executive General Manager, New Zealand, by OneFortyOne. Brent Guild replaces Lees Seymour, who resigned from the role in late 2020.

“We are very pleased to confirm Brent’s appointment,” says OneFortyOne Chief Executive Officer, Andy Giles Knopp. “Brent has been working as General Manager Forests for OneFortyOne New Zealand since 2019 and as one of two acting leaders for the New Zealand team for the past several months. In this role he has made a significant impact on the business, particularly during a difficult 2020.”

Brent said that he is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities offered by the role. “Our industry is an important contributor to the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions. We have very committed teams in both the forest and the mill, and I am looking forward to working with them and better understanding the aspirations of our stakeholders,” says Brent.

Brent Guild’s appointment as Executive General Manager, New Zealand, is effective 1 March 2021.

Source: OneFortyOne

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Whakatane mill set to shut down

More than 200 staff at the Whakatane Mill in the eastern Bay of Plenty have this week been presented with a proposal to close the mill. General Manager Juha Verajankorva said in a statement that, faced with the loss of its biggest customer, the plant was no longer economically viable.

"We have begun consultation with staff on a proposal to wind up the business and close the mill," he said. The mill employs just over 210 staff and has produced paper and packaging products, latterly mostly for export, for more than 80 years.

Under the proposal all staff at the mill would be made redundant, the plant decommissioned, and the site remediated. Whakatane mayor Judy Turner told the Rotorua Daily Post that the news was a "huge shock" and they were saddened to hear it. She said the mill was the district's largest private employer and was "quite a big thing" for the city.

Verajankorva said the mill business has been in a challenging position for a number of years, and had been exploring options to remain viable, including seeking a new owner, but no other option offered a pathway to continue operations.

He said the mill has struggled to produce Liquid Paper Board for its parent company, SIG Combibloc, at a competitive cost. Despite this, SIG had continued to invest in the company for some time, and had become its major customer, accounting for approximately 80 per cent of its output.

Recently, however, SIG had decided to source the Liquid Paper Board provided by Whakatane Mill from its existing third-party suppliers, meaning the mill's operation was no longer viable, he said. The business case for further investment in the mill by SIG was not economic.

"We continue to explore all options with our advisors Deloitte, including seeking a buyer for the business, but we are in a position where we must put this proposal to staff, as we are reaching a point where there may be no other option," said Mr Verajankorva.

"The volumes we produce are modest by global standards, and our costs-per-unit can no longer compete with bigger plants overseas," he added. The company's focus in the coming weeks would be to work with staff through the consultation process.

For further coverage and commentary on this story click here.

Source: NZ Herald, Scoop



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Why this 3D-printed house will change the world



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Forest Safety Code for Tasmania amended

The health and safety team at PF Olsen Australia were contracted in February 2020 to conduct a review and prepare an Exposure Draft of amended Forest Safety Code for Tasmania. It has just been released. They were ably assisted by Bryan Bottomley.

The Code uses material from Safe Work Australia, NZ Forest Industry Safety Council and information supplied by machinery sellers and other industry participants. It addresses emerging issues like winch- assisted harvesting, drone and ATV use. The unique regulatory environment for forestry in Tasmania is also reflected.

Over the past 12 months the industry has participated in a very detailed review and the final version of the Exposure Draft was prepared following three facilitated workshops in November located in Burnie, Launceston, and Hobart for which 90 people registered and 77 attended. The recommended amendments in the Exposure Draft are necessary to remove obsolete provisions, reflect modern practices, and to be accurate and useful.

It is the view of the Tasmanian forest industry that the document should maintain its status as a Code of Practice so that the safety of Tasmanian forest workers is given the same level of protection under the WHS Act as the forests in which they work through the Forest Practices Code.



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Fresh insights from new global forest carbon maps

Forests are crucial for global efforts to prevent dangerous climate change. As the global community works out what to prioritize in this quest against catastrophe, figuring out which forests are gaining and losing carbon – and why – is an important piece of the puzzle.

Until now, however, data on carbon gains and losses in global forests has been piecemeal and variable, and that has serious implications for land-use decision making – from local to international scales. “I think a lot of the decisions that are taken within the [U.N.] Paris Agreement [on climate change] depend on incomplete data sets, because they come from national greenhouse-gas inventories, which are frequently incomplete,” said Rosa Roman-Cuesta, an associate researcher at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in an interview.

“Many countries do not report all their forest activities nor all their carbon pools. This leads to an inconsistency between what countries report and what global modelling and atmospheric observation offer – It is our role as scientists to help to bridge this gap towards the UNFCCC global stocktake in 2023.”

Roman-Cuesta and a team of scientists from CIFOR, NASA Goddard, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, The Sustainability Consortium, University of Maryland, Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Woodwell Climate Research Center and World Resources Institute (WRI), hope to address that discrepancy with a ground-breaking global set of forest carbon flux maps, which have just been released in the journal Nature Climate Change and made publicly available on the Global Forest Watch website. “We now have eyes everywhere to monitor changes of forest cover and carbon stocks globally,” said Sassan Saatchi, principal scientist for Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab and a co-author of the research, in a press release.

The team used a combination of ground measurements and satellite observations to obtain the first globally-consistent data set for forest carbon flux estimation over the years from 2000 to 2019. The data takes into account the full carbon pool provided by each forest, including above- and below-ground biomass, debris and soil carbon. “This paper, with whatever flaws it may have, offers comparable, complete and consistent data across all forest biomes of the planet and I think that provides valuable new insights on where hotspots for action are in forests worldwide,” said Roman-Cuesta.

“[This is] something that we in the forest remote-sensing community have been working towards for many years, but was a big scientific and computational challenge until now,” said Martin Herold, another co-author and a professor of geo-information science and remote sensing at WUR. “It’s the most up-to-date and detailed map of its kind ever produced — in that sense a really important global contribution in terms of better information on the forest carbon cycle, and on the functioning of forests and their interactions with the climate.”

The researchers found that the world’s forests absorbed twice as much carbon as they released each year. Carbon release was caused chiefly by deforestation and degradation. “Forests act as a two-lane highway in the climate system,” said Nancy Harris, co-author and research director at WRI, in the press release. “Standing forests absorb carbon, but clearing forests releases it into the atmosphere. A detailed view of where both sides are occurring – forest emissions and forest removals – adds transparency to monitoring forest-related climate policies.”

More >>

Source: cifor.org



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Input requested to forest inventory metrics survey

Invitation for a short survey for academic research surrounding forest inventory metrics and capture.

RMIT University, located in Melbourne Australia, is currently conducting a short, anonymous survey surrounding the current requirements and challenges associated with the collection of forest inventory and the opportunities that low-cost 3D imaging technologies may present.

It is hoped that this survey will be able to provide insight into the different collection methodologies associated with forest inventory in different stand conditions and management types as well as rating the importance of different metrics and the maximum possible error associated with a measurement for it to still be considered reliable.

This information will contribute to the development of a 3D imaging sensor assessment framework for consumer grade low-cost technologies. If anyone else is interested in contributing to this research you can forward this project description/link on or forward your contact details through to s3654201@student.rmit.edu.au (James’s University email address).

The survey can be found at the following link.

Further information surrounding this project, your role and rights as a participant and how the survey results will be used can be found here.

Source: James McGlade, RMIT PhD Student

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Sustainable fibre demo plant being built

A venture part-owned by Finnish forestry group Stora Enso, Sweden’s H&M and IKEA said on Tuesday it was set to build a demonstration plant in Sweden for a new, more sustainable wood-based textile fibre after years of research.

To markedly reduce their climate footprint and pollution, large apparel and furniture brands are in dire need of affordable greener alternatives to cotton, traditional viscose and polyester. Several Nordic pulp makers are part of projects developing new clean ways here to turn trees into textile fibre.

TreeToTextile said in a statement its plant would have a production capacity of 1,500 tonnes and its owners would fund the bulk of the 35 million euro investment.

TreeToTextile, whose fourth part-owner is innovator Lars Stigsson, said the plant would be located at Stora Enso’s Nymolla mill in Sweden, and its construction would start in the near future.

Viscose is the main existing textile fibre from wood pulp - followed by the newer lyocell which has a cleaner manufacturing method. Production is dominated by Austria’s Lenzing, India’s Aditya Birla and China’s Sateri.

Source: the telegram, apparel resources, reuters

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... and one to end the week on ... we missed the R

An oldie but a goodie. A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript. So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, "We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son."

He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years. Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot.

So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing, "We missed the "R" ! , we missed the "R" !"

His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably. The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?" With a choking voice, the old abbot replies,

"The word was... CELEBRATE!!!"






And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
Web page: www.fridayoffcuts.com


This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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