Friday Offcuts 4 September 2020
In wood processing news, in New Zealand, a trial of a Gisborne sawmill looks to have been successful and the company behind the operation, Kiwi Lumber, announced this week that they’re confident that the mill, their fourth in the North Island, will continue with a further NZ$15 million of capital investment earmarked over the next three years. Also, this week it was announced that a major NZ wood manufacturing company, the Claymark Group, that had been put into receivership late last year, has been sold as a going concern to a consortium led by Paul Pedersen with the settlement expected on 30 September 2020. And from Australia, AKD’s Queensland sawmill at Caboolture plans to be up and running again in mid- September after a brief closure due to a storage shed fire in June. As well as the restart, they’ve announced that they’re investing in new plant to ensure that they remain internationally competitive with plans to at least double the log throughput. Details on each of these stories are contained in this week’s issue.
And finally this week, we’ve included the first call for expressions of interest to present in this regions HarvestTECH 2021 event. It’s planned to run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 13-14 April next year. The last time the event ran, in the middle of 2019, it well and truly sold out, months before it ran. It attracted in a record number of delegates with around 500 harvesting contractors, forestry companies and key equipment suppliers meeting up at the one location.
Next year the format has been changed slightly. It’s going to be run again in New Zealand but live links are going to be set up for those who are unable to travel into Rotorua. Within the harvesting event, as well as advances being made in mechanised harvesting, a significant part of the event will be covering wood transport and technology developments around log measurement and scaling. On top of this, on the first day of the two-day HarvestTECH 2021 event, FIEA’s very popular Forest Safety & Technology 2021 conference will be running at the same venue. This is going to ensure maximum interaction between forestry companies, harvesting contractors and log transport operations. So, if keen on looking to save a speaking slot at next year’s major harvesting and log transport event, the message here is best get onto it as soon as possible. Further details can be found in the story below. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
AU$40m Forestry Recovery Development Fund openThe Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed this week’s announcement that fire-impacted forest industries can apply to the Federal Government’s AU$40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund.
AFPA Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross Hampton said, “This support package will provide major relief to the forest product industries in NSW, Victoria and South Australia devastated by the Black Summer bushfires, and we’re pleased the Federal Government listened and responded to the crisis facing our industry.”
The Fund, announced in June by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will support timber processors facing significant, long-term reductions in log supply so they can retool and upgrade their mills.
The bushfire recovery package also included a AU$10 million Salvage Log Storage Fund to boost mills’ capacity to process and store the short-term surplus in burnt logs, particularly in the NSW South West Slopes region where around 40 per cent of the softwood plantations were fire damaged.
“The opening of the program on Tuesday means the industry can take the next step towards recovery to ensure they can survive into the future and support the regional economies and jobs which rely on our sustainably managed forest industries,” Mr Hampton said.
“Our thanks especially to the Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Senator Jonno Duniam who worked closely with industry to understand its needs, and develop the guidelines.”
“While the fire-affected mills still face significant challenges over the next 20-30 years, this Fund and the NSW Government’s complementary recovery package announced earlier in the year will go a long way towards securing the long-term future of the industry and the tens of thousands of jobs it supports,” Mr Hampton concluded.
EOI to present – HarvestTECH 2021Early expressions of interest are being called for to present at next year’s major wood harvesting and log transport event, HarvestTECH 2021. Early details on the planned event can be found on the event website.
If you’re involved in wood harvesting, you’ll remember well the major harvesting event, HarvestTECH 2019 that ran in Rotorua, New Zealand last year. The event SOLD OUT well in advance of it running. It was the largest gathering of its type ever seen in New Zealand with close to 500 harvesting contractors, harvest planners, forestry managers and equipment and technology suppliers into the region’s logging industry attending.
In addition to most major New Zealand contractors being at HarvestTECH 2019, a large contingent of contractors and forest managers came across from Australia, Canada, the USA, Brazil, Chile, Finland, South Africa and Papua New Guinea. HarvestTECH 2020, with a focus on wood transport and logistics had been scheduled to run in September 2020, both in New Zealand and Australia. However, because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event had to be postponed.
The plan is to now run HarvestTECH 2021. It will run on 13-14 April 2021. However, the format, because of the uncertainty still surrounding travel internationally and between New Zealand and Australia (and even across state borders in Australia), for April next year has been changed.
So, what’s being planned?
1. One location. Like the 2019 event, the physical event (on-site presentations and trade exhibitions) for HarvestTECH 2021 will again be run in just one location, Rotorua, New Zealand. This enables delegates and exhibitors to plan with some degree of certainty.
2. LIVE + Virtual On-Line Event. Live links from the New Zealand event will be set up for those unable to travel into Rotorua.
3. Alignment with the Forest Safety & Technology 2021 event. As an added bonus, the very popular forestry safety event run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association is also being held at the same venue on the first day, Tuesday 13 April. This will enable delegates from both events to network during the breaks and to capitalise on the large number of trade exhibitions that are anticipated to be present in Rotorua.
Changed format and content:
With the theme of the postponed HarvestTECH 2020 series being on wood transport and log measurement and scaling technologies, this will still be forming an integral part of the planned two day-event in 2021. Day One of HarvestTECH 2021 will focus on log scaling, log segregation and loading, wood transport, logistics and technologies allowing data integration through the wood supply chain.
Day Two of HarvestTECH 2021, like the sold out 2019 event, will detail new equipment and operating practices being used to increase the mechanization, productivity and the safety of steep slope logging, new technology being rolled out by local wood harvesting contractors, the integration of automation & robotics into wood harvesting operations and best practices around ensuring environmental sustainability (roading, stream crossings and harvest residues management) in felling and in extracting wood from the forest.
So, if interested in saving a speaking space within the programme, best get back to us to avoid missing out this time around. Please email your interest through to email@example.com BEFORE Wednesday 23 September.
As yet, we haven’t called for interest for those wishing to exhibit at the event. If wishing to express interest in receiving exhibition information as soon as it becomes available, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iconic Nelson airport building to be profiledNew Zealand’s 5th annual WoodWorks mass timber conference (previously known as ‘Changing Perceptions’) runs in six weeks. As reported in previous issues, the technology event brings together leaders in engineered wood design and construction.
Mass timber technology developments, including LVL and CLT, prefabrication and connection systems are set to transform commercial building. Early advantages have included accuracy, early contractor engagement and speed of construction. Now wood’s advantages in creating biophilic environments and long-term carbon-friendly sustainability are set to be recognised.
As part of the annual programme this year, Kai Kruse, the CEO of Nelson Pine Industries, will be sharing Nelson Pine’s experience with the new Nelson Airport building. The new, iconic Nelson Airport impresses with its outstanding architectural designs and engineering features. For all those who have recently passed through the airport, you’ll agree that the building makes a significant statement about the region’s identity reflecting Nelson/Tasman’s impressive landscape and sustainability as well as the dynamics and competence of the forestry and manufacturing sectors in the region.
Kai has been with the wood industry for 36 years. He has a Master’s degree and a PhD in timber business, and has held director and senior management positions in Europe and Asia-Pacific for the past 20 years in multi-national corporations including Samling Global (a global giant in forestry, construction/real-estate, ship-building and chemicals) and Daiken (Japanese corporation focussing on building materials).
Kai’s presentation will go through the value chain from the architectural and engineering briefs to the finished building. Specific emphasis will be made on the usage of local resources and manufacturing as well as their cooperation and integration with a multitude of trades, service providers and suppliers.
The WoodWorks 2020 conference will again be showcasing the practical experiences of a range of building professionals including architects, project managers, designers, fit-out specialists, quantity surveyors, BIM specialists and engineers. The programme has a focus on completed projects from New Zealand and Australia.
Full details on the programme can be found on event website.
Note: Early-bird registrations FINISH today, Friday 4 September.
Photo: Nelson Airport
Claymark sale process successfulThe Receivers of the wood products company, the Claymark Group, have announced that they have signed an agreement for the sale of the Companies’ business and assets as a going concern. The agreement is unconditional and settlement is set to occur on 30 September 2020. The business has been purchased by a consortium led by Paul Pedersen.
The receivership was announced in early December last year. Six manufacturing sites in New Zealand in the Bay of Plenty, Thames and Auckland, were producing radiata pine wood products for export. The receivership was limited to New Zealand and didn’t affect any of Claymark's US-domiciled businesses. According to the receivers, the company at the time had an annual turnover of around NZ$160 million.
Receiver, Brendon Gibson, said “We are working through transition with the purchaser now, with settlement targeted to occur on 30 September. This is an excellent outcome for the business, staff, customers, suppliers and the communities in which Claymark operates.”
Claymark employs 450 staff across its sites, located in Thames, Katikati and Rotorua, and utilises contractors and services from across the Bay of Plenty region. “Securing a going concern sale in the current environment is testament to the drive and commitment of Claymark’s management team and all its employees”, Gibson said. Gibson also thanked customers and suppliers for their support through the receivership.
The purchaser, Paul Pedersen, said “We are excited that the acquisition of the Claymark business has come to fruition. We acknowledge the input of the team that have worked tirelessly under difficult circumstances to continue to maintain quality products to markets around the globe.”
East coast sawmill set to create 50 jobsKiwi Lumber is to set up permanent operations following the successful trial of a sawmill at Matawhero, Gisborne. The operation will create 50 jobs and pave the way for NZ$15 million of capital investment over the next three years and a substantial investment in systems and teams.
Kiwi Lumber managing director Adam Gresham is confident the Matawhero mill can be highly successful. “Kiwi Lumber wouldn’t take this site on unless we were confident we could make a go of it,” Mr Gresham said.
“Gisborne will be our fourth sawmill site in the North Island. We are pleased with the results of the trial and excited about making our arrangements permanent through a lease with Trust Tairawhiti."
Trust Tairawhiti chairman Dr Paul Reynolds reinforced the significance of growing wood processing to the region. “The trust invested in local infrastructure to act as a catalyst for growth in the wood processing sector. Tairawhiti currently processes 6 percent of wood, compared to 39 percent nationally.
“Kiwi Lumber will not only employ locals, they will also contribute to a more diverse wood industry and a more resilient Tairawhiti economy,” Dr Reynolds said. Trust Tairawhiti commercial general manager Richard Searle has worked closely with Kiwi Lumber during initial discussions and the trial period.
“Kiwi Lumber are experienced in running very successful timber processing businesses, taking on troubled sites, turning them around and growing them as part of their group,” he said. They have demonstrated 70 percent revenue growth in their sawmilling businesses over the past five years. We welcome that experience and track record to our region.”
Mr Gresham described Kiwi Lumber as a growing, progressive sawmilling company marketing radiata pine to the USA, Australia, Europe, Asia and New Zealand customers. The group consists of sawmills in Masterton, Dannevirke and Putaruru — employing 275 staff — and now Gisborne.
About 50 people will be employed at Kiwi Lumber Gisborne, increasing permanent employment in the region through the creation of a range of roles. Mr Gresham said Kiwi Lumber was pleased to be creating jobs at a time when the impact of Covid-19 was contributing to job losses and a lot of uncertainty in businesses and the workplace.
Source: Gisborne Herald
AU$110 funding boost for bush fire recoveryThe Victorian Government has unveiled a new blueprint for the state’s fire-affected regions and more than AU$110 million for local projects that create jobs and help communities recover from the summer’s devastating bushfires.
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville has released Bushfire Recovery Victoria’s Eastern Victoria Fires 2019-20 State Recovery Plan, which sets out the journey ahead for bushfire-affected communities over the next 12 to 18 months as they move from the short-term ‘stabilising’ phase to longer-term rebuilding and recovery.
It outlines AU$78.06 million for region-wide projects vital for recovery including:
• AU$10 million to repair and reinstate roads, crossings and fire-tower infrastructure and AU$8 million to ensure the safety of the arterial road network
• AU$7.7 million to fund new seed stocks and directly sow forest areas by hand and helicopter, and AU$5 million to protect rare and threatened species from pests and predators
• AU$6.4 million for safety works in parks and forests so they are fit for public use and AU$1.2 million to support a major event review of Regional Forest Agreements
• AU$4.8 million to support Aboriginal community organisations, businesses, jobs and infrastructure
• AU$5.1 million to fund legal assistance and AU$2 million to provide tailored financial counselling for bushfire-affected individuals and businesses.
In addition, the State Recovery Plan also delivers AU$34.3 million towards the Local Economic Recovery program – matching a previous Commonwealth Government contribution. Both levels of government will work together on economic recovery projects shaped and supported by local communities including councils, Community Recovery Committees, businesses and other local groups.
The State Recovery Plan is underpinned by the State Recovery Framework and sets an agenda for recovery across the natural environment, buildings and infrastructure, business and economy and health and wellbeing.
The 2019-20 bushfires were the most extensive in living memory. The fires burnt over 1.5 million hectares, destroyed hundreds of properties, significantly affected local economies and tragically, took five lives.
The State Recovery Plan focuses heavily on helping communities during the rebuilding phase of recovery - in the aftermath of the fires the Victorian Government acted quickly to ensure access to emergency housing, deliver the Victorian Bushfires Case Support Program, undertake the massive state-wide clean-up, and administer tens of millions in grants to families and businesses. Bushfire Recovery Hubs were established across the fire-affected areas and Community Recovery Committees soon followed.
With clean-up nearly complete and over 2,500 destroyed or damaged structures cleared free-of-charge from over 700 properties, eligible bushfire-affected households are now getting dedicated planning advice and support and the option of high-quality short-term modular housing to live in for up to three years while they progress their permanent rebuild. The extra funding announced means the Victorian Government has now invested more than AU$420 million for bushfire response and recovery.
For a copy of the State Recovery Plan and to see what services and support is available, click here.
New Victorian Forest Products Association formedThe newly formed Victorian Forest Products Association (VFPA) yesterday announced 23 foundation members and elected its Interim Governing Council. The new Association will span Victoria’s forest industry value chain including plantations, native forestry operators, sawmills and pulp and paper making.
The eight members of the Interim Governing Council are:
• Sarah Harvie: Opal Group
• Rob Hescock: Hancock Victorian Plantations
• Paul Heubner: Allied Natural Wood Exports
• Mike Lawson: SFM Environmental Solutions
• Phil Mason: New Forests
• Darren Sheldon: Australian Bluegum Plantations
• Tony Price: Midway Limited
• Owen Trumper: AKD Softwoods
The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association Ross Hampton said, “Forest industries employ thousands of men and women in Victoria. At a time when so many jobs are being lost, our industries can play a big role in Victoria’s post – pandemic economic recovery if they are enabled to.”
“This new body will turbo-charge representation for all our industries and help make the case to policy makers that now more than ever our sustainable, renewable forest industries should be backed to deliver vital growth and prosperity.”
The Chair of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries inc (VAFI) Craig Dunn said, “We are entering a new era for the Victorian forest products industry. VAFI has been the voice of the industry for many years. This new peak body is being formed on the strong foundation laid by VAFI through the perseverance of its members”.
“The VFPA will bring a new approach and broader industry representation during these challenging times. VAFI will continue to operate in parallel until the VFPA is up and running to ensure a seamless transition,” Mr Dunn concluded.
Opportunities for a high-value low carbon forestry futureThe “New Zealand Wood Fibre Futures” report published last week identifies wood processing technologies that could help drive a high-value and low carbon economy. Te Uru Rākau director sector investment Jason Wilson said the report, by an international consortium led by BioPacific Partners, focussed on how New Zealand could build on the forestry industry’s current strengths to create a low carbon future.
The report identified possible alternatives to concrete and steel, and biofuels made from woody biomass. “We know forests have a big role to play in carbon mitigation, but forestry can play an even bigger role in both the economy and meeting environmental goals if it is used to create new and innovative high-value, low carbon products including liquid fuels and replacements for coal,” said Mr Wilson.
“The questions for New Zealand are what products do we need the most, what technologies are available to help us create these, and, importantly, how do we attract investment to make it happen?”
“New Zealand is considered one of the best places in the world to do business and we have a large amount of Pinus Radiata which gives us a comparative advantage, but we need to start working with technology investors to produce high-value, low carbon products.”
Mr Wilson said the report identified 15 technologies out of 108 found globally that New Zealand could prioritise and laid-out ways to attract investors. “Both biocrude and liquid biofuels are favoured by investors, have the most potential for export, and are being actively developed globally by high-tech firms.”
Mr Wilson said the report represented the culmination of stage one of the project, and Te Uru Rākau was now progressing with stage two. “Stage two focuses on building an attractive investment case and undertaking a detailed feasibility study for the priority technologies. It will involve discussions with key industry partners, including those in forestry, transport, construction and energy. We are also working closely with other agencies, including the Ministry of Transport and MBIE, to identify policy tools to incentivise investment.”
This next phase of work will come under the umbrella of the Forest and Wood Products Industry Transformation Plan, and as part of the broader Fit for a Better World initiative. “A high-value low carbon future for the forestry sector that will deliver economically and environmentally is an exciting prospect and I am looking forward to working with New Zealand industries to achieve this.”
You can find a copy of the report here.
Source: Te Uru Rākau
Caboolture restarting and reinvestingAKD confirmed that the Caboolture Sawmill will recommence operations on the 14th of September 2020, after a brief closure period due to a storage shed fire in June. This recommencement is possible due to the rebuilding of the fuel handling system which will make for a safer and more sustainable business in the long term.
In addition, AKD is excited to announce new growth and investment plans for the Caboolture site. “AKD are incredibly proud of the team that have worked hard together to get us to this point, and they will now lead us through this period of growth”, commented AKD CEO Shane Vicary.
Through key investment in additional processing capacity and people, AKD intends on at least doubling the log intake. Working collaboratively with and supported by our log supplier, HQPlantations, this will secure the current jobs as well as provide additional permanent roles. The investment re-affirms AKD’s commitment to the Queensland market and will more than double the volume of timber available for their customers, providing security of supply.
To support the doubling of sawmill capacity, AKD will be purchasing and installing a new Continuous Drying Kiln (CDK) to lift drying capacity. AKD currently has this technology deployed at its Colac mill, where it has proven to be most effective at producing a stable and consistent product for the market.
In addition, Mr Vicary said that “AKD would like to thank our loyal Queensland customers for their ongoing support during the fire related closure, and we are very proud that we were able to maintain consistent supply from our southern mills.” This next exciting step of growth and investment for AKD will be aligned with increased supply availability from AKD’s southern sawmills. AKD has the capability to increase supply to meet responsible market demand and growth, and service customers seeking supply security.
AKD recognises that its mills need to be internationally competitive and this investment is consistent with reaching that standard. The company is focussed on improving the long-term viability of its Queensland site and meeting market demands. AKD are incredibly proud of the Caboolture team for their resilience through this difficult and uncertain period and the whole industry are eagerly looking forward to the growth of their site.
Fake bushfire research thrown outIn a major blow for activists campaigning against Australia’s sustainably managed native forest industries, a widely disseminated research paper falsely linking the activity to bushfires has been rejected.
The research paper; Propensities of Old Growth, Mature and Regrowth Wet Eucalypt Forest, and Eucalyptus Nitens Plantation, to Burn during Wildfire and Suffer Fire-Induced Crown Death, Winoto-Lewin, S. and Sanger, J. et al. was published in the journal Fire in May.
In an almost unheard of move, the journal has now announced it is immediately disassociating itself from the article and apologising for its publication after discovering numerous errors in the research.
The journal has been applauded for its decisive and honourable action, and Sanger and Winoto-Lewin condemned for their discredited research, by a growing list of stakeholders. This list includes the Institute of Foresters Australia, the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Jonno Duniam, the Tasmanian Minister for Natural Resources Guy Barnett and the Tasmanian Shadow Minister for Resources Shane Broad.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Ross Hampton said, “This research was promoted by the researchers under the banner of the University of Tasmania. I shall be writing to the Vice Chancellor asking what measures will be taken to undo the wrong which it has done.
The research also prompted a slew of media articles. I will be contacting all those outlets seeking corrections. I shall also be ensuring that all politicians, federal and state, with an interest in forest industries, ensuring they understand the research has been exposed as wrong.”
“The scientific consensus is that there is no causal link between timber harvesting in Australia and overall increased bushfire severity. When one considers that native forestry uses the equivalent of 6 trees out of every 10,000, and areas used are regenerated by law, the areas in question are so small the proposition is patently absurd.”
The Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) Nick Steel said, “Both the Bob Brown Foundation (BBF) and the Tasmanian Greens have used this report to attack forestry in our state. After a long period of calm in our forests these groups seem to be attempting to reignite the ‘forest wars’ and this dodgy research was just one more example of that. Tasmanians are over the debate”. “Sustainable forestry continues to play an important part in the regional Tasmanian economy – never more obvious than when tourism is suffering so badly due to COVID-19. It is time these activists accepted that.”
Similar comments were released this week by the Institute of Foresters of Australia, the professional association representing some 1,000 forest scientists, researchers and professional forest land managers, who were also seeking an apology from the University of Tasmania after a paper suggesting forestry harvesting activities make forests more bushfire prone was withdrawn by the journal Fire due to a number of errors. See more.
Source: AFPA, IFA
New FGR R&D Director appointedBart Challis will be taking over as National Director of Research and Development for Forest Growers Research from Russell Dale in mid-October. Bart is currently Chief Operating Officer at Scion and prior to that gained extensive international commercial business experience in Europe, North America and Asia in the life science industry.
Before joining Scion, Bart was General Manager Commercial and Agricultural Services at Hills Laboratories in Hamilton and he has a PhD in microbiology from Otago University. Bart is already familiar with levy work programme, FFR, and the various stakeholders. He and Russell have worked closely together over the past two years.
FGR is able to overlap between Russell and Bart and to continue to be able to draw on Russell’s services on a project by project basis. The industry owes a great debt to Russell for the passion and diligence he brought on behalf of forest owners of all shapes and sizes. This includes his core science role but also his contribution to wider industry roles.
Source: FOA E-News
NZ sawmill reviewing its operationsA Blenheim sawmill employing 75 staff could close as an “urgent” review of operations is carried out. Timberlink New Zealand has been negatively impacted by higher log costs, lower Asian prices, and a strong New Zealand dollar since it purchased the mill in 2015.
Timberlink chief executive Ian Tyson said the company was “at the mercy” of a number of factors outside its control, and it was “difficult to see those changing anytime soon. It has become clear that we need to seriously consider whether the business is sustainable,” Tyson said. “This includes the potential for our manufacturing operations to close. We have tried hard to avoid the need for a review and arriving at this point is extremely disappointing. Staff were informed of the review last week.
“We have a really talented team in Blenheim, and we really feel for them. We also know this will be a big blow for the local community during these uncertain times,” Tyson said. “While Covid-19 has had an impact on the markets we distribute to, it is not the driving force for this review.”
Timberlink was meant to be providing the site with an update on September 8. The review was being carried out in conjunction with PwC. The sawmill, off Battys Rd, was taken over by Australian company Timberlink in September 2015, after they bought the site from Flight Timbers. It had invested more than $10 million into the Blenheim site, where it processed 123,000 tonnes of radiata softwood log from South Island plantations.
Plantations acting as a fire suppressantIndependent research from Airborne Research Australia (ARA) after the 2019-20 bushfires on Kangaroo Island has confirmed that plantations can act as a fire suppressant.
“From what I can see on our aerial imagery and Lidar it does not seem to support the opinion that the plantations were particularly bad in the fire situation. We have several examples where the native vegetation around, or even within plantations has burned, but the trees in the plantation are still alive,” said Professor Jorg Hacker, chief scientist at Airborne Research Australia.
ARA is a non-commercial, not-for-profit organisation that undertook aerial surveys of vegetation in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island after the summer bushfires. KIPT Managing Director Keith Lamb said it was widely acknowledged that well-managed plantations without ladder fuels could act to suppress fire when it entered the plantation. Plantation timber comprised just 7 per cent of the area burnt in the summer bushfires – about 15,000ha of 210,000ha burnt.
“We’ve had several property owners come to us and tell us that the plantations actually saved their assets during the summer bushfires. And you can see at the back of a plantation like Jarmyn on the West End Highway, that there are unburnt trees after the Ravine fire, while assets over the road were not burnt,” Mr Lamb said.
Independent bluegum growers John and Cheryl Lewis confirmed that their plantation trees had protected parts of their farm during the Ravine fires in January. “We are quite sure our house and sheds survived because of the bluegums. We had sheep that took shelter in native veg and they were burnt but the ones that sheltered in the plantation just wandered out the next day, unharmed d,” Ms Lewis said.
West End resident Margi Prideaux confirmed the protective presence of the bluegums and said senior firefighters had agreed. “Bluegums saved our vineyard. On January 3rd, if we had had nothing between us and the bush block next door, we would have lost the vineyard. There’s a strip of plantation bluegums and you can see the fire hit it hard but then as you go through, the fire scar reduces. It absorbed the impact before it got to our vineyard,” she said. “We lost our home, but that was fire in a creekline of native vegetation,” Ms Prideaux said.
Photo: Burnt pasture and native vegetation at the Lewis bluegum plantation January 2020
Shipping giant invests $2.8m in Australian start-upAn Australian tech start-up has received major seed funding from Danish logistics giant Maersk. Maersk Growth, the venture capital department of Maersk, along with Founders Capital has contributed AU$2.8 million to Ofload, a Sydney-based start-up that connects medium and small-sized carriers with shippers.
Formerly known as Loadsmile, Ofload was launched in February and offers cost-effective and improved shipping efficiencies by using vacant spaces in delivery vehicles. The round of funding was secured at the height of the coronavirus pandemic between March and July. Co-founded by Geoffroy Henry, former Head of Operations of HelloFresh, Ofload plans on using the funding to hire strong talent in its tech and operations department to help drive company growth.
Maersk Growth and Founders Capital join pre-seed investor Flash Ventures at Ofload's capitalisation table the start-up confirmed. At present Ofload provides services for over 800 carriers. This gives it a nationwide fleet estimated over 15,000 trucks that shippers can access by placing their goods on trailers that would otherwise have operated considerably below their capacity.
The intention of the company, according to Henry, is to find a way to use technology to improve and disrupt the road freight efficiency by tackling three key areas of deficiency in which 30 per cent of trucks are empty with another 50 per cent under-utilised.
“Fundamental issues, such as incredible amounts of waste, increased overheads and a legacy power imbalance, are holding back Australia’s road freight and shipping industries at a time where efficiency is absolutely key," he said. “Ultimately, transport companies want to reduce these inefficiencies and create a more sustainable industry.”
Japanese ‘flying car’ takes offA Japanese company has announced the successful test drive of a flying car. Sky Drive Inc. conducted the public demonstration on 25 August, the company said in a news release, at the Toyota Test Field, one of the largest in Japan and home to the car company's development base. It was the first public demonstration for a flying car in Japanese history. The car, named SD-03, manned with a pilot, took off and circled the field for about four minutes.
"We are extremely excited to have achieved Japan's first-ever manned flight of a flying car in the two years since we founded SkyDrive... with the goal of commercializing such aircraft," CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa said in a statement. "We want to realize a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies and people are able to experience a safe, secure, and comfortable new way of life."
The SD-03 is the world's smallest electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle and takes up the space of about two parked cars, according to the company. It has eight motors to ensure "safety in emergency situations." "In designing an unexplored, new genre of transportation known as the flying car, we chose the keyword "progressive" for inspiration," Design Director Takumi Yamamot said.
"We wanted this vehicle to be futuristic, charismatic and desirable for all future customers, while fully incorporating the high technology of SkyDrive. The company hopes to make the flying car a part of normal life and not just a commodity. More test flights will occur in the future under different conditions to make sure the safety and technology of the vehicle meet industry standards. The success of this flight means that it is likely the car will be tested outside of the Toyota Test field by the end of the year.
The company will continue to develop technologies to safely and securely launch the flying car in 2023, the news release said. No price has been announced.
... and one to end the week on ... a few from lockdown
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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