Friday Offcuts 28 February 2020
We’ve included this week a couple of more upbeat stories on younger students within our industry. The first involves a 22-year-old University of Canterbury Forestry student who went to Tumut, NSW last November as part of a four-month forestry internship. His experiences were probably somewhat different to that first anticipated. A group of 14 secondary school students in the Mt Gambier region have also been taking their very first steps towards a career in forestry. It’s part of the Ultimate Renewable Forest Learning Pathway. Set up by industry, local Government and training groups, it’s all part of a longer-term plan to introduce local students to the opportunities open to them and for those interested, access to future career pathways. It’s a successful model which is now being replicated in a number of regions across Australia and New Zealand.
Moving to safety and technology, two exciting teams of speakers have been lined up for this regions’ Forest Safety & Technology conference series run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association. In both Australia and New Zealand, the focus this year is on managing fatigue and culture in our workplaces. With the combined impact of the forest fires and clean up now underway in Australia and the issues on log exports into China, discounted early bird registrations have been left open for those looking to send some of your teams through to these events in May. Click here for details.
Finally, we’ve included a story that’s also related to the Australian bush fires. This one though is about a young tech start-up company that we covered late last year, AirSeed Technologies. As an unusual spin off to the fires, the company has been able to build on the renewed awareness of environmental solutions with the fires bringing climate change to the forefront of investors' minds. The company has turned to crowd funding. Their objective is to raise one million dollars for their drone-based seed-planting technology, the idea being to progress and fund the technology that will assist mass plantings across the landscape. When the story broke in mid-February, they were well on their way. They'd raised over $180,000 in the first few days. As of last weekend, they were 85% funded with a minimum target for investment set at $300,000. We’ll keep you updated on this one. And on that note, enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Coronavirus – Latest forest industry update• Te Uru Rākau and the forestry sector have agreed to work in partnership to overcome challenges created by the situation in China. Regular weekly meetings with forestry sector leaders are being held to monitor the impact and identify how the sector can be supported. Accurate information about what is happening in market enables businesses to plan and make decisions.
• New Zealand exporters are telling us that while China’s ports remain open, ports are at capacity with an inventory in excess of 6 million cubic metres, with limited room to stockpile further logs. China is prioritising clearing essential goods such as food and medical supplies and it is likely to take some time for log stockpiles to reduce.
• • Logging exports from New Zealand are being delayed or halted, for an uncertain period of time. This will have an impact on harvesters and forestry companies some of whom are reducing staff hours given a decision to reduce harvest targets and in some cases, laying off staff.
• Our MPI contacts in China are reporting that the activity of some wood markets has increased in the past week. However, market transactions have not yet returned to normal as the wood processing and construction sector has not yet resumed production. They estimate it will be at least until March 2020 until wood markets resume normal operations.
• There is a high level of uncertainty on the extent of the supply chain disruption and how quickly Chinese processors will use the stockpile that has built up.
• Some immediate supply chain impacts are some crews idled and others working below capacity. This has flow on effects for related companies, including the log freight industry.
• Te Uru Rākau is working closely with the Ministry of Social Development to link with the most affected regions to ensure those workers can access services such as job seeker support, accommodation supplement and special needs grants.
• Te Uru Rākau has linked Inland Revenue advice to the forestry sector so that impacted businesses can request extensions of time or apply for financial hardship for taxation liabilities. Inland Revenue advice is available on this link.
• Tax Management NZ a registered tax intermediary for the provision of tax pooling has set aside a dedicated $30m fund to help cash-strapped taxpayers in the forestry industry defer payment of provisional tax for the 2020 income year until June next year. Details attached.
• MPI will be meeting with the banks and other financial institutions to clarify how they are currently supporting the forestry and wider primary sectors, and what other actions they can take.
• Te Uru Rākau is working with the Department of Conservation to identify options for redeployment of affected forestry sector workers.
Forest Owners Association
Climate right for raising tech fundsStartups are capitalising on renewed interest in environmental solutions after Australia's bushfires brought climate change to the front of investors' minds.
"We've got a problem in front of us. If we don't act, it will get worse. Where there's a problem, there's a market," co-founder of AirSeed Technologies Andrew Walker said. Late last year in this newsletter we covered the company and technology.
Mr Walker and his South African-based co-founder Andries Louw have raised more than $180,000 in just over two days (mid-February) on their path to a million-dollar crowdfunding raise via the Onmarket platform for their drone-based seed-planting technology.
Having bootstrapped AirSeed to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars, the pair are now turning to the crowd for a capital boost ahead of expanding trials of their offer into the Australian market.
The startup has developed a process it says is 95 per cent faster than manual tree planting, using drone duos to drop specially designed seed pods and use GPS locating to track their growth. It wants to plant 100 million trees by 2023.
After undertaking trials in Gabon in central Africa, Mr Walker said AirSeed was ready to bring resources home to Australia this year to focus on reforestation efforts for an environment ravaged by bushfire. "This is a global problem and one of the consequences [of climate change] is more loss. As a consequence of that warming, we’re seeing worse disasters, worse wildfires," he said.
AirSeed is aiming to assist with those challenges by providing an efficient way for businesses and governments to replant trees when needed and in the context of offsetting carbon emissions. Mr Walker said the time was right for the business to turn to equity crowdfunding at this point because investors were hungry for information on long-term solutions for a world experiencing climate change.
Companies like AirSeed face competition, like Droneseed, a Seattle-founded business who spoke to local forestry companies at last year’s ForestTECH 2019 series. They use a similar approach to restore environments after wildfire destruction. In its fundraising offer, AirSeed acknowledges the competition but claims its design is cutting edge and can carry more seeds which are non-germinated, meaning they can last longer before planting.
Source: The Age, Photo; AirSeed Technologies
Wharves in China can’t take more NZ logsLack of space in Chinese ports is bringing a virtual halt to New Zealand log exports to China. The Forest Owners Association says precautions in China against coronavirus have resulted in almost no offtake of logs in China for processing and exporters understand that the remaining log yard space at most ports near processing centres is quickly disappearing.
The Association President, Peter Weir says exporters had hoped that business would return to normal after the extended Lunar New Year holiday finished in China two weeks ago. “That hasn’t happened. Many Chinese sawmills are yet to get back to work. New Zealand exporters have nowhere else to send the industrial grade logs they harvest.”
“In regions where there is no domestic sawmilling, many harvest contracting crews are being put on reduced hours or, worst case, stood down. Regrettably many of our contractors have little alternative but to lay-off skilled workers.”
Log exports to China were worth NZ$2.7 billion for the year to the end of December 2019. Over the past three months very large volumes of European spruce salvaged from forests under attack by insects have been shipped into log markets in China.
Peter Weir says that that flood of salvaged logs is directly attributable to climate change with recent warm winters and longer summers. “There would have been much less inventory pressure if these exports had not arrived in China, but the concern about coronavirus has happened at just the wrong time for New Zealand.”
Peter Weir says the situation is fluid with different forest owners and management companies taking different approaches. “NZFOA members are doing what we can to retain our skilled labour force by sending better logs to domestic sawmills to make up for the shortfall from farm woodlots where logging has already ceased.”
“We continue to invest in the silvicultural work, including pruning, thinning and preparing recently harvested land before replanting begins in May or June. Most members will continue building safe forest roads and landings to be harvest ready when markets recover. But that may be some months.”
“Many larger forest companies are assisting contractors with business management and financial advice. In Poverty Bay, we are delighted with the support we are receiving from local Federated Farmers who are looking for jobs to employ forest workers. Every few extra hours of income are most welcome.”
Peter Weir says the Forest Owners Association is working closely with Te Uru Rākau in trying to lessen the impact of the log supply situation. “We are coordination with the government seeing what we can do together. Neither of us can solve this situation, but working together as a partnership will lessen the impact.”
“Our members are not looking for handouts, but we do want to work out equitable ways for working with the government to assist the various harvesting crews. They are ones who will need the help.”
“We are mindful too that a substantial reduction in harvesting is likely to have a major and rapid supply chain effect here in New Zealand, with a large dedicated workforce in trucking and port loading which is also going to feel the impact.”
Source: Forest Owners Association
Oji promotes $600m bio-energy developmentPulp and paper maker Oji Fibre Solutions has cited a potential NZ$600 million investment at its Kinleith mill near Tokoroa as the type of long-term bio-energy project the country could miss out on if the government isn't prepared to match supports being offered by other countries.
The concept project would increase the site’s recovery of lignan – an organic polymer extracted from wood – for use as fuel for zero-carbon process heat and renewable electricity generation. That would slash the plant’s gas use, reduce emissions and free up surplus renewable power generation for export to the grid.
Longer term, the project could enable further expansion of the plant’s capacity – subject to fibre availability – and make its production almost fully renewable, as similar, modern mills are overseas, environment and external relations manager Philip Millichamp told BusinessDesk.
But in the current environment, the project isn’t viable, he said, and can’t deliver the sort of six-year payback expected from an investment of that scale. Instead, Oji is competing against overseas firms that are benefiting from support being provided by other countries also working to reduce their emissions.
“Really, the only difference between our project and those overseas ones, as far as we can understand, are those incentives that are being provided by countries like Canada and Japan and some northern European countries.”
Oji also operates the Tasman pulp mill at Kawerau, a string of packaging plants here and in Australia, and the Fullcircle recycling business. Earlier this month, it told Parliament’s environment select committee that New Zealand risked losing investment in green technologies to other jurisdictions if it did not also consider wider policy measures to encourage ongoing development.
The committee is considering law changes to tighten the emissions trading scheme and introduce new carbon budgets in line with the country’s 2050 net-zero carbon target. Among changes planned are tougher rules for heavy manufacturers such as Oji, papermaker Norske Skog, glass-maker O-I, and NZ Steel, which are currently shielded from the bulk of their carbon costs to help keep them competitive against overseas rivals that either don’t face carbon costs or are subsidised.
Green MPs are pushing hard to get that support – in the form of free allocation of emission credits – cut back to help meet the government’s early carbon budgets and take pressure off other parts of the community. Millichamp said the firm is not expecting fixes to the ETS to make the project viable. But the ETS is one of a range of policy levers the government has to reduce emissions and drive wider development of renewables, including the longer-term development of bio-energy from the country’s expanding wood resources, he said.
“We are getting interest from politicians,” he said. “We’ve been encouraged by the reaction of a number of people - from a range of different parties actually – that we have spoken to.” The project would involve installing new boilers and generators fueled with wood waste. A new evaporator would be installed to concentrate liquid wood lignin, along with a new boiler to burn it.
Those units would deliver about 15 million gigajoules of process heat and about 2.5 gigajoules of electrical energy. The latter is equivalent to almost 700 gigawatt-hours of electricity, roughly the demand of 100,000 homes, and up to half of that could be exported to the grid. In its paper on the project, Oji highlights the need for complementary policy actions to encourage greater investment in domestic wood processing and regulation to increase collection and use of forestry residue.
“Currently, the Kinleith mill is competitive but, in the long-term, it will need to expand. This is constrained by the supply of wood residues and limited by the massive volume of unprocessed logs exported offshore.” It notes that, if the project was built in British Columbia, it would qualify for renewable energy feed-in tariffs worth the equivalent of NZ$40 million annually – sufficient to make the project viable.
Millichamp said there is a risk when discussing a highly technical, “fairly esoteric” bill on changes to the ETS, that the broader issues of emission reduction and long-term industry development are lost sight of. And he noted that, while the technology proposed for the project is sophisticated, it is in no way experimental, with parent company Oji installing it in several recent projects in Japan.
“This project is not just about renewable energy and reducing emissions. It’s also about the processing sector in general,” he said. “The Kinleith mill is a key part of the wood processing sector.”
Students getting first-hand look at forestry careersA group of 14 secondary school students in the Limestone Coast region are taking their first steps toward a career in forestry today thanks to a partnership between Industry, the Department of Education and Child Development, Logging Industry Training Association (LITA) and the Forest Industries Training Network (FitNet).
The Ultimate Renewable Forest Learning Pathway aims to equip secondary students with the knowledge and skills necessary for them to join the forest and timber industry with a Certificate III and SACE credit points. Paul Hartung from OneFortyOne said “this program will give students in the Limestone Coast a unique experience of theory and practice in the forestry industry.
“Forestry is a critical industry for the Limestone Coast region, but there is currently an industry skills shortage,” he said. “OneFortyOne has invested in the forest learning pathway because we want to develop the skills we need locally as we plan for our future workforce. “By completing this program, students will be well-positioned for future career pathways including apprenticeships, traineeships and tertiary qualifications in the forestry industry. It means those students will have a head start over others looking for work and career opportunities.”
The inaugural year of the program has seen 14 students sign up, coming from Mount Gambier High School, Grant High School, St Martin’s Lutheran College, Tenison Woods College and the Independent Learning Centre.
The pathway program incorporates a range of classroom and field-based experiences. Students will also undertake several competencies from the Forest Growing and Management, Harvesting and Haulage and Sawmilling and Processing training packages which have been nominated by industry to support relevancy and access to future pathways.
“As a result of the program, we hope to educate students about the career options available in forestry, build momentum and interest among a wider range of students, grow talent within the community and offer professional options for their development,” Mr Hartung said.
To celebrate the United Nation’s International Day of Forests and inspired by the theme Forests and Biodiversity: Too Precious to Lose OneFortyOne is also hosting a student video competition, with prizes! OneFortyOne’s Linda Cotterill said, “We’re inviting students across the Limestone Coast to send us a short video that showcases the biodiversity of our local forests.” “We need young people to love our forests, whether that be Australian bushland or plantation forestry”.
“This summer we have seen plant and animal biodiversity seriously impacted by fire. It is our hope that this competition can help raise awareness about just how much forests offer people and the environment. We thought this competition would be a fun way to do it and to get people out into nature.”
The Green Triangle is home to Australia’s largest collective plantation and timber processing industry, contributing significantly to the economies of Victoria and South Australia and generating more than AU$778 million Gross Regional Product annually. In excess of 355,000 hectares of softwood and hardwood plantations produce timber for local manufacturing, national and export markets.
Canterbury student returns from Australian bush firesCanterbury University student Fergus Simpson has just arrived back from Australia where he was roped in to fighting bushfires in New South Wales. Last November, the 22-year-old went to the rural town of Tumut on a four-month forestry internship.
Although some volunteer firefighting was on the cards - his internship quickly evolved into a mission to save the town. Simpson was one of the youngest New Zealanders to be called in to help fight the Australian fires and probably the only one with no previous firefighting experience.
"This has been life changing for me really ... I was really hesitant about going at first ... but the main thing to take from that is do what you want in life and don't hesitate, do the things you want to do and don't let anything stop you." Now he has come home armed with lessons.
"It was a bit scary at first and I felt very underprepared, but I definitely learned quickly and picked up skills and they said you've probably got about five years fire experience in a few months," he said. On reflection he admitted the tragic circumstances of the fires, which involved casualties and extensive damage to properties, took a toll.
He recalled a moment when he evacuated Tumut and looked back onto the town which had quickly become his "adopted home" and remembered seeing huge plumes of smoke and thought "this [town] will never be the same again". "You can imagine flames 30 metres tall, you can imagine huge plumes of smoke but you can't imagine how hot it gets."
Since his arrival, his family and friends have welcomed him with open arms and were glad "he was back in one piece". It was a major transition as he tried to adjust to life back home in Christchurch at a slower pace, and as his last year at university began. "It's quite a transition but it's great ... once I have graduated, I will have my career in forestry but definitely want to do volunteer firefighting," he said.
Source: NZ Herald, Photo: ODT
Hazard reduction welcomed by Australian forestersThe Institute of Foresters Australia and Australian Forest Growers have welcomed the Terms of Reference of the Royal Commission into Bushfires as signed off on by the Governor-General last week but says action must be taken sooner rather than later to ensure the nation is better placed to withstand future challenges of a changing climate.
Kevin Tolhurst and Gary Morgan of the Institute of Foresters Australia and Australian Forest Growers said the organisation was delighted to see hazard reduction measures and traditional land and fire management practices of Indigenous Australians specifically cited in the Terms of the Commission.
“The Institute of Foresters Australia and Australian Forest Growers have long advocated for common national standards and reporting in terms of hazard reduction measures and it is encouraging to see prescribed Government action on this front,” Mr Tolhurst and Morgan said.
“Fire as a management tool of the landscape has been used since ancient times in Australia and the Institute of Foresters Australia and Australian Forest Growers are strong supporters of the need for policy to better understand and incorporate the learnings and knowledge of Indigenous Australians, who have looked after this land for millennia.
“But the reality is that we need to act now to ensure the devasting loss of life, property, flora and fauna experienced across Australia over the past months does not become the norm. Countless inquiries have taken place before and we are still where we are now – looking back at a devasting bushfire season which was unprecedented, but not unforeseen”.
“We encourage governments not to wait to act on the recommendations of this Royal Commission, but to start acting on the recommendations of previous commissions and inquiries, Mr Tolhurst and Morgan said.
The pair also noted that for Australia to respond to the key findings and recommendations from this Royal Commission, if the findings of past commissions and inquiries was anything to go by, there is a gap in the necessary skills and knowledge to deal with the solutions.
“This skills gap of appropriately trained and resourced forest and land management experts will need to be addressed along with proper resourcing of organisations involved in land management if we are to ensure we are best prepared for the challenges of future bushfire threat in Australia.
Source: Institute of Foresters Australia & Australian Forest Growers
NZ foresters to celebrate 50th AnniversaryThe NZ School of Forestry/Te Kura Ngahere (SOF) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It has graduated over 1400 forestry science (bachelor, diploma and masters) students, 150 forest engineers, as well as 100 PhD students from over 40 countries. To help celebrate this milestone, the SOF has organised a reunion/conference event 15-17th April. Full details on the many activities planned for alumni and friends of the SOF can be found here
Tasmanian anti-logging protesters bannedAnti-logging activists from the Bob Brown Foundation have been banned from protesting in Tasmanian forests by the state’s workplace safety regulator over “unsafe behaviour”, and threatened with fines as high as AU500,000.
But the veteran conservationist said protesters would not be deterred and has flagged legal action against the restrictions. WorkSafe Tasmania has directed the foundation to cease protest activities in forests until it satisfies the regulator that it is managing safety risk.
Several protesters were arrested earlier this month after chaining themselves to machinery and gates at a forestry operation in the north-west Tarkine rainforest. WorkSafe said the foundation had exposed people to risk of death or serious injury without reasonable excuse.
“This is not about stopping protesting ... [but] ensuring that activities are undertaken in a safe manner,” WorkSafe head Mark Cocker told ABC radio on Friday. Brown said the move was something that would make Russian president Vladimir Putin proud.
The federal assistant forestry minister, Jonathon Duniam, said the WorkSafe action was a major win for the state’s 5,700 forestry workers and proof that no one was above the law. The Australian Lawyers Alliance said the protest restrictions and threats of fines were an abuse of power. The foundation has two weeks to lodge an appeal.
The 5 biggest challenges for smart factoriesAn Intel survey of 400 manufacturing experts on the front lines looks at what it will take to clear Industry 4.0's highest hurdles.
With the increasing proliferation of data, connectivity, and processing power at the edge, the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is becoming more accessible. However, successful adoption remains out of reach for many: two of every three companies piloting digital manufacturing solutions fail to move into large-scale rollout. Why is it that, despite enthusiasm for this transformation to a digital manufacturing future, few companies have realized its potential at scale?
We already know that AI and IoT at the edge are key to the acceleration of factory transformation, but what is required to catalyse more rapid adoption of these technologies and avoid the pitfalls of pilot purgatory?
In the past two years, we have embarked on a study of over 400 participants across the industry and ecosystem companies—engaging manufacturing leaders and workers, as well as the technologists that develop the solutions and services that support them—to answer this very question and uncover the essential ingredients of industry 4.0. In 2018, Phase One of the Accelerate Industrial has just been released, looking at how workers will adopt and react to AI in manufacturing roles—and what strategies and tactics will “accelerate the accelerators”. To date, this phased study represents the most comprehensive view of digital transformation happening in the manufacturing sector.
All Phase Two participants were required to have a first-hand role in a smart factory or a company that develops smart technologies, solutions or services, encompassing the full spectrum of points of view across development, deployment, and maintenance of the technologies within those four walls.
Our research found that while there is a big appetite for digital transformation—83% of companies say they plan to make investments in smart factory technologies in the next two to three years—the people who are the most likely to drive that change are frequently uncertain about how to move forward or hesitant to risk it. So, what accounts for this failure to launch or failure to scale? And how should leaders shift the cultural mindset within their organizations to reap the benefits of industrial IOT?
Here are the top five challenges, cited by respondents, that have the potential to derail investments in smart solutions in the future—and tips for avoiding the perils of pilot purgatory.
MOU to advance logging automationCanada’s FPInnovations and the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden (Skogforsk) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the Sweden-Canada Innovation Days symposium held in Montreal late last year. The signing creates an opportunity for the international exchange of research on automated harvesting and advances their respective interests in forestry innovation.
The MOU also allows the organizations to combine their research might to work towards solving the common challenges affecting both the Canadian and Swedish forest industries: increase machine productivity to maintain low supply costs, make harvesting safer by developing technology for automated forest machinery, and attract a new generation of forest workers to address a chronic labour shortage.
Both organizations have developed their own research projects on automated harvesting to address those challenges. One of FPInnovations’ flagship projects is Forestry 4.0 launched in 2018 to bring automation to the forest sector. Skogforsk has developed a similar program centred on forest digitalization and machine automation that includes a teleoperations lab.
FPInnovations’ autonomous navigation project and Skogforsk’s teleoperations lab could become interlocking pieces of a puzzle that solves the dilemma of automating an industry that operates in densely wooded remote locations.
Imagine a time when people can operate forest machines deep in the woods from the comfort of the city through advanced wireless technology. Such a scenario may sound like child’s play, but it’s a reality that FPInnovations and Skogforsk are working towards.
“If we want to create impact with speed, we can’t afford to work in parallel. So, in that sense both organizations recognize that working together will take each country’s research on forest-industry automation further, faster,” says Francis Charette, FPInnovations lead scientist.
The five-year MOU enables FPInnovations and Skogforsk to share the transfer of information and technology through joint courses and symposia; participate in employee exchanges and study tours to increase awareness of novel approaches, and co-author reports on collaborative research.
Source: By FPInnovations
How are we using the internet?And one out of left field that you might find interesting. Every year InternetNZ completes research on how Kiwis are using the Internet, their thoughts towards it, concerns and more. This data helps determine the direction the organisation’s messages and campaigns take so they can ensure a more open, accessible and secure Internet for everyone in New Zealand.
Working with market research company Colmar Brunton, they’ve just published the findings from their most recent research, and there are some very interesting findings, such as:
- Working from home is becoming more common, with 19% of people doing it all the time and more regularly.
- However, 46% say the biggest hurdle are face-to-face meetings.
- Security is still a concern for many, with only 35% using two-factor authentication.
- Almost half of respondents have found a job online (47%).
Visit the InternetNZ website to see the full findings from this year’s research.
Paper firm spending $600 million on biorefineryThe Finnish pulp and paper producer UPM plans to spend $600 million to build a biorefinery in Leuna, Germany, that will convert wood into ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, industrial sugars, and lignin-based fillers. The plant, due to start up by 2023, will have an annual capacity of 220,000 metric tons.
It is one of the first major investments in chemical production by a paper company. Several major paper producers, including Stora Enso and Smurfit Kappa, have in recent years launched programs to develop wood-to-chemical processes in a bid to offset declining paper demand.
The Leuna facility will chip wood, extract lignin and sugars, and convert the sugars into chemicals. UPM expects its cost of production to be comparable with that of fossil-based alternatives. “The supply of biochemicals is very limited,” UPM CEO Jussi Pesonen says in a statement. “Due to this, high-quality sustainable alternatives are priced at a premium in the markets.”
“This is without doubt an interesting development, and its implications can be significant, as it offers more sustainable solutions to fossil-based products we use every day,” says Alejandro Mata, a director at the consulting firm Fastmarkets Risi.
But Mata does not expect other paper companies to follow suit at such a large scale in the near future. “The entry barriers are considerable,” he says, adding that UPM has had to invest significant R&D resources to reach the point where it can scale up the technology.
Source: cen.acs.org, Photo: UPM
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... it's being a tough day
A small man was standing alone in his local pub with a full glass of beer in front of him when a six-foot-tall stranger picked up the glass, swallowed the contents, and said, “What are you going to do about it”.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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