Friday Offcuts – 26 January 2024

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In this week's issue, we cover a surge in technological applications, such as artificial intelligence for wildfire detection, innovative biotechnology solutions, and marker-free tracing methods for logs. There is a growing emphasis on leveraging technology for efficiency, sustainability and growth within the forestry industry.

In addition, the transition to zero-emission vehicles and machinery has been a focal point lately, with discussions around the end of government incentives for light electric vehicles and the challenges and opportunities in adopting zero-emission trucks. These details will be a major focus of the upcoming Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 event being held on 22-23 May 2024.

Sustainability has also been a recurring theme, with investments in wood-based alternatives for large construction projects, Scion's biotechnology initiatives, and the completion of Melbourne's tallest timber office building using responsibly sourced materials. While timber-framed housing has been the standard for generations, developers are increasingly looking to CLT for multi-storey residential and commercial buildings. 

There's much more covered below, so enjoy the read. 

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AI helping to fight wildfires

Researchers in New Brunswick are developing a new approach to tackling Canada's growing threat of wildfires: teaching artificial intelligence to find them faster.

A team of engineers at the Université de Moncton is fine-tuning an algorithm that works with satellite and drone images to detect fires more accurately than humans. The technology also predicts where a blaze will spread, helping firefighters know where to send resources.

Moulay Akhloufi, a computer science professor and head of the Perception, Robotics and Intelligent Machines Laboratory, said it can help spot signs of a fire the human eye would miss. "It's very accurate. Some of the algorithms are able to get to more than 99 per cent performance when we want to detect fires," he said.

After Canada's worst wildfire season on record, forestry and wildfire experts are turning to modelling and satellites as an increasingly important tool. While in early stages of development, some firefighters are already using artificial intelligence to inform decisions on the ground.

"We are using machine learning, when and where appropriate, to do a better job managing wildfires," said wildfire expert Mike Flannigan, of Thompson Rivers University. "It's a very effective tool, though it's not a panacea. It's not going to solve all our problems."

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Source: CBC

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NZ log exports to China remained firm - TTM Report

The new ITTO Tropical Timber Market Report highlights NZ's log exports to China.

According to China Customs, in the first 10 months of this year log imports from New Zealand were 14.51 million cubic metres, up slightly (1.1%) accounting for 46% of the national total and valued at US$1.796 billion, down 20%.

The volume of New Zealand's log exports to China did not show significant growth up to October this year. In the first 10 months of 2023, imports increased by about 2% percentage points year on year and in the third quarter of 2023, imports fell by 17% quarter-on-quarter and 11% year-on-year.

After a three-month decline in imports between July and September 2023 China’s log imports from New Zealand rose 18% to 1.57 million cubic metres in October, up 3 percentage points year-on-year. The average CIF price for log imports from New Zealand in October fell 21% to US$124 per cubic metre over the same period in 2022. The CIF price for log imports from New Zealand fluctuated between January and October in 2023.



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It has been reported that prices for New Zealand logs are showing signs of recovery. Prices in November 2023 were US$9 per cubic metre higher than in October 2023 and prices for logs from North Island exporters in New Zealand rose US$5-10 per cubic metre. It has become apparent that New Zealand forestry companies are seeking new markets, however, China accounts for more than 80% of New Zealand log exports.

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Source: International Tropical Timber Organization




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Wood industry watching shipping costs

The New Zealand wood industry is closely watching the conflict in the Red Sea, as global shipping costs rise as a result of the disrupted supply chain. The United States is advancing on the area after a string of attacks on commercial cargo ships by Iran- backed Yemen Houthi militants in recent months.

Rabobank said cargo vessels were avoiding the risk of more attacks at the Suez Canal by taking a detour around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, adding weeks to the voyage. Researcher Stefan Vogel said it would cost more to ship products like milk powder, red meat and logs from New Zealand to Europe. "Every vessel that's longer at sea is slower to load their next cargo, and that's limiting the available shipping capacity and driving freight costs up."

Vogel said another concern was the availability of containers, as seen during the global supply chain disruptions from 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic. "A similar struggle for containers could materialise again if the Red Sea issues tighten global container freight capacity further."

Forestry consultant Allan Laurie said higher freight costs and low availability of vessels, as a result of the conflict, were flowing down the chain to New Zealand forest owners. "We saw a pretty immediate impact. In fact, within three days shipping companies were wanting a $3 lift [per cubic metre]."

He said the handymax bulk carrier vessels, which typically picked up New Zealand logs, tended to get entwined in the mix when the vessel availability was depleted. "The focus has been on containers and the Suez Canal, but handis are in that mix availability and longer time voyages."

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Source: RNZ


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Investment in Chilean wood alternative start-up

Chilean pulp producer Empresas CMPC SA is betting on a local startup that is working to create a wood alternative for concrete and steel in the construction industry.



CMPC Ventures, CMPC’s venture capital division, led a $5.2 million investment in Strong by Form, a Chilean startup that develops wood panels that it claims can be used in construction and even in the automotive industry, according to a press release.

Strong by Form said its wood panels achieve the strength of concrete with one tenth of the weight, and also use less trees than cross laminated timber products, according to the statement.

Strong By Form didn’t report a valuation of the company. Other investors included CiRi Ventures, France’s MAIF Avenir Ventures and Teampact Ventures, among others. The company will use the funds to continue developing its products and build a production facility. Strong by Form said, without providing further details, that its also working on partnerships with Deutsche Bahn and the BMW Group.

Source: Bloomberg, Strong by Form



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Scientific consensus backs prescribed burning

Forestry Australia has poured water on the latest bushfire research that prescribed burning could make Australian forests more flammable.

“Scientific consensus amongst bushfire scientists confirms that prescribed burning is a key tool in managing bushfires,” Forestry Australia Science Policy Adviser, Dr Tony Bartlett, AFSM said.

“While there is no panacea for reducing the impacts of catastrophic bushfires, prescribed burning is a scientifically proven part of the solution. Simply, reduced fuel levels in forests will reduce the severity of bushfires on all bar the most catastrophic fire weather conditions.

“Any criticism that prescribed burning can make Australian forests more flammable is misguided. Criticising prescribed burning is like dismissing the value of seat belts in cars because people still die in car accidents. Both seat belts and prescribed burns are highly beneficial most of the time.

“Forestry Australia’s view is that using cool burning to reduce fuel hazards is critical to good forest fire management and very consistent with the way Aboriginal people managed these forests for thousands of years.

“Reducing the risks from bushfires in forest areas should include well- planned, risk-based strategic programs of prescribed burning, silvicultural management, fuel breaks and track maintenance, with appropriate public consultation.

“Importantly, Australia’s bushfire management is based on decades of on ground research and lived experience. While new ideas on how to improve bushfire management are always welcome, it is essential that untested theoretical concepts are carefully considered in light of the existing knowledge on how wildfires behave in Australian forests.”

Increased investment in prevention and preparedness is essential to achieving enhanced management of fire and to address the increased risk of more frequent and severe bushfires”. Dr Bartlett indicated that “the claim that further investment in drone technologies can contain bushfires has not been proven”.

Source:Forestry Australia
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The future is based in biology

Scientific breakthroughs in the study of nature and how to mimic it have fuelled a biotechnology revolution. Scion is leading the way for New Zealand in this area and supporting industry to solve some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges.

Nature is the ultimate designer, thanks to evolution, demonstrating the fundamental adapt-or-die philosophy that underpins the very essence of life.

Why is this more relevant than ever? Because globally we are facing environmental threats never seen in our history. And currently, our reliance on fossil fuels and petrochemical resources for medicine, food security, fuel and energy are absolute.

The need to find alternatives to fossil fuels is imperative. And the area that will have the most impact will be in the industrial biotech space. Why? Scale baby, scale.

With 97 million barrels of fossil fuel produced every single day world- wide for chemicals, polymers and fuel, solutions need to be at scale, or the impact just won’t be big enough, or quick enough.

Industry itself is increasingly working towards addressing the climate crisis, minimising carbon and waste emissions, and finding alternatives to petrochemicals and fossil fuels.

Scion is currently working alongside two companies to help secure funding bids and build pilot-scale plants in New Zealand, with another five commercial science and research partnerships currently in place.

One such partnership is with Plentyful, set to scale up production of PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates – biopolymers with similar characteristics to petroleum-derived polymers), turning organic waste from industry into bio- based materials like plastics and resins, as an alternative to oil-based plastics.

Scion is working alongside Plentyful to establish a pilot-scale plant in Marton, utilising significant waste streams from food, viticulture and wood. Managing director Jayden Klinac says Scion and Plentyful are aligned with research that supports the development of New Zealand’s circular bioeconomy.

“At Plentyful, we envision a New Zealand where technology meets sustainability, turning yesterday’s waste into tomorrow’s resource. “Partnering with Scion, we’re scaling innovations that promise a cleaner, resource-efficient future, ensuring ‘waste’ becomes a word of the past for the coming generations.”

Scion is also working with geothermal research and innovation company Upflow to build a pilotscale plant that turns carbon dioxide and methane emissions into animal feed.

Building solid relationships globally will ensure New Zealand has access to the very latest in research and technology. This, alongside further investment within the organisation, are key drivers for Scion in accelerating research and capabilities for New Zealand.

More >>

Source and image credit: Scion


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Cut surfaces as fingerprints - marker-free tracing of logs

Until now, reliably tracing logs to their origin has been difficult to achieve. Researchers at Fraunhofer IPM and their partners have now shown that logs and trunk sections can be identified based on the structure of the cut surfaces. The recent research project developed a marker-free and tamper-proof method. The optical method allows up to 100 percent recognition – even under the rough environment conditions of the timber industry.

Timber is a valuable natural resource, and its role – particularly in the construction industry – is increasing. One objective of the EU timber regulation is to curb illegal timber trade. This is why the regulation requires wood-processing companies to ensure that timber can be traced to its origin along the entire supply chain. The numbering tags, RFID codes and simple colour markings commonly used for identifying timber cannot ensure a reliable proof of origin because they are not tamper-proof. So far, alternative methods of marking logs and trunk sections have failed due to high costs and a lack of digitalization.

Tamper-proof identification: Cut surfaces as fingerprints

Fraunhofer IPM has been collaborating closely with the Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg (FVA) to develop a camera-based tracing method. The research project for the identification of logs and trunk sections has recently been concluded. The Track & Trace Fingerprint method uses the unique structures on cut surfaces like a fingerprint, meaning that no timber marking is required.

High-resolution camera images of the cut surfaces are translated into a simple bit sequence, the fingerprint code. This code is matched with a unique ID and stored in a Cloud database. Tracking can thus be achieved by comparing new images of the same area with the corresponding bit sequence. This allows the tamper-proof identification of individual logs and trunk sections, even if the timber is mixed up during harvest and processing.

Three different camera systems have been developed for wood processing applications, each to suit specific lighting conditions: a system that is integrated in a forest harvester, a system for use in a sawmill and a hand-held system. There are two reasons why the creation of fingerprint codes generates a vast amount of data: first, the specific structure of the cut surface with knots, growth rings and rough surfaces, and second, the forest environment, which makes the reproduction of log positions impossible. This is why the images are pre-selected in a two-step process using a convolutional neural network (CNN).

High recognition rate

In a field study, the researchers could show that the fingerprint method is reliable, even in the rough environmental conditions in the forest and the sawmill. A total of 65 cut surfaces were recorded on the forest harvester, at the timber collection point and at the sawmill. The registered sections were then identified at the collection point and at the sawmill by new images being taken at each location respectively.

The recognition rate between the forest harvester and the timber collection point was 98.5 percent, in other words the system failed to recognize only a single log. Between the forest harvester and the sawmill, and between the timber collection point and the sawmill, the recognition rate was 100 percent. In the future, the researchers will be working on making the method suitable for other types of wood and for applications along the entire timber processing chain.

Source: www.ipm.fraunhofer.de



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Zero emission trucks need a boost

The NZ Government’s announcement that the Road User Charges (RUC) exemption for light electric vehicles and plug in hybrids will end in April is good news for the state of the roads. But it also highlights the challenges to zero emission truck uptake, says road freight peak body Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand.

Policy advisor Billy Clemens says the coalition Government had made the right call in ending the temporary RUC exemption for light EVs. "The temporary RUC reduction was a helpful sweetener while light EV technology was in its early stages, and many consumers and businesses may have needed an additional incentive.

"With light EV uptake now building serious global momentum, subsidies simply aren’t necessary. The exemption was always intended to be temporary, up until light EVs reached 2 percent of the light vehicle fleet. With that goal met, it’s appropriate that users start contributing to the upkeep of the roads they’re using, just as our truck operator members do. With our roading network in such a poor state of repair, we need that revenue to be used for maintenance and improvements."

While light EV uptake is progressing well, Clemens says the Government needs to act swiftly to enable greater uptake of zero emission heavy vehicles that are currently exempt from paying RUC until December 2025.

"In the long term, we want to see zero emission trucks stand on their own two feet against internal combustion alternatives. However, the current cost premium and limited capability of battery electric and hydrogen vehicles mean they aren’t yet generally commercially viable. Transporting New Zealand is committed to the decarbonisation of road freight transport, but our members can’t do it alone."

He says “In addition to the heavy EV RUC exemption, there are plenty of ways the Government can support positive change. These include introducing accelerated interest depreciation on low and zero emission vehicles; increasing axle weight limits for electric trucks with heavy batteries; permitting Class 1 licensed drivers to operate small electric trucks; amending the national EV charging strategy to focus more on heavy vehicles; and maintaining co-funding through EECA.

"These practical changes would support road transport companies to transition towards lower and zero carbon trucks, and help New Zealand meet our ambitious decarbonisation targets," Clemens says. "We can make 2024 a big year for low and zero emissions trucks in New Zealand."

About Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand

Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand is the peak national membership association representing the road freight transport industry. Our members operate urban, rural and inter- regional commercial freight transport services throughout the country.

Road is the dominant freight mode in New Zealand, transporting 92.8% of the freight task on a tonnage basis, and 75.1% on a tonne-km basis. The road freight transport industry employs over 34,000 people across more than 4,700 businesses, with an annual turnover of NZ$6 billion.



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Comparing battery with petrol-powered chainsaws

Looking for some early back from holiday reading? Check out the latest report from the Precision Silviculture Programme which details a trial comparing battery-powered chainsaws to traditional petrol-powered ones in waste thinning operations across five sites.

While there are key areas for improvement in power and battery management, there is also some promise. The next phase of testing this year will focus on early age thinnings and involve crews with limited prior experience, along with the introduction of backpack battery carriers and other approaches for better battery handling.

Check out the report for further details.

Source: Forest Growers Research

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China's Forest City: Mystery behind the 'Ghost Town

Forest City serves as a stark reminder that the repercussions of China's property crisis extend beyond its borders.

China's Country Garden's creation of the "Forest City" in Malaysia raises questions about the ambitious project's purpose and the impact of China's property crisis beyond its borders.

Turning Forest City to Ghost City

Country Garden unveiled Forest City in 2016 as a $100 billion mega-project under the Belt and Road Initiative. This plan aimed to construct an eco-friendly metropolis complete with a golf course, water park, offices, bars, and restaurants, to accommodate about one million people.

However, eight years later, Forest City serves as a stark reminder that the repercussions of China's property crisis extend beyond its borders. Interesting Engineering revealed that only 15% of the massive project has been completed, with occupancy levels just over a meagre 1%.

Former resident Nazmi Hanafiah, an IT engineer, now describes the once-promising venture as a desolate "ghost town." The feelings of desolation and the urgent need to escape were evident in his decision to disregard his deposit and financial concerns.

Forest City, characterised by its unsettling ambiance, remote location, and lack of amenities, has earned the local nickname "Ghost City." The vacant beaches, closed shops, and abandoned construction sites all contribute to a haunting and isolated landscape.

What Happened?

Conceived as an idyllic haven for the burgeoning Chinese middle class, Forest City aimed to entice them with the prospect of a second home overseas, whether as a vacation retreat or an investment property available for rent.

Yet, the project has grappled with formidable challenges. Recent reports from the South China Morning Post painted a gloomy picture, revealing that only a sparse number of lights illuminate the project's extensive array of high-rise towers by evening.

The desolation is further emphasised by closed shops adorned with notices demanding overdue payments, providing an uninviting view into their neglected interiors. This grim scene deters even the most adventurous souls seeking a place in the labelled "Ghost City."

More >>

Source: techtimes

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Melbourne’s tallest timber office building finished

The tallest mass timber office building in Melbourne has been completed at 15 storeys, designed by Jackson Clements Burrows Architects.

The 18,200-square-metre office building, named T3 Collingwood, has been designed with sustainability in mind. Constructed using Victorian oak responsibly sourced from Australian forests, the structure represents a 34 per cent reduction in embodied carbon. Glazed windows have been integrated to maximise daylight and energy efficiency.

Located at 36 Wellington Street, Collingwood, the building features office spaces, retail offerings, a lobby, a wellness centre, a basement car park and 186 bicycle parking spots, as well as outdoor terraces on floors five and 12.

According to the T3 Collingwood website, the vision for the building was to provide a working environment that fosters a “greater sense of wellbeing, fulfilment and work satisfaction” through the incorporation of mental respite areas such as the outdoor terraces.

Project developer Hines’s country head of Australia and New Zealand, David Warneford, said that there is a growing demand for green buildings with environmentally and socially beneficial design features.

As a result, the developer has engaged Architectus and Wilkinson Eyre to design another green office tower at 600 Collins Street in Melbourne. The AU$1 billion Collins Street project is expected to be completed in the first half of 2026.

Source: architectureau



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30,000 machine milestone

Tigercat Industries is pleased to announce that it has built and shipped its 30,000th machine in January 2024, just over 30 years into its existence. From humble beginnings in 1992 when Tigercat had a single product, very little dealer representation, and produced just a handful of machines, the company has grown steadily, expanding both its production capacity and product breadth.

A few quick facts

  • Tigercat debuted the 726 feller buncher in April 1992 at a forestry equipment show in Quitman Georgia.
  • By 1995, Tigercat had two drive-to-tree feller bunchers, two track feller bunchers, and two bunching shear models with distribution in Canada and the United States.
  • By 1997, Tigercat had a full product line to offer southern US dealers with the addition of a knuckleboom loader and the industry's first successful, serial production hydrostatic skidder.
  • In 2000, Tigercat was well on its way to becoming the dominant player in steep slope harvesting applications, offering a six-wheel drive skidder and the L830 feller buncher. Both were destined to become flagship products for the company. In addition, Tigercat entered the vegetation management sector with its first mulcher carrier. The range of carriers and attachments that have followed are crucial inputs to wildfire mitigation strategies in many regions globally.
  • By 2005, Tigercat was present in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and Sweden among other countries.
  • In 2012 Tigercat had grown in 20 years from two to 1,000 employees and introduced the 880 logger, the first in a series of versatile, forest duty swing machines.
Today, Tigercat has the most complete full-tree product line-up in the industry, along with a growing range of CTL harvesters, forwarders and harvesting heads. Tigercat launched a new brand, TCi in 2022 and put the TCi badge on its first dozer, the 920. In the last four years, the company has been developing a line of material processing products with two launches to date – the 6500 chipper and 6900 grinder. 2024 will see a slew of new and exciting products introduced to the market.

Tigercat recently opened a new facility dedicated to the material processing product line and is currently building an additional facility. When complete the company will have over 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing capacity. That's 130,000 square metres or 32 acres under roof. Over 160 dealer locations in 25 countries represent the Tigercat and TCi brands, along with an extensive factory support network. The company employs over 2,000.

One thing that hasn't changed over the years is Tigercat's dedication to the customer base and its relentless pursuit of innovation and improvement.

Source and image credit: Tigercat

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Jobs



Buy and Sell



... and one to end the week on ... conversation on a plane

A stranger was seated next to a little girl on the plane when the stranger turned to her and said, 'Let's talk. I've heard that flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.'

The little girl, who had just opened her book, closed it slowly and said to the stranger, 'What would you like to talk about?'

'Oh, I don't know,' said the stranger. 'How about nuclear power?' and he smiles.

OK, ' she said. 'That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first.

A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff - grass - . Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?'

The stranger, visibly surprised by the little girl's intelligence, thinks about it and says, 'Hmmm, I have no idea.'

To which the little girl replies, 'Do you really feel qualified to discuss nuclear power when you don't know shit?





And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Ken Wilson
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Mob: +61 452 262 337 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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