Friday Offcuts – 28 May 2021

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This week we’ve built in extra commentary provided by well-known industry consultant, Rob de Fégely, on the issue of climbing timber prices seen in recent months and the ongoing supply shortages. In his opinion, “It is not about price anymore, it’s about supply”. If you don’t have a secure supply, put simply, you’re likely to be left out of the supply chain. In our lead story this week, Rob argues that if we don’t use this surge in demand to reset the wood market, we’ll be losing an amazing opportunity to rectify the real issue still facing Australia, the need to grow enough domestic wood to meet the country’s future demand.

Last Friday, the Southern and the Eastland Wood Council’s in New Zealand celebrated training and business success across their respective regions. Both events were very successful, both for the nights themselves and for the buy in by all those working within the industry across each region. Around 900 from the industry (along with their crews, their work mates and their families) turned up, a huge turnout considering the size of each region. We’ve got the winners for each of the respective awards listed in two stories below. We’ve also built in the second in the series from Timberlink, looking at women working with timber and what drove them to pick up a career in the sawmilling industry.

In the technology space this week, we covered recently, plans to trial over the spring and summer break, a pair autonomous logging trucks, led by an experienced driver that was going to be in a third vehicle, on logging roads around northern Ontario, Canada. It’s being led by a forest management company that manage around 1.5 million ha and a Canadian robotics solutions company. A Canadian research organisation has now also joined with another robotics company that specialises in Automated Driving Systems to develop their own off-road truck platooning system for the forestry industry. Similarly, we covered a rather offbeat story a few months back about some rather ambitious plans to send a small satellite with its outer shell made out of plywood, up into space. Far-fetched? Maybe? Plans though, according to the project team, are still on track and they expect to have the first-ever wooden satellite in Earth's orbit by the end of 2021.

Finally, for upcoming technology events for local companies. We’ve built in a story this week detailing the impressive line-up of saws and sawmilling expertise who’re involved in Australasia’s two-yearly WoodTECH 2021 sawmilling event running in early August. And the forestry event that’s really causing a buzz right now, across forestry, carbon emitting and investment circles, Carbon Forestry 2021. Numbers already exceed 300 and are still growing daily. It’s running in Rotorua, New Zealand on 15- 16 June and it’s being live streamed internationally. Details can be found on the event website, Carbon Forestry 2021. And on this note, enjoy this week’s read.

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Timber and sawlog prices set to soar!

Well known north American forest market specialist Russ Taylor, reported that at the 1st of May US sawntimber prices have soared approaching one thousand US dollars a cubic metre (AUD 1,300/m3). According to Director of Margules Groome forest industry consultants Rob de Fegely “the same could happen here”..

“Not everyone will agree with me and it is my personal opinion, but I have been watching the supply and demand dynamics of wood products in Australia and around the world for the last thirty years and this time I think it is different! he said”.

“Australia has always been a net importer of forest products including timber and we are now paying a huge price for under investing in new softwood plantations and reducing the log supply from our natural forests. Our past solution of just importing the balance to meet demand is now proving very hard” he said.

The reasons are complex. A lack of surplus supply from Europe, China’s huge demand is soaking up New Zealand log exports, a significant lift in prices and demand in North America combined with logistical challenges with shipping and containers that has coincided with Australia’s new housing boom. Together they have all worked to create this timber shortage.

“I don’t know any sawmiller who can keep up with demand at the moment” Mr de Fégely said Supply is king and if you do not have secure supply, you are likely to be left out of the supply chain. This means that home builders via frame and truss fabricators and sawmillers need closer connections with growers to maintain supply.

“It is not about price anymore it is about supply “he said. A potential timber price of $1,000 per cubic metre should yield softwood sawlog stumpages around $130 to $150 per cubic metre and log prices from natural forests could be even higher due to the premium qualities of our local hardwoods and consumer choices for these natural products.

While these prices may look ‘eye wateringly’ high, their impact on the cost of building a new house will be relatively minor possibly less than 5%, but they may be enough to recommence softwood plantation establishment he said.

Importantly, doubling the price of timber will not double the price of a new home. This is because timber is a critical element in building a new house but it is not the major cost. Mr de Fégely stated.

Sadly, I am still hearing stories of perfectly good plantations (previously established by managed investment schemes) being cleared for agriculture. This will continue unless we improve the transparency of log prices so that they are freely and publicly available for potential investors in forests to observe. Otherwise, they will look to alternative investments for their funds.

Money for new forests is not the problem he said! Agricultural prices are booming, so we need to compete openly in the market so we give ourselves a chance. To grow new plantations we need access to land and so we must develop a more open and trusting relationship with farmers. Forget indexes, farmers need to see real log prices and examples of successful plantation and natural forest investments!

We cannot wait for government assistance as they do not have any significant areas of cleared land, and have more urgent funding priorities in other sectors. Carbon credits will be important but we cannot over-rely on them as they are not a silver bullet and they could easily distort the market with serious social consequences in rural communities.

Just look at the disputes in New Zealand between forest growers and farmers, we must not end up there. Our fundamental aim must be to get the profitability of growing trees and managing forests right, then the market will take care of the rest.

In developing my opinion, I know some people will disagree with me and I would not use these figures as the basis for any investment, but if we don’t use this surge in demand to reset the wood market we will be losing an amazing opportunity to fix a two centuries old problem of not being able to grow enough domestic wood to meet Australia’s future demand.

Our industry has a great opportunity to be part of the climate change solution by growing more trees and encouraging more people to build healthy, carbon storing wooden buildings. Hopefully this opinion is the beginning of a wider consideration of the value of wood.

Note: The above is a personal opinion of Rob de Fégely and not necessarily a position taken by Margules Groome Consulting P/L

Source: Rob de Fégely, Director Margules Groome

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Sawmilling who's who for WoodTECH 2021

Two years ago – over two weeks – the FIEA WoodTECH technology series achieved a record turnout of local sawmilling companies. Over 350 delegates from all major sawmilling companies in addition to leading tech providers from throughout Australasia, North America and Europe converged on Melbourne, Australia and Rotorua, New Zealand.

Two years later, after huge disruptions worldwide, WoodTECH 2021 will again be running in this region. In fact, it’s likely to be one of very few major sawmilling events run – anywhere in the world – this year.

Content for the two days of tech presentations, exhibitions and practical workshops planned can be found on the event website, This year, it’s a who’s who of international saws and sawmilling technology that will be presenting as part of this year’s WoodTECH 2021 event. Companies involved in presenting this year include;

Sequal Lumber, New Zealand, OneFortyOne, Australia, RippleTECH, NZ, AKD Softwoods, Australia, USNR, USA, Finnos, Finland, B3 Systems, Canada, EACOM, Canada, Xtivity, Canada, FPInnovations, Canada, Simonds International, USA, Checkmate Precision Cutting Tools, NZ

Iseli&Co, Switzerland, Thode Knife & Saw, NZ, Oregon Wood Innovation Centre, USA Sicam Systems, Canada, Tunnicliffe Timber, NZ, Wood Modification Technologies, NZ, IWT Moldrup, Denmark, UniSA, Australia, Scion, NZ, Tenon Clearwood, NZ, The Lean Hub, NZ, Conquest Training, NZ and Westco Lumber, NZ

This, combined with a comprehensive series of practical workshops that have been set up for sawmill production and operational staff, means it’s an opportunity not to be missed. Registration details and options for an array of opportunities for you or your sawmilling team to be involved this year – live – or remotely, can be found on the registrations page of the WoodTECH 2021 website.

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U.S. to double duties on Canadian lumber

If Americans thought lumber prices are insane now, just wait until a new layer of duties on Canadian softwood lumber kicks in later this year, adding fuel to the inflation fire.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DOC) has issued preliminary countervailing and antidumping rates for Canadian softwood lumber. They will double the duties currently in place, from 9% to 18%. This at a time when North American lumber prices are off the charts, and contributing to inflation in the U.S.

“North American benchmarks are setting new records every week,” Scotiabank Economics says in its April 28 commodities forecast. Since March 2020, the price of Western spruce-pine-fir two-by-fours has soared from slightly less than $400 per thousand board feet to $1,600, according to Natural Resources Canada.

The new duty rates are preliminary and do not go into effect until a final rate is set later this year, according to the BC Lumber Trade Council. “We find the significant increase in today’s preliminary rates troubling," trade council president Susan Yurkovich said in a news release. “It is particularly egregious given lumber prices are at a record high and demand is skyrocketing in the U.S. as families across the country look to repair, remodel and build new homes.

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Forestry training success celebrated in the South

Last Friday saw again an outstanding turnout by local forestry companies, contractors and transport operators from throughout the lower South Island of New Zealand. The function was the 2021 Southern Wood Council Forestry Awards.

The Council, representing all major forest owners and wood processing companies in Otago and Southland ran the 2021 Awards programme in conjunction with the country’s industry training organisation, Competenz.

In addition to profiling the contribution that forestry and those working within the industry are making to the economic and social well-being of the region, the night was really designed to celebrate the success of those that had achieved formal training qualifications over the year. Over 250 certificates, a record for the region, were achieved over the last year. Through a series of nine major awards, the event also recognised the forest industry’s top performers from across the lower South Island.

The industry certainly rallied on the night. Like previous years, well over 300 forest managers, forestry contractors, transport operators and product and service suppliers to the industry from throughout the lower South Island attended the awards evening at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

“The turnout by forestry workers, their families and supporters on the night reflects the momentum that’s been building over the last few years with training and safety in this region” says Grant Dodson, Chairman of the Southern Wood Council. In addition to increased on-site training, two training courses in the region are now well established and providing a regular stream of trained workers to the industry”.

“As well as recognising the training achievements of forestry workers and crews that have really stood out over the past 12 months, the industry was able to come together at one place to celebrate the industry along with training and business success” says Mr. Dodson.

“The message on the value of the awards evening has certainly found it’s mark with many companies bringing through all of their staff and workers, from Invercargill through to Timaru. One local contractor for example brought through close to 40 of their workers to celebrate their achievements in picking up training qualifications over the year as well as rewarding the harvesting crews for their efforts over the year”.

Over 250 National Training Certificates, a record for the region, that had been achieved in Forestry & Wood Processing were awarded to top local contractors and forestry and wood processing employees. Eight harvesting apprentices that have been involved in the Balclutha training school were also recognised at the awards ceremony. There are now two more groups of eight apprentices also going through the training school.

In addition, nine major industry awards for the year were presented on the night. These were;

Training Excellence Award - Apprentice of the Year (Sponsored by Southwood Export) Award Winner; Norman Rewita, Griffin Logging

Training Excellence Award - Forestry Trainee of the Year (harvesting) (Sponsored by Log Marketing) Award Winner; Wayde Lindsay, Griffin Logging

Training Excellence Award - Forestry Trainee of the Year (silviculture) (Sponsored by Port Blakely): Award Winner; Eafou Tagiaia, Central Forestry Services

Skilled Professionals Awards – Forestry Excellence Award (establishment, silviculture, fire, harvesting) (Sponsored by Rayonier/Matariki Forests): Award Winner; Terry Gorton, King One

Skilled Professionals Awards – Wood Processing Excellence Award (Sponsored by UDC): Award Winner; Jordan Francis, Niagara Sawmilling Co

Skilled Professionals Awards – Forest Products/Logistics/Transport/Port Award (Sponsored by Pan Pac Forest Products (Otago)): Award Winner; Murray Lumsden, Philip Wareing

Industry Excellence Awards – Forestry Environmental Management Excellence Award (Sponsored by Ernslaw One); Andrew Murray, Murray Logging

Industry Excellence Awards - Training Company/Contractor of the Year (Sponsored by City Forests): Award Winner; Mike Hurring Logging

Industry Excellence Awards - Forest Products Health & Safety Award (Sponsored by Wenita Forest Products): Award Winner; Tim Gaul, C3 Ltd

Photo L-R: Training Company/Contractor of the Year; Mike Hurring, Mike Hurring Logging, Lawson Roxburgh, Roxburgh Contracting, Nathan Sewhoy, Central Forestry Services

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Profile - Women in timber

The timber industry has been historically dominated by men, but things are changing fast both inside the mill and in the office. From a recent issue of Timberlink Newsletter, Denise Morrison and Carley Murphy, were asked about their careers, the challenges they have faced and about why a career in timber is something young women should consider. Last week we covered a short interview with Denise Morrison. This week, Carley Murphy, Dry Mill treatment re-wrap operational Excellence Manager with Timberlink is interviewed.

Q. What is your background and how did you enter the timber industry?

Carley: I previously worked in Real Estate for 3 years but was looking for a job where I would spend more time out of an office and more time doing a task that required more thinking and more physical work. I enquired about the job advertised at Timberlink at the time and was told that I would start in the wrapping station with the opportunity to move up. It has been over a year now since being employed by Timberlink and so far I am enjoying each day and the people I work with.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your role and the industry as a whole? How did you end up in your current role? Dry Mill treatment re-wrap

C: My current role here at Timberlink is treatment rewrap on the Fromm (pack wrapping) line. This involves wrapping the packs that have been treated so that they are ready to be sent out to our customers. Other areas I have been trained and worked in are the grade station and the other main wrap station line. When I first started, I had no idea how many different grades of timber there were. Over the past 12 months I have been shown how to identify different grades and what each grade means. I found this really interesting and beneficial as now I have a great understanding of why we cut so many different sizes of timber and that each size and grade has a different purpose.

Q. What advice do you have for women who are thinking about entering the timber industry or male dominated industries in general?

C: To be honest I don’t believe there are any challenges as a woman in the industry. When I first started, I worked with 3 other women at the wrap stations and felt completely comfortable, and the men I have dealt with on my shift have also been wonderful and have helped me if I had any questions and have helped me with learning new machinery throughout the mill. I have also noticed throughout my time here that more and more women are being hired and I think that is also great.

Q. People often assume working at a sawmill involves a lot of lifting and manual labour. Can you talk a bit about the automation of the industry?

C: Going from an office job to a sawmill was a big change for me, I had no idea what to expect or what it would even be like. It was nothing like I thought it would be, the jobs are definitely not what you think they will be when you picture working in a sawmill, it is all automated. Previously packs were wrapped individually with just a trolley and plastic roll set up. Now that the Fromm line is installed the process is all automated so that the pack is called, the plastic is dropped on top on the way through, operators staple the plastic down and then it is sent through a strapper ready to be placed in dispatch.

This automation makes things so much easier and more efficient, as well as taking some of the physical work out of it making it easier on the operators. So overall the experience I have had so far has been great, and I would strongly encourage any young woman if they were looking for a change in their current lifestyle to jump in and have a go! The experience and knowledge you can gain could lead you down any path in the timber industry as there are definitely a lot more opportunities in this career.

Source: Timberlink

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AU$7 million upgrade for Glencoe nursery

OneFortyOne has committed to an AU$7 million dollar investment at its nursery in Glencoe, to increase container capacity, and improve working conditions across the site. The Glencoe Nursery has been in operation since 1982 and supplies over 10 million trees for OneFortyOne and other forest growers in the region.

OneFortyOne Nursery Manager Craig Torney said the upgrade will improve efficiency, capacity, and working conditions for employees and contractors. “It’s an exciting project,” Craig said. “Plans began over 4 years ago, with the aim to improve the sustainability of the current site and the wellbeing of our workforce.”

“By introducing technology to assist and streamline the process, the upgrade will increase container growing capacity 3-fold with the potential to grow an additional 4 million container seedlings per year. Instead of needing to bend or crouch down to work at ground level, we’ll have a process where trees will be grown in trays at a bench set to a more ergonomic height”.

The upgrade will move almost all winter production under cover and will also include improved facilities such as new amenities and lunchroom. Also. part of the upgrade is a new irrigation system which will improve efficiency, use less water, and result in less chemicals required during the establishment stages of new trees.

“The move away from field growing into bench supported containers will improve our working conditions, site safety and sustainability, and ultimately result in a better end product for forest growers and local timber processing customers across the region,” Craig said.

“The investment is a sign of OneFortyOne’s confidence in the future of the industry and our commitment to remaining part of our local community.” The nursery upgrade is scheduled to begin in July 2021, and is due for completion in 2023.

Photo: Craig Torney at Glencoe nursery

Source: OneFortyOne

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Call for public comment on Australian Standard

Public comment is now being sought on a revised draft for the Australian Standard for Chain of Custody for Forest and Tree Based Products – AS 4707.

The Australian Standard, along with the Australian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (AS 4708) was developed by Responsible Wood and are key components of the Responsible Wood Certification Scheme (RWCS). AS / NZS 4707 underpins the endorsement of the PEFC Chain of Custody of Forest and Tree Based Products certification scheme operating in Australia.

“The Responsible Wood Certification Scheme is recognised as a world leading certification scheme for natural and plantation forests,” said the Chairman of the Standard Reference Committee, Peter Zed said. “The Committee includes a broad range of organisations in Australia involved in forest management, forest research, auditing, community, environmental, indigenous and labour unions.”

“These organisations are keen to get public feedback on how the revised Standard can be further improved.” The Committee invites public comment on the draft standard. Comments should be submitted by 5pm AEST, Friday the 25th of June 2021, preferably using the submission form available from Responsible Wood.

The review process is being undertaken in accordance with Standards Australia procedures, Responsible Wood is accredited as a Standards Development Organisation (SDO) and is accredited to develop Australian Standards in accordance with the standards development procedures.

The Responsible Wood Certification Scheme, of which AS 4707 is a key component, is accredited by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). PEFC is the world’s largest certification system for sustainable forest management. The Standard Reference Committee has sought to ensure that the revised standard (AS 4707) continues to be consistent with PEFC endorsement requirements.

The draft Standard, the submission form and a copy of major changes to the standard can be downloaded from the Responsible Wood website.

Source: Responsible Wood

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Eastland forestry champions celebrated in awards

The forestry industry of Te Tairāwhiti was toasted last night before a sell-out crowd of 500 at the 2021 Eastland Forestry Awards. The coming together of the many men and women who contribute to one of the region’s leading industries is always a cause for celebration, but last night it was to recognise the skill and expertise of the best across the industry.

More than 60 entries were received across the 14 sections and in the end, it was Ben MacArthur from Speirs Logging who was crowned the Supreme Skilled Professional of the Year after earlier winning the award for Faller Mechanised or Manual Excellence.

Ben has been at the forefront of using certain machines and a key contributor to innovation and mechanisation on the East Coast. He started in the industry as a teenager and has worked his way up to be a very respected foreman and high skilled mentor and leader. Speirs Logging, known for their high production rates and focus on reducing environmental impact, also won the Crew of the Year crown.

Judges Ian Brown, who is Woodhill Consulting managing director, Alan Paulson, the managing director from Tairāwhiti Timber Training, and Jeff Cornwell from Health and Safety NZ, faced a tough task to find just a single winner in many of the sections, saying they had debated long and hard over most sections. “It is good to see we have a lot of skilled men and women out representing so many different parts of our industry,” said Alan. “The level of skills, training and caring is impressive.”

Eastland Wood Council CEO, Philip Hope remarked, “I would like to thank the sponsors and acknowledge all of the nominees, their family’s and colleagues for enhancing the reputation of the forestry industry in Tairāwhiti. We too are grateful for the leadership of the forestry companies and service providers who have supported the Council with recognising and celebrating excellence in our industry”

Award winners on the night were;

Skilled Professional of the Year (sponsored by Eastland Wood Council): Ben MacArthur (Speirs Logging).

Emerging Leader (sponsored by Ernslaw): Jess Bourke (Logic Forest Solutions)

Logistics Excellence (sponsored by Pacific Haulage): Samantha Harrison (ISO Ltd)

Woman in Forestry (sponsored by Blackstump Logging): Maria Jeffery (Stubbs Contractors Ltd) . Runner-up: Henrietta Raroa (Rewi Haulage Logistics)

Outstanding Health and Safety (sponsored by ISO): Daniel Gray (Forest Management Solutions Ltd)

Industry Support (sponsored by FICA): Hoana Materoa Rewi-Kururangi (Rewi Haulage Logistics)

Forestry and Establishment Excellence (sponsored by Competenz): Kilioni Tuakalau (Vailea Silviculture Ltd)

Faller Mechanised or Manual Excellence (sponsored by Forest Enterprises): Ben MacArthur (Speirs Logging). Runner-up: Peter Oliver (Stubbs Contractors Ltd).

Harvesting Excellence (sponsored by Summit): Mike Blazey (Stirling Logging) . Runner-up: Izaac Davey (Lift Harvesting Ltd).

Cartage Excellence (sponsored by MITO): Kevin McKay (McKay Cartage) . Runner-up: Steven Kent (Pacific Haulage Ltd).

Crew of the Year (sponsored by UDC): Speirs Logging. Runner-up: Wild Hog Logging.

Environmental Initiative Management (sponsored by Transdiesel): Forest Enterprises

Roading Civil (sponsored by Eastland Port): Grant Walker (Raywood Contracting)

Outstanding Innovation Excellence (sponsored by JNL): Wayne Trafford (Aratu Forests Ltd)

Photo: Skilled Professional of the Year. Daniel Williams, Chair of EWC and Ben MacArthur Speirs Logging Winner

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Truck platooning technology partnership announced

Robotic Research, a global leader in Automated Driving Systems (ADS), and FPInnovations, a Canadian private non-profit research and development centre have announced their collaboration to develop an off-road truck platooning system for the forest industry. This project will combine Robotic Research’s proven expertise as a global leader in self-driving technology with FPInnovations’ knowledge in forestry and transportation to adapt the truck platooning technology to off-highway environments.

The multi-year project aims at accelerating the adoption of off-road automated-vehicle (AV) technology to improve safety and address an acute labour shortage, thereby improving the quality and viability of rural jobs where natural resources are located. Looking to the future, a successful project would not only benefit Canada’s forest industry, but other Canadian sectors such as mining resources and natural resources in Northern Canada.

Robotic Research, with a history of other ground-breaking projects, including the development of the Xcelsior AV announced with New Flyer this year, will create unmanned convoys of Class 8, ADS-enabled trucks that follow a driver in a lead vehicle. The project will adapt existing technology to challenging Canadian conditions such as four-season weather and operations on off-pavement roads, particularly for resource roads in continental and polar climates.

“We are extremely proud to have been selected by FPInnovations and believe this project is a transformative model of how ADS can aid industries, like forestry, operating in perilous conditions or facing workforce shortages.” said Alberto Lacaze, President, Robotic Research. “The unmanned truck convoys work in concert with commercial drivers to enhance their efficiency, while also protecting their safety.”

In Phase I, truck convoys will be put through safety trials that mimic the routes from harvesting sites to sawmills. Once the system is proven to be secure, FPInnovations will run trials on actual resource roads, known to be challenging because of dust, sharp curves, and steep slopes.

Source: FPInnovations

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New Chair for Forest Growers Levy Trust

Stephen Franks will be taking over the chair of New Zealand’s FGLT at the Trust’s AGM in Wellington on 1 June. Stephen Franks is a Wellington-based lawyer and former MP. He takes over from founding FGLT Chair Geoff Thompson.

Stephen has longstanding small forest investments, including a partnership property in Marlborough, and a controlling interest in a forest nearing harvest at Waitotara. His large Wairarapa block includes some pre 1991 forest, but the main return there has been from manuka honey. Until 2015 he was an active partner in the beekeeping business.

His early company law practice had a focus in rural sector businesses (meat processing and dairy). As a Chapman Tripp partner (a firm he eventually chaired) he led its work for the Dairy Board preparing to create what became Fonterra. He worked on a range of projects for various government departments and agencies, often in law reform, including electricity industry, ACC, and SOE structuring and restructuring.

He had six years as a Member of Parliament ending in 2005. After several years back with Chapman Tripp he established a specialty law firm Franks Ogilvie, to focus on public law for businesses – lawyering where government and commerce intersect.

Source: FOA E-News

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World's first wooden satellite in orbit this year

When we think of old tech in space, we think of the retrofuturism of old sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Alien — their huge 8-bit computers and monochrome screens presented at the time as the height of technology.

Seemingly taking one step further back on the technological evolutionary timeline, a project called WISA WOODSAT is sending a small satellite up into space with an outer shell made out of plywood. We covered the planned intention for this project in February. Plans are still on track apparently.

"Our goal is to put the first-ever wooden satellite on Earth's orbit by the end of 2021," the WISA WOODSAT team tweeted on Monday, April 12. The Finland-based project, sponsored by plywood manufacturer WISA, might be seen by some as little more than an advertising ploy, however, it will ensure that a student project gets sent up to space — so what's not to like?

As a report by Ars Technica explains, the project uses the small CubeSat format called Kitsat, a 10cm/side cube that was specifically designed for educational use. CubeSats are tiny satellites that can be adapted for a huge range of functions. In 2019, for example, the Planet Society's Carl Sagan-inspired LightSail project showed that the small lightweight satellites could be propelled using a sail powered solely by photons from the sun.

The tiny satellites, commonly used today to deploy payloads for scientific experiments, have the potential to become useful space exploration utilities probing the far reaches of space.

In WISA WOODSAT's case, the CubeSat in question is very much part of a scientific experiment led by students, with different parts of the CubeSat built by students from around Finland.

The student's satellite model, which was originally sent to space on a balloon, has now received an upgrade and will reach space aboard a Rocket Lab launch vehicle thanks to sponsorship from plywood supplier WISA.

As WISA is sponsoring the launch, the satellite will include an outer layer of plywood. The versatile wood material won't serve much of a purpose in space — though it technically will allow the launch to take place via the very unscientific reaction of money equals rocket fuel.

As for the student project itself, the WISA WOODSAT team will use a communication technology that allows a simple, low-power receiver to pick up the WOODSAT's signal, which will then be broadcast over a radio frequency dedicated to amateur radio.

Though there is currently no date scheduled for the launch of the wooden satellite, it is set to ride into a polar orbit via a Rocket Lab launch vehicle at some point this year.


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Turning wood into plastic

Plastics are one of the world’s largest polluters, taking hundreds of years to degrade in nature. A research team, led by YSE professor Yuan Yao and Liangbing Hu from the University of Maryland, has created a high-quality bioplastic from wood byproducts that they hope can solve one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.

Efforts to shift from petrochemical plastics to renewable and biodegradable plastics have proven tricky — the production process can require toxic chemicals and is expensive, and the mechanical strength and water stability is often insufficient. But researchers have made a breakthrough, using wood by-products, that shows promise for producing more durable and sustainable bioplastics.

A study published in Nature Sustainability, co-authored by Yuan Yao, assistant professor of industrial ecology and sustainable systems at Yale School of the Environment (YSE), outlines the process of deconstructing the porous matrix of natural wood into a slurry. The researchers say the resulting material shows a high mechanical strength, stability when holding liquids, and UV-light resistance. It can also be recycled or safely biodegraded in the natural environment, and has a lower life-cycle environmental impact when compared with petroleum-based plastics and other biodegradable plastics.

“There are many people who have tried to develop these kinds of polymers in plastic, but the mechanical strands are not good enough to replace the plastics we currently use, which are made mostly from fossil fuels,” says Yao. “We’ve developed a straightforward and simple manufacturing process that generates biomass-based plastics from wood, but also plastic that delivers good mechanical properties as well.”

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... sharp advertising

And some more quotable quotes.

On September 17, 1994, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995.

Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?

Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,"

Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest.

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."

Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign.

"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."

Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC

"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.."

Al Gore, Vice President

"I love California . I practically grew up in Phoenix .."

Dan Quayle

"Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 2020 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances."

Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. 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:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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