Friday Offcuts – 13 November 2020

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The headlines are pretty dramatic. Robots are going to destroy 85 million jobs at mid-sized to large businesses over the next five years. A World Economic Forum study has recently found that the COVID-19 pandemic has actually accelerated changes in the workplace. As a consequence, four out of five business executives surveyed as part of this study were planning to accelerate their plans to digitize work and to deploy new technologies. In five years’ time, employers were expecting to divide work between humans and machines equally. Think about that just a bit more and what it could mean to our own processing or manufacturing industries. The good news though is that more than 97 million jobs are expected to be created, just in different fields. The story and links to the full report have been built into this week’s lead story.

Next week a record number of forest resource and tree crop managers from throughout Australasia, and around the globe, are going to be involved in ForestTECH 2020. A number of industry workshops, meetings and in- field demonstrations will also run as part of the eagerly awaited forestry technology event. It’s one of the first real events run for forestry companies in what’s been a pretty disruptive year for all of us. In addition to those travelling into Rotorua New Zealand, delegates from 19 different countries this year are going to be connecting and involved in the event, live and on-line.

In line with forest technology innovations, one of this year’s ForestTECH sponsors, Aerometrex, has just developed the first system that’s able to standardise the capture of LIDAR for bushfire fuel load mapping in Australia. The technology is able to determine, in three dimensions and in real time, the exact fuel load densities in any bushfire prone region across the country. Following the disastrous bush fire season last year and recommendations made by the Royal Commission only a couple of weeks ago, the announcement is timely. The technology is going to be available to authorities ahead of this year’s bushfire season.

Also related to the Australian bushfires, this week the Tasmanian Government announced that as part of their 2020-21 Budget, they’ll be investing nearly AU$18 million in a fire mitigation initiative that includes an AU$9.3 million boost to its Fuel Reduction Program. The Green Triangle region has added a 25-metre-high, 360-degree camera and fire- detection software to its firefighting arsenal to help fill the hole left by surveillance from State Government fire- spotting towers being reduced and Forestry Corporation staff have been recognised for their fire-fighting efforts over the summer along with their ongoing commitment to local recovery operations. NSW Bushfire Emergency Citations were awarded at a number of ceremonies this week. Congratulations go out to all staff recognised along with all of the many others involved in the coordinated firefighting response made during the 2019-20 bushfires.

And breaking news. After reporting last week on China's decision to block a shipment of Queensland timber, Chinese officials late yesterday notified the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment that plantation timber exports from Victoria have been banned, effective immediately, after bark beetles were detected in almost 30 consignments. The Australian Forest Products Association is urgently working with officials to try and sort out this latest issue.

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World’s first solution for bushfire fuel load mapping

Aerometrex, who are sponsoring this year's ForestTECH 2020 event next week, has just announced that it's developed a new technology that can determine, in three dimensions, the exact fuel load densities in any bushfire prone region in Australia.

The product is an advance of the company’s existing LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) technology and was developed over 2020 in conjunction with government and industry in the wake of the disastrous Black Summer fires across Australia during the 2019-20 fire season. The technology will be available to authorities ahead of this year’s bushfire season.

It surpasses current and historic fuel load methodologies by delivering and visualising data not possible to be collected or “seen” from conventional satellite, aerial or drone imagery fire-fighting tools. Its real-time and ultra-high data capture of fuel load density underneath tree canopies is achievable regardless of location, terrain type, ground cover or accessibility.

It is understood to be the first system able to standardise the capture of LIDAR for the purpose of bushfire fuel load mapping in Australia and they believe the breakthrough should allow emergency authorities, government, and communities, to adopt a far more science-based and pre-emptive fuel load strike position ahead of this year’s bushfire season.

More >>

Photo: LiDAR showing fuel load density (red - high fuel load)

Source: Aerometrex

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Tasmania to invest in bushfire mitigation

Australian and Tasmanian forest products industry bodies have welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s significant investment in bushfire mitigation announced this week, and the inclusion of mechanical fuel reduction in the state’s Fuel Reduction Program.

The Tasmanian Government 2020-21 Budget commits nearly AU$18 million in fire mitigation initiative, including an AU$9.3 million boost to its Fuel Reduction Program to provide increased strategic fuel reduction burning, including mechanical risk reduction.

The Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA) Nick Steel also welcomed the increased funding for Tasmanian bushfire mitigation. “The Government is showing it can see that reducing the hazards also reduces the risk of bushfires,” Mr Steel said.

“It’s bringing in extra firefighters for the season, both volunteer and full time, and dedicating a Deputy Chief Officer role to bushfire planning and hazard reduction. Very importantly it’s providing financial support to landowners so they can manage the fire risk on their properties.”

Chief Executive of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Ross Hampton welcomed the inclusion of mechanical fuel reduction, which the final report of the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements handed down last week recognised as an important tool in fuel reduction.

“Mechanical Fuel Reduction has proven effective overseas as part of whole-of-landscape fire hazard reduction activities and can significantly reduce bushfire severity around communities and key infrastructure when deployed strategically in conjunction with controlled burns, but it remains under-utilised in Australia,” Mr Hampton said.

“I commend the Tasmanian Government for showing leadership on this issue and listening to the science, and I urge all states and territories to do the same. The Black Summer Bushfires showed just how important hazard reduction is in preparing for fires, and the enormous economic, social and human cost when it isn’t done, or not done effectively,” Mr Hampton concluded.

Source: AFPA

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Victorian log exports to China halted

Chinese authorities have suspended log exports from Victoria in the latest escalation of tensions between Australia and its biggest trading partner, raising fears of local job losses.

The trade block comes after reports of curbs being placed on Australian exports of lobster, barley, wine, copper and coal destined for China, although Chinese authorities have not officially confirmed the restrictions.

Last week tonnes of live lobsters died on the tarmac at a Shanghai airport, sending shockwaves through the local fishing industry. China's customs agency then issued a notice saying it had detected a bark beetle in Queensland logs heading to China.

On Thursday the Australian Forestry Products Association confirmed Chinese customs authorities had cited similar concerns about pests in Victorian logs, resulting in the suspension of local exports.

"AFPA is working with the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment to obtain more details from Chinese officials about these incidents and to address the issues identified," an association spokesman said. Victoria had been largely unaffected by the widening Chinese trade restrictions, although some wine makers have experienced difficulties. Logs from south-western Victoria and South Australia was due to be shipped to China from the Port of Portland. The port's chief executive, Greg Tremewen, said the suspension would have far-reaching consequences for the local economy.

He said the Port of Portland exported well over 1 million tonnes of logs each year, with the vast majority going to China. "I'm sure the value of logs that go through this port would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Mr Tremewen said. Two ships were due to arrive next week to be loaded with logs, he said.

"Something would need to happen very quickly for those ships to be loaded. It's not good news."

More>>

For further coverage on this breaking story, click here

Source: SMH, ABC

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Pandemic speeds up the move to robots

Robots will destroy 85 million jobs at mid-sized to large businesses over the next five years as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates changes in the workplace likely to exaggerate inequalities, a World Economic Forum (WEF) study has found.

Surveys of nearly 300 global companies found four out of five business executives were accelerating plans to digitise work and deploy new technologies, undoing employment gains made since the financial crisis of 2007-8.

“COVID-19 has accelerated the arrival of the future of work,” WEF Managing Director Saadia Zahidi said. For workers set to remain in their roles in the next five years, nearly half would need to learn new skills, and by 2025, employers will divide work between humans and machines equally, the study found.



Overall, job creation is slowing and job destruction is accelerating as companies around the world use technology rather than people for data entry, accounting and administration duties.

The good news is that more than 97 million jobs will emerge across the care economy, in tech industries like artificial intelligence (AI), and in content creation, the Geneva-based WEF said.

“The tasks where humans are set to retain their comparative advantage include managing, advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating and interacting,” it said.

Demand would rise for workers who can fill green economy jobs, cutting-edge data and AI functions, and new roles in engineering, cloud computing and product development.

Around 43% of businesses surveyed were set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% planned to expand their use of contractors, and 34% envisioned expanding their workforce due to technology integration, the survey found.

Further coverage on this report can be found here

Read the Future of Jobs Report.

Source: reuters

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First ELD certification body named in Canada

FPInnovations will be the first body to certify Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) as Canada prepares to mandate the technology. Federally regulated carriers will need to equip trucks with certified ELDs beginning June 12, 2021.

While U.S. regulators allow suppliers to self-certify that equipment meets underlying technical standards, Transport Canada requires third-party certification to help ensure the devices are not prone to tampering. Glen Legere, FPInnovations senior director – Fibre Supply Innovation Centre of Excellence, referred to the accreditation process as “rigorous”.

“We have demonstrated our expertise in testing these devices and the validity of the results of our methodology. FPInnovations understands the importance of the electronic logging device mandate and is ready and committed to helping improve road safety in Canada by taking up the challenge of certifying these devices,” he said. “FPInnovations will soon announce guidelines on how electronic logging device providers can apply for device certification.”

FPInnovations’ transportation research group had already established an optional service that can be used to ensure that devices meet U.S. technical standards. Transport Canada has calculated that mandatory ELDs will reduce the risk of fatigue-related collisions by about 10%, while also reducing administrative burdens such as the need for paper daily logs and the time enforcement officers need to verify compliance.

More >>

Source: trucknews.com



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New Canterbury West Coast Wood Council formed

The eighth Wood Council in New Zealand is a combination of forestry, transport, processing, regional councils, contractors, nurseries and Canterbury University School of Forestry. 54 members currently make up this diverse group that has formed to promote the benefits of forestry in our communities, careers in forestry, where our resource goes and what it is used for.

Wood Councils have been around in New Zealand for more than 30 years. They were formed by individual groups in each region to support each other in the sector and provide information to the public and interest groups on forest activities and purpose. It is important to understand how trees function in our landscape.

Trees can be integrated into nearly any other land use and play a vital role in storing carbon and providing carbon neutral products for our customers. In Canterbury and the West Coast some of the Wood Council members own forests and sawmills producing framing timber for houses, wooden pallets and boxes, wood chip for biofuels, MDF, joinery timber and packaging.

Canterbury was one of the first regions to establish plantation trees. Some of those original families are still involved in growing and processing forests today. The West Coast has been based around forestry since the region was first settled. The industry is still a significant contributor to the Coast economy.

The Canterbury West Coast Wood Council has a vision to promote, encourage and coordinate the sustainable economic development of plantation forestry and the wood products sector. The first event for the Wood Council was a visit to Clarkeville School with SML transport where all 200 students viewed a log truck, learned about safety around trucks and listened to a forester talk about a renewable resource, where our logs are going and why.

The Canterbury West Coast Wood Council held its launch ceremony and BBQ afternoon sponsored by Te Uru Rakau at Steam Scene, McLeans Island, Christchurch on 22 October. Over 70 members, their families, students from Canterbury Universtiy and interested parties attended and viewed a demonstration of a restored vintage steam driven sawmill owned by Stoneyhurst sawmill that has been in their family for generations.

If you would like to know more about CWC Wood Council activities please visit www.cwcwc.co.nz or www.facebook.com/cwc.woodcouncil.

Source: CWC Wood Council



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Emergency citations for FCNSW staff

NSW Bushfire Emergency Citations have been presented to Forestry Corporation staff in Coffs Harbour, Grafton, Wauchope, Taree and the Hunter region last week, acknowledging their contribution to the 2019-20 firefighting efforts. NSW Emergency Bushfire Citation recipients receive a citation, certificate of recognition, commemorative cap and a letter from the Premier acknowledging their contribution and thanking them for their service.

Acting CEO Anshul Chaudhary said Forestry Corporation staff and forestry contractors were heavily involved in the firefighting efforts, alongside around 65,000 NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers and service personnel, as part of the State’s coordinated firefighting efforts.

“Forestry Corporation plays an important role in the coordinated firefighting response, working in close partnership with the NSW Rural Fire Service, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Fire and Rescue NSW,” Mr Chaudhary said.

“During the black summer fire season, Forestry Corporation staff completed over 16,000 individual firefighting shifts, equating to in excess of 250,000 hours in firefighting and incident management. Forestry Corporation also engaged a range of contractors to support the firefighting efforts, including heavy plant operators, aircraft and other service providers.

“While the forestry industry has key skills and expertise in forest firefighting and particularly using heavy equipment to create roads, fire breaks and containment lines, due to the scale of the fires last season our staff were involved more than ever in direct protection of homes and communities.

“I congratulate all our staff for their monumental contribution throughout the 2019-20 fire season and their ongoing commitment to the recovery efforts that have been taking place since to repair infrastructure and regrow affected forests for the future.”

Photo: Forestry Corporation recipients in Coffs Harbour

Source: FCNSW

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New fund launched to encourage clean energy

The NZ Government has delivered on a key election policy that will help business to switch from fossil fuels like coal and gas to clean energy for process heat while accelerating the economic recovery from Covid.

The NZ$70 million fund will allow business and industries to access financial support to switch away from boilers run on coal and gas, to cleaner electricity and biomass options.

“It provides much needed financial support to business to assist with the often-costly transition of plant and equipment to clean energy sources” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “The Interim Climate Change Commission recommended a focus on lowering emissions from process heat as a priority for decarbonising our economy”.

“Process heat makes up around a quarter of New Zealand’s energy-related emissions and this fund will be key to reducing those emissions in the coming year,” Energy Minister Megan Woods said. “The new fund will target New Zealand’s largest energy users to accelerate their uptake of electrification and other technologies that will dramatically lower emissions from this sector, and create clean energy jobs”.

“The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) will administer the investment fund, which is available to New Zealand-based businesses who demonstrate a commitment to decarbonising, and where Government co-investment will help remove barriers to accelerating their low-carbon goals.

A minimum of NZ$15m is available in the first round, which opens this week. The first funding round is open now, with a deadline for proposals of December 14. Decisions on the first round will be made early in the New Year.

Information on the GIDI Fund is available from genless.govt.nz.

For further coverage on the announcement, click here.

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Robots take flight to improve forestry

Much has been reported on the development and advancements of local research efforts into robotics and automated data capture for forest operations. Elsewhere, USA-based company Treeswift provides an example of how researchers in other parts of the world are embracing the use of robotic tools to help automate forestry, reduce risk for workers, and collect highly accurate data more quickly.

Steven Chen, Co-founder and CEO of Treeswift and doctoral student in Computer and Information Science at Penn Engineering has developed a fleet of drones equipped with LiDAR sensors, that have the capability to fly over forests, collect images, and use them to create detailed 3-D maps.

These drones can be used to calculate inventory, map forests for preservation, and measure biomass and fuel for the prevention of bushfires. Data collected also has potential to be used by researchers to assess the health of forests and create predictive models that support climate change initiatives.

Traditional forest management practices tend to be manual, time consuming, and carry with them varying degrees of risk. They also have the potential for human error. These disadvantages all amount to a large effort for the collection of a small amount of data.

In December last year, Chen received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop his network of drones or ‘flying robots’. This funding has helped to attract additional scientists and engineers to the initiative.

More >>

Source: FWPA R&D Works , Phys.org.



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Biomass subsidies being phased out

The Dutch Government is planning to phase out the use of subsidies for power stations which are powered by biomass, or which generate heat for city heating schemes. Biomass is predominantly made up of wood chips and vegetable and fruit waste, but has come under fire as a source of fuel because of both high levels of carbon emissions and the over-use of wood, some of which is imported from the US.

The agreement decision to phase out the use of subsidies was taken at a recent cabinet meeting because there are, ministers agree, enough greener alternatives for generating both electricity and heat. This would be on condition the alternatives are both achievable and affordable, economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes has told MPs in a briefing. The government will decide when subsidies should be phased out by the end of the year and has asked the environmental assessment agency PBL for its recommendations.

The PBL had said in January that the use of biomass may be unavoidable if the Netherlands is to meet the EU targets on energy neutrality. Without using biomass, the Netherlands will have to install wind turbines and solar panels more quickly than it is currently doing, and other difficult choices will have to be made, the PBL said. In total, 628 biomass installations in the Netherlands will get some €11.4bn in subsidies over the next few years, the AD reported earlier.

In June, Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall said it had decided to postpone plans to build the Netherlands’ biggest biomass fired power station because of the ongoing discussion about how green biomass actually is. The plant was to be built in Diemen on the outskirts of Amsterdam, but both locals and the town council have major doubts about the project.

The first step in finalising the decision involves the Dutch government giving clarity about its plans and the role of biomass in reaching climate change targets, the company said. The government’s advisory body SER has also recommended that subsidies for biomass power be phased out. Despite the subsidy decision, the government ‘remains convinced that the use of biomass is necessary in the transition to a climate neutral and circular economy by 2030 and 2050.’

Source: DutchNews

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China Economic Update 2020 Q3

China’s Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.9% Year-Over-Year (YOY) in Q3 2020, following 3.2% growth in the second quarter. The government has rolled out measures that include more fiscal spending, tax relief and cuts in lending rates and banks’ reserve requirements to revive the economy and support employment. While the economy has steadily returned to growth, it missed the 5.2% forecasts by analysts in a Reuters poll.

China’s manufacturing economy continued a strong growth momentum into September. The Caixin China General Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI index), an important indicator of the strength of the Chinese economy, grew to 53 in September from 51.2 in June (where a reading above 50 indicates an expansion in activity). This indicates the post-COVID manufacturing recovery has improved and stayed strong.

Factory output increased, boosted by foreign demand for Chinese-made masks and other medical supplies. Retail sales, which had lagged behind the rebound in manufacturing, beat estimates and finally returning to pre-COVID levels as they accelerated to a 0.5% YOY growth in august, and 3.3% growth in September. Increased activity at home and abroad was reportedly driven by the easing of lockdown measures as the sector continued to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, employment stabilised in September, which ended an eight-month period of job losses.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) under the Economist Group revised up for the real GDP growth to 1.4% in 2020, from 1% previously. This reflects the faster than expected recovery of economic activity following a historic economic contraction over the first half of 2020. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast an expansion of 1.9% for China for the full year. That would make China the only G20 economy expected to report growth in 2020, albeit at the slowest annual pace since 1976.

More >>

Source: canadawood.org



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Green Triangle trials forest fire detection system

South Australia's largest forestry region has been trialling artificial intelligence as a method of fire protection after the reduction of surveillance from State Government fire-spotting towers.

With fire season approaching, the region known as the Green Triangle has added a 25-metre-high, 360-degree camera and fire-detection software to its firefighting arsenal. Green Triangle Fire Alliance (GTFA) member and plantation owner Laurie Hein said the reduction in fire towers concerned him, but that the trial would help to increase fire surveillance.

"This [system] provides us an opportunity to help try and cover that hole in the observation circle," he said. "We've chosen the camera because we think there is real potential." Two of seven towers owned and operated by ForestrySA were temporarily suspended earlier this year after an inspection revealed they had significant structural issues.

"It's something we can ill afford if we are looking to detect fires very, very early," Mr Hein said. "We see it as absolutely vital that we actually do something because it's not only our plantations that we're looking to protect here. This is a landscape. Fire doesn't recognise boundaries … so it is [for] the benefit of the community as well."

The GTFA worked with fire management company Working on Fire Australia to install the technology. SA manager Justin Jagger is conducting the trial and says the camera is continuously monitoring.

"It's taking small snippets of video images and then looking for changes in the landscape," he said. "Whether it's glow, whether it's smoke or whether it's other change in the landscape, that is what it picks up."

The camera sends the footage to a manned computer set-up in Mount Gambier, where an operator can assess any changes detected. "The software in the background, and the algorithm it uses to detect the fires, ... continuously improves," Mr Jagger said.

More >>

Source: ABC

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Mapping carbon levels in forest regrowth

A major new study that maps potential above ground carbon accumulation rates for forest regrowth across the globe has been published in the journal Nature. Researchers from Australia’s national science agency CSIRO joined scientists from 17 other countries to publish a first of its kind, ‘wall-to-wall’ global, 1km resolution map that highlights areas with the greatest carbon returns, when they are allowed to reforest naturally.

Report co-author and CSIRO Principal Research Scientist Dr Stephen Roxburgh said the report, led by The Nature Conservancy, highlighted the role of natural forest regrowth and refines previous international estimates. Dr Roxburgh said CSIRO supported the study through the supply of datasets, including 72 stands of natural regeneration that CSIRO had surveyed for biomass carbon.

“The datasets were collected for the Australian Government’s national greenhouse gas accounting program,” Dr Roxburgh said. “The datasets were also used to better understand the carbon storage potential from restoring degraded woody vegetation. The global study complemented recent Australian work on carbon accumulation rates for planted and naturally regenerating stands of woody biomass across Australia.”

Human induced natural regeneration of woody vegetation is a substantial contributor to carbon storage activities being carried out under Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund. Dr Roxburgh said the study found climate, rather than past land use, was the most important driver of potential carbon accumulation, with the work providing an important benchmark to assess the global potential of forest regrowth as a climate mitigation strategy.

The project was jointly funded by CSIRO and the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program. The report is available here.

Source: CSIRO



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Jobs



Buy and Sell



... and some to end the week on ...






















And on that note, enjoy your weekend. And, we look forward to seeing many of you in person - or on-line - next week as part of the ForestTECH 2020 series. Cheers.

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


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