Friday Offcuts 6 October 2023
And for the Australian industry, it’s been announced that from next year, timber will only be taken from Western Australia’s native forests to maintain forest health and for approved mine site operations. The Government plans on spending AU$350 million in the state’s softwood pine plantations, but now, WA has joined Victoria banning commercial logging of native forests from next year. Further details can be found in this week’s lead story.
Plenty this week with forest technology updates featured. In the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence, forestry’s often lagged behind other industries due to the absence of large, labelled datasets. An international collaboration involving researchers from New Zealand, Germany and Norway have just produced a benchmark dataset that’s being described as a significant turning point in 3D deep learning for forestry. And as we get into our own fire season in this part of the world, we cover Pano’s AI fire watcher, one of a growing number of startups leveraging technology to aid in wildfire detection and prevention. The San Francisco based company’s now built about 100 AI-enabled fire lookouts in six US states and in Australia.
Results from trials and commercial operations using mechanised planting machines, both in New Zealand and Australia from this planting season will be featured in next months major forest technology series, ForestTECH 2023. This week we’ve built in a new report on the performance of the M-Planter (featured at earlier ForestTECH events) that’s been planting radiata pine seedlings into New Zealand rotational cutover. The report’s findings are based on the experiences of MFM (NZ), Rayonier and Timberlands across a range of soil types, terrain and weather conditions and was conducted as part of the Precision Silviculture Programme managed by Forest Growers Research. Note: If looking to register for the series, discounted early-bird registrations finish next week.
And, we’ve been providing plenty of recent coverage (see industry updates) on the significant changes occurring as heavy transport fleets, including log haulage operations in this part of the world, look at decarbonising their operations with diesel conversions to alternate fuels. For large vehicle fleets, a recent survey (see story on the new free Emissions Calculator for NZ transport fleets) from over 1200 business decision- makers showed that 66% of large fleets (more than 300 vehicles) had implemented emissions reduction plans and were actively monitoring their emissions. In line with these changes, this week, the first call for early expressions of interest to present at this regions follow-up to the very successful Wood Transport & Logistics event held in May this year is being made. Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 is planned to run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 22-23 May 2024. If interested in presenting, please get in touch. Details can be found below. And that’s it for this week.
This week we have for you:
WA ending commercial native forest loggingWestern Australia has joined Victoria in banning commercial logging of native forests from next year. The WA Forestry Minister Jackie Jarvis says timber will only be removed from the state’s native forests in the future to maintain forest health and for approved mine site operations.
“This move by the Cook government will safeguard our ionic forests for generations to come,” she said on Sunday. The government will spend AU$350 million investing in the state’s softwood pine plantations to provide building material and protect existing jobs, as well as provide another 140 new positions.
The government had already spent AU$80 million on the Native Forest Transition Plan that included significant industry restructure payments. WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby said nearly two million hectares of native karri, jarrah and wandoo forests will be protected for future generations.
“This decision reflects the changing attitudes of the community towards our native forests, building on the legacy of the Gallop Labor Government ending old-growth logging,” he said. The move follows the recent announcement by the Victorian government that native timber harvesting in state forests will be gone by the end of the year.
For further coverage on the announcement, click here
Source: SMH, WA Government
Waratah offering attachments safety trainingAttention all Waratah equipment users! Are you looking to learn the best practices for working safely in the field around attachments? Look no further. As part of Waratah’s commitment to safety, we are excited to offer a free, online Working Around Attachments Training.
This training is designed to educate your team on the key safety measures to follow while working with Waratah attachments. By completing this training, you’ll be able to enhance your knowledge and understanding of how to safely operate and maintain Waratah equipment, while minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries.
Access to the training is quick and easy – simply click on the link below or scan the QR code with a mobile device. The best part is, the link will last for 14 days from the date of issue, so it’s a great opportunity to share this valuable training with your entire team.
At Waratah, we understand the importance of proper safety procedures when working with heavy equipment attachments. That’s why we’ve partnered with industry experts to create this comprehensive online training program. We hope that you’ll find it both informative and helpful.
So what are you waiting for? Take advantage of this free training to ensure the safety of yourself and your team. And if you need a new link after 14 days, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Early EOI – Wood Transport & Logistics 2024This year, well over 250 forestry and log transport delegates from companies across Australasia, North and South America and Europe met up in Rotorua, New Zealand. The occasion? The long overdue Wood Transport & Logistics 2023 conference, workshops and exhibitions.
With so much effort going into larger transport companies decarbonising their fleets and innovation and early adoption of electric, hydrogen and dual-fuel hybrid technologies by log transport operators in this part of the world, the Rotorua venue, inside and outside (see images from 2023) was packed. The place was humming.
Feedback from speakers, delegates and exhibitors from the 2023 event overwhelmingly were looking for another technology update in 2024. The drivers? The sheer pace of change with new and emerging technologies, the operational and commercial trials underway by local heavy transport fleets and the rapid deployment of this technology into forests and wood cartage operations all meant another industry get-together was being sought - one year on.
And, we’re delivering. Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 is planned to run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 22-23 May 2024.
Pace of change dramatic:
The uptake of electric vehicles into heavy transport operations is really picking up speed. The global electric truck market was valued at US$728 million in 2022. Between 2023 and 2032, the electric truck market is estimated to show a compound annual growth rate of 31.3 % and will reach US$11.08 billion over this time.
Electric trucks are replacing diesel trucks. In many countries, a raft of government initiatives and financial assistance are promoting their adoption. Market growth is being spurred on by rising demand for logistics services, lower fuel costs, and maintenance expenses. Moreover, there are incentives to use zero-emission vehicles. As well as new battery technologies, the development of automated battery swapping hubs and the roll out of charging infrastructure across the country is also encouraging the switch from diesel to electric.
Hydrogen and dual fuel hybrid trucks likewise have been out on local roads. Larger fleet operators are upgrading and transitioning their fleets. High-capacity hydrogen refuelling sites across multiple regions have also recently been set up to service these new trucks.
Along with rapid advances being made in log transport fuelling options, significant advancements in just 12 months have been made in truck convoy platooning, single-vehicle autonomous operations, off-road AV driving technology, systems for log measurement and new log transport safety initiatives. Improved connectivity being rolled out for more remote sites has also led to unprecedented innovation being seen in moving logs through the wood supply chain. And recently, the new fuelling technologies are also moving up the wood supply chain, into wood harvesting machines out in the forest.
Planned format for Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 As part of the revolution to move forest harvesting and log transport operations towards a low emissions future, a raft of new innovations and results from commercial and operational trials across Australasia are now ready to be shared. Wood Transport & Logistics in May 2024 will again be providing that independent platform for local businesses.
Early Expressions of Interest to present:
If interested in presenting next May, early expressions of interest are being sought from log haulage companies, forest companies, equipment and technology suppliers, researchers ... If keen, or looking for further information on Wood Transport & Logistics 2024, please contact FIEA Director, Brent Apthorp on firstname.lastname@example.org
Local government under resourced to cope with slashNZ Forest Owners say the just announced regulations to deal with forest slash will result in a mishmash of regulations which will lead to even less forest planting and compromise forest carbon sequestration to meet climate change targets.
FOA President, Grant Dodson, says when Forestry Minister Peeni Henare announces that local government will be in charge of determining whether landowners are allowed to plant any trees on their land, he is inviting them to restrict forest planting and arbitrating on a landowner's choice on how to use their own land.
“We’ve seen with anti-forest councils, such as Wairoa, that a few local prejudices can inhibit farmers from planting any trees and so not contributing economically and environmentally to the region as much as they could. This announcement has come with a pre-election rush. We are told the new rules will be in effect within a month, which is way too quick to develop the risk assessments and management tools which landowners and councils will have to comply with,” Grant Dodson says.
He says that foresters are well aware that forest slash can be an issue on land which is particularly erosion prone and hit with storms of unprecedented severity driven by climate change. “We are putting a lot of work into ways which together can reduce the risk of post-harvest wood going down rivers, from different species of tree to using as much waste as we can for biofuels.”
“But there will be debris left after harvest and we need to get as much we can secure or remove it. That removal has to be practical and safe. Councils don’t have the health and safety operational knowledge and capacity to make that assessment. An objective assessment of the wood in the rivers following Cyclone Gabrielle showed forest slash, certainly in Hawke’s Bay, was not the reason for most of the damage.”
“A survey of the wood at Wairoa found only two percent of the debris was forest slash. Most of it was willows, poplars, and native trees. Likewise, at Waikare River further south of Wairoa, which has been making the news only this week, also only two percent of the wood on the beach is forest slash.”
“The real aim should be to protect downstream roads and properties from damage, whatever the source of that risk. That means tools and a capacity to remove whole trees of any species, before they can cause damage.” Grant Dodson says the recent Ministerial Inquiry into land use and forest slash in Tairāwhiti following Cyclone Gabrielle showed that farmland erosion was an ongoing and substantial problem.
“Only more trees will fix that. Yet the thrust of this government statement is the fewer trees the better. We need a proper process to learn the lessons of Gabrielle raised by the Parata Inquiry, or we could finish with dangerous outcomes.”
Grant Dodson says he acknowledges the progress reflected in the government statement of the One Year Review of the National Environmental Standard – Plantation Forestry (now renamed Commercial Forestry) particularly the enforcing of environmental rules for carbon only forests.
Comment on the new regulations from Federated Farmers.
Source: Forest Owners Association
M-Planter economic performance report resultsA new report discusses the exploration of mechanised planting options by New Zealand forestry companies in response to anticipated changes in labour availability and increased competition for planting crews due to afforestation incentives.
This new detailed report, led by Scion, outlines qualitatively and quantitatively an assessment on the performance of the M-Planter planting radiata pine seedlings into New Zealand rotational cutover areas.
It is based on the experiences of MFM (NZ), Rayonier and Timberlands across a range of soil types, terrain and weather conditions. This evaluation was conducted as part of the Precision Silviculture Programme which is managed by Forest Growers Research. The full report from FGR can be accessed here.
Discussion on mechanisation and automation across forestry were a strong focus at the FGR conference held in Rotorua in mid-September.
Results from trials and commercial operations using mechanised planting machines, both in New Zealand and Australia, will also be featuring in the upcoming ForestTECH 2023 series running in Rotorua on 14-15 November and again in Melbourne on 21-22 November. Full programme details for both countries can be found on the event website.
Source: Forest Growers Research, FIEA
Plantation Forestry Environment Standard changesOn 14 June, NZ Government Ministers announced changes to the National Environment Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF).
• Changes have been made to how commercial forestry is managed to give councils more power to decide where new forests are located;
• Exotic continuous-cover forests (carbon forests) are now managed in the same way as plantation forests;
• The changes improve the management of the effects of large-scale forestry on the environment and communities. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of new and existing exotic forests; and
• The changes also ensure the regulations deliver the right type and scale of forests, in the right place. This is an action in the first Aotearoa Emissions Reduction Plan.
More details can be found on the Ministry for Environment's website and in the fact sheet below:
• National environmental standards for commercial forestry
The changes come into force from 2 November and were gazetted yesterday (Thursday 5 October). The Ministry for the Environment and councils will work together to implement the changes while Te Uru Rākau - New Zealand Forest Service - is developing risk assessment and management tools for landowners and councils.
The submissions received during consultation in November 2022 are now on the Ministry for Primary Industries’ website along with a summary.
The Cabinet minute, Cabinet paper, and attachments on the final policy decision in June have been proactively released. Read here.
We will also be proactively releasing the final section 32 evaluation report, the supplementary analysis report to support the interim regulatory impact statement, and the papers that went to the Cabinet Legislation Committee on 18 September. We will let you know when this happens.
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
Here is a link to the 14 June Ministerial announcement: Local communities to have a say on farm to forest conversions
Source: Ministry for Primary Industries
Politicians aligning on Harvested Wood ProductsOpinion: Marty Verry, CEO, Red Stag Group
Here’s a way we can avoid having to plant so many farms in trees, substitute gross carbon emissions in hard-to-abate cement and steel sectors, store carbon longer, de-risk reliance on China’s waning log appetite, process more logs here, save $1 billion on the Paris Accord 2030 bill, and all at no cost to the New Zealand taxpayer. I know, it sounds too good to be true, right? But it is true.
James Shaw and Shane Jones tried to make it happen four years ago before Covid intervened, and both the Act and National parties have just announced this policy plan. Let me briefly explain. Under UN carbon accounting rules, if logs are milled into long-life wood products, the rules reward this extended carbon storage time. This extra storage value is known as Harvested Wood Products or HWP for short.
The longer the life of the wood product, the higher the HWP value. A piece of framing timber has a higher value than a wood pallet, for example. New Zealand’s oldest building is 243 years old and made of timber. It was originally built in New York State around 1780 as a barn. It makes good climate policy sense to incentivise locking carbon away for centuries in this way, and HWP is how product production is incentivised.
HWP value is also now included as part of each country’s Nationally Determined Contribution reporting toward Paris Agreement commitments. So, it’s legitimate. Increasing it could save billions on our Paris commitment shortfall bill in 2030.
Scion estimated the potential value of HWP to be worth $75 million per year between 2022 and 2050. That was in 2019 when carbon’s value was $25 per tonne, so that HWP value would be worth around $200m annually at current carbon pricing. Three policies are crucial to making this happen, and the good news is they are either underway or being developed by the Government.
The first is government procurement of lowest-carbon building options. This is getting good traction, although it still has gaps that end up in high-embodied carbon-steel and concrete structures being built. It needs tightening up with some strong political willpower.
The second is the Building for Climate Change regulation to reduce embodied carbon in buildings by regulating the carbon per square of newbuilds. That will also drive demand for HWP materials, as they are carbon-negative.
But the main policy that will drive more wood processing is to issue NZUs to wood processors that generate more HWP value. Wood processors can then trade these on the ETS. This dual income stream, from being able to sell both timber and carbon, will transform the wood processing sector’s feasibility. Modelling estimates investment in excess of $1.5 billion will follow.
How do we know that? It has already worked to transform the forestry sector. Planting boomed once both log income and NZU carbon income could be factored into feasibility models.
So why hasn’t it been implemented yet?
Ministers Shaw and Jones instructed Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Ministry for the Environment (MfE) officials in 2019 to develop a scheme to bring HWP value into the ETS. Covid intervened, but in 2022 the advisory group to the sector’s Industry Transformation Plan made sure bringing HWP in the ETS was a centre-piece policy for the transformation recipe.
The latest Climate Change Commission’s consultation paper makes it clear that it is open to adding HWP value to the ETS but is awaiting MPI to complete the policy work. MfE and Minister Shaw both confirmed recently that they, too, are awaiting MPI to develop the policy. Both National and Act have also just announced policy to issue NZUs to wood processors for incremental production over a baseline volume.
For its part, MPI has now finally engaged consultants MartinJenkins to run a “policy dialogue”. The industry, with Scion’s expertise, has progressed a workable scheme structure in the meantime. All this has been a torturously slow way for MPI to develop a scheme that the key ministers asked for over four years ago. With all five main political parties now pursuing the policy and the prospects of a National/Act-led Government, it looks set to finally happen.
Wood processors may finally get treated fairly and consistently with foresters in terms of their carbon storage value.
As the world moves from “climate warming” to “climate boiling” and with emissions from building materials and construction accounting for more than 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions, let’s hope MPI, MfE, the Climate Commission and politicians get in behind this win-win policy urgently.
Source: NZ Herald, Red Stag Group
Revolutionising forestry with 3D deep learningIn the rapidly evolving world of artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning, one of the most critical factors for success is access to vast amounts of labelled data. These labelled datasets power AI models by giving them lots of examples to learn from. While researchers and data scientists in many industries have enjoyed the benefits of extensive labelled datasets to train and finetune their deep learning models, forestry has often lagged behind due to the absence of large, labelled datasets.
Now, thanks to an international collaboration involving Scion, the University of Gottingen and the University of Applied Science and Arts (HAWK) in Germany and led by Dr Stefano Puliti at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), a benchmark dataset for forestry is publicly accessible.
Research papers associated with the two-year project have recently been published. However, the impact of the ‘For-Instance’ dataset extends far beyond the academic realm. More than simply a collection of labelled data, the dataset marks a significant turning point in 3D deep learning for forestry by providing researchers and AI specialists with the raw material they need to train and test their models on real-world forest data for the first time.
At a time when data is often considered the most valuable commodity, this dataset breaks down the barriers to entry for AI adoption in forestry. Instead of spending months collecting and labelling data themselves, data scientists at New Zealand companies and industry service providers now have access to a valuable resource that can accelerate their own innovative AI-driven solutions for forestry. Scion’s team lead for Remote Sensing and GIS, Grant Pearse, says the dataset is “game-changing” for New Zealand’s forestry industry as it will unlock a multitude of possibilities.
“We contributed labelled data from radiata pine to empower researchers and industry to develop and test models specifically for point clouds collected from our commercial radiata forests. The data are labelled in such a way that models can be trained to identify and segment individual trees as well as the stems, live branches and woody branches of each tree within the lidar point clouds – this directly aligns the AI models with the needs of New Zealand’s forestry sector.
“But what makes this dataset even more powerful is its benchmarking aspect.” In machine learning and AI, benchmark datasets play a pivotal role in advancing research. They provide a standardised way to evaluate different algorithms and approaches. The FOR-Instance dataset not only offers labelled data, but also predefines how the data should be split for training and evaluation of AI models. This ensures that researchers and industry can make fair and objective comparisons between their models and others in the field, enhancing the credibility of their work.
And as part of the upcoming ForestTECH 2023 event, Grant Pearse, Scion's Team Leader for Remote Sensing & GIS will be outlining to local foresters as part of the NZ leg of the annual series on 14-15 November, opportunities for using one of the largest datasets for high resolution land-cover mapping (a digital twin of New Zealand's productive forest estate at national scale). Full details on the ForestTECH 2023 programme can be found here.
Source: Scion, FIEA
SnapSTAT - Square peg in a round hole?It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Q: Can you remember when these export squares were made?
A: LumberCube started September 2015 and closed July 2017
Even more: here.
XFrame recognised at 2023 KiwiNet AwardsWinners of the 11th annual KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards were celebrated at a gala event in Auckland last week for their success in transforming research into impactful innovations for the world. Winners, chosen from the passionate people and teams commercialising scientific discoveries within New Zealand’s universities, Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations, represent the best of the research innovation ecosystem.
Winners included innovations for reusable framing for sustainable construction and hydrogen production tech, and innovators transforming Aotearoa New Zealand’s clean tech economy, simplifying the manufacture of important biologic pharmaceuticals, and developing natural menstrual care products.
The commercialisation impact award celebrates excellence in research commercialisation delivering outstanding innovation performance and the potential for generating significant economic impact for New Zealand. The winner of the MAS Commercialisation Impact Award was XFrame and Wellington UniVentures: Reusable framing for the next generation of sustainable construction.
Approximately half of all New Zealand’s waste—about 1.6 million tonnes every year—is generated by the construction sector. XFrame, a game-changing framing system, has the potential to eliminate waste and reduce the raw materials used by the building industry. Every component of the XFrame system is designed to be disassembled 40% faster than conventional building methods and reused at the end of the building lifecycle —an architectural solution promising to transition the building sector to a circular economy without compromising the growth and development of communities.
Developed by Ged Finch while completing his Master’s in Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, XFrame has experienced rapid growth supported by investment, expertise and connections through Wellington UniVentures, KiwiNet and Innovyz. Since its spin-out in 2019, XFrame has closed three successful capital raises and delivered projects to tier one customers in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and Brazil.
In its first year of public sales, XFrame kept six tonnes of construction waste out of the landfill and sequestered 35 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Now fast approaching broad market release, and with revenues increasing 14-fold, XFrame is a stellar example of a commercialisation project made possible by ecosystem support, scaling rapidly with huge potential for impact.
For further coverage of the awards, click here
Emissions calculator for NZ transport fleetsEROAD’s latest Sustainability Survey shows business fleets are still lagging on emission reduction and that access to better data through tools like this will help.
EROAD, in collaboration with EECA (the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority), is proud to introduce its web-based vehicle emissions calculator tailored for New Zealand transport fleets. With a shared commitment to a more sustainable future, this partnership aims to empower businesses in their essential journey towards decarbonisation and environmental responsibility.
Transportation currently contributes to a significant 17% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it a pivotal sector to address in the fight against climate change. With the New Zealand government setting ambitious targets of achieving Net Zero Emissions by 2050 and a substantial 50% reduction by 2030, the need for innovative solutions to curb emissions is more pressing than ever.
EROAD’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Heine, emphasised the significance of this initiative, stating, “The EROAD Emissions Calculator will play an indispensable role in helping New Zealand fleets embark on their decarbonisation journey. By providing the tools for measurement and planning, we aim to encourage and enable the reduction of emissions across the transport sector.” In 2022, EROAD secured co-funding from EECA’s Low Emissions Transport Fund (LETF) to develop an advanced heavy vehicle decarbonisation and recommendation tool. Following an intensive year of development and comprehensive testing, this innovative tool is now available for businesses to adopt.
Camilla Cochrane, EECA’s Transport Manager, said, “The transport sector has a key role to play in meeting New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets. While vehicles over 3.5 tonnes make up 4% of the national fleet, their footprint is outsized – making up 27% of our transport emissions. We need to use all the levers at our disposal to accelerate uptake of low- and zero-emissions vehicles, and we’ve been working with the sector for years, offering support through the Low Emissions Transport Fund and, soon, some new funding options.”
Heine stated, “For New Zealand to realise its net zero targets, all fleets must formulate comprehensive emissions reduction strategies, and that needs accurate measurement and understanding of their current emissions footprint,”. “As the business landscape evolves, sustainability has emerged as a pivotal factor for success. Just as companies balance customer service, costs, and growth, they must now factor in their environmental impact.”
EROAD’s third annual sustainability survey, which gathered insights from over 1200 business decision-makers, revealed a concerning disparity between large and small fleets. Notably, 66% of large fleets have implemented emissions reduction plans and are actively monitoring their emissions. However, smaller businesses with fewer than 300 vehicles lag behind, with 62% lacking net-zero strategies and a staggering 78% not measuring their carbon emissions, making meeting the Net Zero targets incredibly challenging.
Craig Marris, EROAD’s Chief Sustainability Officer, highlighted the survey’s findings, “The results from our Sustainability Survey underscore the divergence between large and small fleets in terms of preparedness and shows that more urgent support and awareness of the available tools is needed. Access to data remains a key barrier for many smaller fleets to initiate their journey towards net zero emissions.”
EROAD and EECA jointly funded the tool’s development and are delighted to offer it free of charge to all New Zealand fleets. Marris underscored the tool’s significance, “This marks a monumental advancement for fleets grappling with the cost-benefit analysis of vehicle upgrades or replacements. Until now, a lack of access to data has hindered many businesses from fully understanding the impact of their fleet operations on their bottom line, as well as the potential transformations achievable through sustainable and efficient choices.”
First CLT panel from NeXTimber operationTimberlink’s NeXTimber facility has pressed its very first Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panel, marking another significant milestone in the construction of Australia’s only combined CLT and GLT (Cross Laminated and Glue Laminated Timber) radiata pine mass timber facility. The commissioning of this CLT line follows production of the facility’s very first GLT beam in August 2023.
David Oliver, Timberlink Chief Marketing, Sales & Corporate Affairs Officer said “The entire team has been working towards this moment since we announced construction of the facility in 2020. To see the hard work of so many come to fruition is very rewarding.”
Patrick Dark, Timberlink CLT/GLT Operations Manager, said “There was such an air of positivity when the panel came off the line. Everybody who has been involved in the installation, testing and commissioning of our NeXTimber equipment should be proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
The newly commissioned CLT line, co-located at Timberlink’s Tarpeena, SA, manufacturing facility, can produce panels up to 16m long and 3.5m wide and will unlock significant capability to manufacture mass timber building products in Australia. Mass timber products like CLT and GLT offer an exciting alternative to traditional construction materials and can help to reduce the embodied carbon of a project.
The NeXTimber by Timberlink team are now accepting orders for CLT and GLT as the facility is scheduled for full production by the end of this month. To learn more visit www.nextimber.com.au
AI, robots & satellites fighting wildfiresThis year has been a challenging one for Phil Schneider, who hasn’t seen wildfire behaviour like this in his 47-year firefighting career.
Blazes raged through more than 2,000 acres of wildland in recent months in his county deep in the woods of Oregon, where a wet climate once made forest fires unthinkable. That’s an increasingly common scene around the world — from Canada to Greece, global warming has helped fuel larger and more destructive blazes, pushing firefighting services to the brink. But Schneider has a new recruit to help manage the growing risks: artificial intelligence.
“It’s a huge game changer for the fire service,” says Schneider of the technology created by Pano AI, which acts as a second set of eyes looking out for fires. While AI alone won’t completely ease the burden of wildfire management, it’s one of a growing number of tools firefighters have at their disposal to detect and combat blazes.
The high-tech fire lookout Schneider has recently put to work leverages panoramic cameras that capture minute-by-minute snapshots of their surroundings. Those images are then analysed by an AI algorithm that has learned how to look for signs of fires. It’s a job that’s traditionally been done by human eyes, whether it’s bystanders phoning in a fire or lookouts posted in towers.
It can take hours, if not days, to detect flames with conventional methods, says Schneider, a fire chief in Clackamas County. The AI system, on the other hand, can pick up the threat right away.“Fires are burning hotter and faster. That early detection is going to make a difference,” Schneider says.
On one occasion, Pano’s AI fire watcher located a blaze that Schneider’s crew failed to find after an hours-long search in forests. In another case, it spotted a blaze 30 minutes before anyone else.
San Francisco-based Pano AI, which has built about 100 AI-enabled fire lookouts in six US states and Australia, is one of a growing number of startups leveraging technology to aid in wildfire detection and prevention. Virtually nonexistent five years ago, the club of wildfire tech companies now has at least 400 members, says Bill Clerico, founder and managing director of Convective Capital, a venture capital firm specifically focused on investing in the sector.
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... and one to end the week on ... changing your password
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