Friday Offcuts 8 April 2022
In Australian mining industry, they are well ahead already. A couple of years ago Rio Tinto rolled out their autonomous rail system, AutoHaul, transferring iron-ore from mine operations in remote parts of Australia to ports, with driverless trains. At the time, this autonomous rail system was claimed to be the "world's largest robot". Another Australian mining company (gold mining this time) has also made the decision to go driverless.
MACA, a specialist mining services provider, is now retrofitting 100 of their largest trucks so that they can be run autonomously. The significant rollout being planned will create one of the largest autonomous heavy equipment fleets - anywhere in the world. The adoption and use of this technology is certainly worth watching. As described in the article below, it’s the “proverbial canary in the gold mine” for the sector's broader automation ambitions, along with other heavy transport industries and equipment across this region.
For our forestry technology events, it now appears we’re now coming down the other side of the Covid peak. International borders are opening, travel and indoor meetings restrictions are being relaxed. After these tough few years of restrictions, forestry folks are more than eager to finally meet up. It’s been two years or more for our Australian clients. With major events rescheduled from earlier this year, registrations for our upcoming Environmental Forestry 2022 on 28-29 June, Residues2Revenues 2022 on 26-27 July and Carbon Forestry 2022 are all now rolling in. So, if it’s being a while and you’re looking to catch up with colleagues and leading local and international technology providers, check out the programmes planned over the next 3-4 months.
Finally, we’ve included a couple of “good news” stories in today’s issue where forestry companies have been working closely alongside their communities to remove unwanted wildlings, invasive plants and pests. One of New Zealand’s largest ‘pine to natives’ forest conversion projects is now underway in Hawke’s Bay. Wildling pines are being removed from a former 4,000 ha commercial plantation and the area’s being converted back into native forest. In the Waikato, one of the largest remaining wetlands located in Rayonier Matariki’s Tairua forest is currently undergoing a major transformation with unwanted plants and predator species being removed. Great initiatives. See further details below.
This week we have for you:
Forest growers levy boost welcomedAustralia’s forest industries have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement allowing forest growers to spend almost AU$1 million extra into biosecurity research and development each year. Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) Growers Chamber Chair, Dr Andrew Jacobs, said forest growers welcomed the finalisation of the process to strengthen forestry biosecurity.
Forest growers across Australia requested an increase in their biosecurity levy and the Commonwealth has facilitated the expected additional AU$900,000 annual investment. “We are pleased the Federal Government recognises the serious threat biosecurity presents to forest industries and we welcome the support to deliver this annual investment.”
AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said the additional funding is critical for R&D and builds the case for a new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI). “We welcome the levy boost, but over the past two decades research funding has declined in Australia and we need to see that turned around. We need the new NIFPI in Launceston to be fully funded, so Australia can realise its potential in R&D and forest products innovation,” Ross Hampton concluded.
For further coverage on the announcement click here.
Early EOI to present at ForestTECH 2022Despite continued Covid related disruptions to the running of the annual ForestTECH event, ForestTECH 2021-22 ran, albeit virtually as an on-line event on 23-24 February this year. Over 300 delegates from 15 different countries were registered for the event. Feedback has now been collated and the response from those involved, excellent. Feedback from delegates also very clearly told us that;
1. After years of disruption and travel restrictions, this part of the industry wanted to finally meet up again, in person, as originally scheduled in late 2022.
In November 2022 it will have been three long years since the ForestTECH community will have met up in Australia. For New Zealand, it will have been two years.
All wanted to get back to the original concept that has worked so well for this part of the industry for over 15 years, a series being run both in New Zealand and Australia. The time is well overdue for this part of the industry to finally meet up again – and to meet key technology and equipment providers, face to face. Travel, border and meeting restrictions in March are easing and it’s anticipated that late 2022 will enable us to meet up, in both countries.
2. Stay with the same two themes; (a) remote sensing, data capture and forest inventory and (b), tree crop management, automated silviculture (including mechanised planting) and forest establishment used in 2020 and early 2022 for the next tech update, ForestTECH 2022.
The ForestTECH 2022 event is now planned to be run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 15-16 November 2022 and again in Melbourne, Australia on 22-23 November 2022. Early details can be found on the event website, www.foresttech.events/ft22
Early calls for presenters EOI:
Again, the very latest developments around remote sensing, data capture, forest inventory, tree establishment, automated silviculture and mechanised planting will form the basis of the technology update – research and trial results, new and developing technologies and key lessons from industry on the integration of this technology into forest operations.
If interested in being considered to present as part of the ForestTECH 2022 event in November (New Zealand, Australia or internationally), please get back to Brent Apthorp, FIEA Director, firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 20 April. Please include details of suggested content in your response.
Giant 180-tonne robot trucks are miningAs global demand soars, extractive industries are embracing automation.
A mining outfit in Australia is making a big bet on big robots. Following a recent proof of concept at a gold mine, mining contractor MACA will retrofit a fleet of 100 very large vehicles to create one of the largest autonomous heavy equipment fleets in the world.
This is a pretty significant rollout and a proverbial canary in the gold mine for the sector's broader automation ambitions. With the world hungrier than ever for precious and rare earth metals, technology is increasingly called on to make mining operations more efficient and cost-effective while unlocking increasingly scarce resources.
Powering the new rollout is autonomous heavy equipment company SafeAI and its Australian partner, Position Partners. This new generation of autonomous heavy vehicle technology is a major upgrade from the first-generation retrofits, which had limited onboard processing power and took a long time to see ROI in most cases.
Early versions of autonomous vehicle technology in the sector also operated with closed legacy systems, preventing mixed fleets from communicating. Industries like mining have had this tech for 20 years now, but the lack of accessibility means it hasn't really taken off yet.
Autonomy 2.0 is changing that. AI-powered and armed with multimodal sensors (lidar, radar, camera), these new systems have significant onboard processing power to reduce network reliance and enable fast decisions. It's also open, interoperable, and vehicle-agnostic -- meaning tech like SafeAI's retrofit autonomy can be applied to any vehicle, at pretty much any age from any manufacturer.
"This technology is a game changer for our business, our customers and our industry," explains Shane Clark, MACA's General Manager of Estimating and Technical Services. "SafeAI's versatile, scalable solution is unmatched in our industry right now, and has profound implications for site safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. We expect to see quick takeup from our customers as they begin to see the tremendous impact of this technology."
This means much greater scalability -- like this 100-truck agreement -- to accelerate the rollout of autonomous equipment for industries that are ready. One big benefit of autonomy is that it creates far safer working conditions for on-site workers.
Passing of former CE of forests and farmingNew Zealand’s pastoral and forest industries are mourning the recent passing of Rob McLagan, who served as Chief Executive of both Federated Farmers and the Forest Owners Association. Rob was CE of Federated Farmers between 1979 and 1993. He then went on to become CE of the Forest Owners Association for eight years between 1997 and his retirement in 2005.
Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said the entire Federation community passes on its condolences to Rob's family. "There's no question around his commitment to the Federation and all farmers. His tenure was long and through the troubled times of the 1980s reforms. He is remembered with the utmost respect," Andrew said.
Current Forest Owners Association Chief Executive, David Rhodes, says Rob McLagan was widely respected for both his advocacy and for his style. “Rob placed a heavy emphasis on building and maintaining relationships and thus always had an open door ready for him when he wanted to talk.”
“In all his dealings with a wide range of folks from landowners to officials and government he invariably elicited the same description – a true gentleman. It is some comfort to me that Rob was able to attend the 50th anniversary of the FOA in 2019 because he will forever be an important part of that history,” David Rhodes said.
Productivity and costs of logging residue chip sievingSieving of chipped forest fuels has recently been suggested as a way to reduce dry matter losses during storage. Sieving provides a more homogeneous acceptable material with better storage properties, which reduces the risk of energy and dry matter losses and spontaneous ignition.
Screened chips can be priced higher due to better quality, and both acceptable and reject fractions are more homogeneous, which improves combustion control. Sieving is costly and the reject fraction is not suitable for storage. Five sieving operations were studied, three involving vibrating screens and two involving star-screens.
On average, star-screens were more productive than vibrating screens. In all operations, the sieving machine limited productivity, and the loader feeding the machine was not fully utilized. Sieving costs were under two euro per MWh of chips, which may be recovered through higher values and lower storage losses in the acceptable fraction.
If sieving operations were used to increase storage of chips, it could increase the annual utilization of chippers and chip trucks in the supply chain, thereby reducing supply costs. Profitable sieving operations require demand for the fine fraction at a price close to that of residue chips.
For more information on this research, click here
And as part of the eagerly awaited
Full details on the programme along with registration details can be found on the event website.
Shopify purchases carbon offsets from DroneSeedReforestation company DroneSeed has announced its largest sale of offsets to date to Shopify, a leading provider of essential internet infrastructure for commerce, which is on a mission to reverse climate change. As part of the post-fire reforestation, native trees of multiple species will remove 50,000 tonnes as they grow over the next century on a legally protected site.
A leader in climate tech and post-wildfire reforestation, DroneSeed serves as a one-stop shop for reforestation, combining drone-based aerial seeding, seed inventory, and tree nurseries. As wildfire size and severity has increased due to climate change, funding the high up-front costs of reforestation has become a significant bottleneck. DroneSeed's reforestation initiatives are financed by the generation and sale of carbon offsets in partnership with Element Markets, an environmental commodities company dedicated to the rapid deployment of carbon reduction products and services.
DroneSeed's reforestation work—supported by Shopify's Sustainability Fund, is performed in partnership with EFM, the project co-developer. EFM manages the stewardship of 120,000+ acres and is a natural climate solutions investment firm that is both majority woman-owned and a minority-owned B Corp. The Henry Creek property located in western Oregon is a prime location for growing conifer trees and is directly adjacent to designated wilderness areas and public lands. The Henry Creek project site consists of forest burned in the Beachie Creek fire in 2020.
DroneSeed's offsets are at the forefront of a new class of carbon removal offsets available on the voluntary market to fund reforestation. Historically, the majority of forest carbon offsets have been generated from projects protecting mature forests, while carbon offsets have much more rarely been an effective tool for financing the high up-front costs of reforestation.
Repayment periods for reforestation projects were 10-25 years long and reforestation projects funded by offsets have been rare. The non-profit Climate Action Reserve (CAR) recently created a new protocol to establish offset sales as a mechanism for investing in reforestation. These offsets are forward-looking, also known as "ex ante," meaning that buyers are investing in the carbon that will be absorbed and stored by re-seeded and replanted forests as they grow.
Wetlands welcome back threatened bird lifeOne of the largest remaining wetlands in Waikato, Duck Creek Wetland, is home to several at risk bird species that have been under threat by local predators. Duck Creek is located within Rayonier Matariki’s Tairua Forest and the adjacent Lakes Resort Golf Course in Pauanui and is home to the endangered Australasian Bittern, Brown teal duck and at-risk North Island Fernbird, New Zealand Dab Chick, New Zealand Dotterel (pictured), Banded Rail and Spotless Crake.
The wetland is considered a Significant Ecological Area and in order to protect it and the inhabitants, Rayonier Matariki Forests (RMF) has been actively managing the control of invasive plants and pests since 2019. RMF’s Bay of Plenty District Forester, Rob Schoonderwoerd, says measures have been undertaken to prevent unwanted plant and predator species taking over the wetlands.
“We have put in place control programmes for wilding pine, pampas and gorse, as well as Royal Fern – a weed that is detrimental to wetlands. “Last year, in collaboration with the Waikato Regional Council, we set up and managed 40 traps within the forest which has already seen significant results,” says Schoonderwoerd.
Waikato Regional Council provided the trapping hardware, RMF distributed them and volunteers undertook the baiting and clearing of traps.
Rob Corkill, Catchment Management Officer at Waikato Regional Council says Duck Creek is an extremely valuable wetland habitat. “With a number of quite rare and threatened bird species, anything we can do collaboratively to protect them, is one of our core roles in biosecurity and pest management. It ties in with a lot of predator control work we are doing around the coastline of Coromandel to ensure the area remains home to some very special inhabitants,” says Corkill.
In just nine months, over 1000 pests have been caught, with rats, possums and mice being the most common but also including feral cats, weasels, stoats and ferrets. A local experienced pig hunter has also been brought in to catch wild pigs.
RMF’s predator control activity dovetails with that in Pauanui Lakes Resort residential area and Pauanui Resort Golf Course, who have caught over 3,000 pests since trapping records began in April 2020, bringing the current total to over 4,000 pests having been eliminated.
Schoonderwoerd adds that in the last few months sightings of the North Island Fernbird is common as is increased sightings of the Australasian Bittern and Banded Rail in and around the Forest/Lakes Resort Wetland area. As the predators decrease the native wildlife is increasing.
“As well as constant sightings of some of the at-risk birds we’re trying to protect, there has also been an increase in ruru, tui, bellbirds, fan tails, grey warblers and kingfishers. These are good indicators that the collaborative trapping across the wider area is having a positive effect. But we’re in the early stages of the project so it will be exciting to see what the future holds,” says Schoonderwoerd.
AU$16m kiln upgrade complete at JubileeOneFortyOne’s second Continuous Drying Kiln is now online, completing an AU$16million capital investment project at the Jubilee Sawmill site in Mount Gambier, South Australia. Jubilee Sawmill General Manager Paul Hartung said the kilns are working well and have increased site capacity while improving the quality of the timber dried.
“The CDK’s are powered by our own sawdust and wood waste offcuts, and their efficient design is using less energy to process more timber compared to our old batch kilns,” Paul said. “With the old batch kiln, we put 150m3 of timber in at a time, drying it at up to 160 degrees to achieve a moisture level down to 12%. These high temperatures can stress the timber.”
“With the CDK, we load the timber to move through the drying process. With the efficiencies of shared energy and temperature control, the new kilns have a maximum temperature of 130 degrees which is a lot less aggressive on the timber as it dries.” Two of four older batch kilns will be reconditioned and remain on site to provide added flexibility and backup for the CDK’s are offline for maintenance.
The upgrade project is part of a greater Jubilee-wide modernisation program, which has included state-of-the-art sawing equipment upgrades, through to the addition of robotic pack wrap and strapping machine.
“The upgrades and new equipment on site are creating better and safer working environments for everyone,” Paul said. “The team is also getting the opportunity to gain new skills, work with the latest technology, and enjoy a safer and more modern workplace.”
Photo: Kilns Manager Michael Olle, retired Kilns Manager, Roger Davis
Pine to native forest conversion underwayAbout 110 hectares of rugged terrain have been cleared of wilding pines as part of New Zealand’s largest ‘pine to natives’ forest conversion project adjacent to the Maungataniwha Native Forest in inland Hawke’s Bay. The work was paid for by a NZ$15,000 grant from the Pan Pac Environmental Trust and saw the clearance of between 1,500 and 2,000 wilding pines, the naturally regenerating offspring of plantation trees.
The forest conversion initiative by Hawke’s Bay-based Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust (FLRT) is converting the former Maungataniwha Pine Forest into 4,000 hectares of regenerating native forest. The latest assault on wilding pines means that more than a third of the area, about 1,500 hectares, can now be described as clear of the exotic tree and regenerating with native species.
The land was cleared over a 15-day period by Hastings-based firm Coast and Country Pest Control Ltd, operated by former arborists Todd Lowrie and Logan Lecomte. The forest conversion site, a former commercial pine forest, lies adjacent to the Maungataniwha Native Forest, a 6,120-hectare swathe of New Zealand bush straddling the ridge system between the Te Hoe and Waiau Rivers in northern Hawke’s Bay, bordered to the north by Te Urewera National Park and to the west by the Whirinaki Conservation Forest.
Eighty years ago, the land was covered in mature native forest full of mistletoe, kiwi, kokako and kaka. The mature podocarps were logged and in the 1980s some 4,000 hectares were clear-felled and burnt for the planting of pine trees.
FLRT was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of native fauna and flora in forests within the Central North Island. In 2018, it took control of the fully harvested block from Matariki Forests, which had held the licence to log the pine.
The aim is to re-vegetate the area with indigenous forest. There are sufficient native species seed in the soil to enable natural regeneration but the major challenge, and cost, is the elimination of regenerating pine seedlings which crowd out the slower growing native forest species.
It takes a decade to clear logged land of wilding pines completely and to get it to the point where it can be described as fully regenerated. During this time the land is nurtured, treated and monitored by the FLRT to ensure that the species they expect to appear do so. The conversion is the FLRT’s biggest and most expensive single undertaking. It uses a mix of aerial spraying and manual clearance methods to keep the wilding pines at bay.
FLRT Chairman Simon Hall said the trust was “beyond grateful” to the Pan Pac Environmental Trust for the cash injection, which would go some way to helping to meet the costs of the project. The work had been funded equally by FLRT and the Department of Conservation between 2015 and 2018, but since then FLRT had been carrying the financial burden of about NZ$70,000 a year on its own.
Photo: Regenerating native plants on land that was previously under pine at Maungataniwha
Remsoft partners with ForestPHDRemsoft has announced a new collaboration with Australian-based company ForestPHD, the developer of STICKS, to enable the use of forest machine data in Remsoft Forest IntelligenceTM solutions. The partnership will improve visibility and data-based intelligence for forestry companies using Remsoft Operations SaaS software to plan and schedule their harvest and wood flow activities.
Widely used throughout Australia, New Zealand and increasingly other parts of the world, ForestPHD’s STICKS cloud solution enables data collected by forest machines to be analysed for better understanding of harvesting operations, wood flow logistics and value recovery.
STICKS aggregates data from feller bunchers, harvesters, processors and forwarders that support the internationally recognized StanForD data format that is used by leading forest machine manufacturers.
Linking the machine data from STICKS with Remsoft Operations opens new opportunities to drive more accurate harvest, delivery and wood flow schedules and budgets with improved harvest unit inventory updates and forecasts, harvest productivity rates and harvesting costs.
“As forestry companies make the move from spreadsheets to intelligence-based planning in Remsoft Operations, data integration is a key focus for delivering more value,” said Doug Jones, Senior VP, Remsoft. “Our collaboration with ForestPHD opens the door for clients to incorporate and extract more value from their forest machine data to inform supply chain decisions.”
“Remsoft and ForestPHD share a common interest in helping to take the guesswork out of forest operations,” said Jeremy Gibson, Director, ForestPHD. “Machine data can contribute to the insights delivered in Remsoft Operations by adding visibility into the different parts of the production side of the supply chain.”
Remember the FRESTRA Club? – it’s finally closingFor many involved in forestry in NZ over the years, you’ll remember it. The FRESTRA (Forest Research & Training) club and bar. It emerged on the campus of Forest Research at a time it probably wasn’t appropriate for a Government Department to have such facilities on site.
The FRI Campus of the day incorporated, Forest Research, Forest Management Training, Timber Preservation and associated NZFS (NZ Forest Service) groups. A vibrancy was created by numerous visitors, overseas researchers, scientists and the like, training course attendees from all around NZ and local NZFS staff. Legalising an Incorporated Society wasn’t so hard, establishing a social facility complete with bar and licence demanded more covert activity and more innovative thinking.
A number of FRESTRA members were and are highly regarded as innovative thinkers. Think of a large training room, complete with whiteboard, low tables and easy lounge chairs and it’s easy to see how value was added to the training facilities on campus, and kept the bureaucrats happy.
The Club was incorporated in 1982 and was open to membership from FRI (Forest Research Institute) and Training Centre staff, NZFS Rotorua Conservancy staff and ultimately campus associates and visitors. Visitor books show single night memberships from overseas visitors and cohorts of forestry trainees, many of whom now occupy senior industry positions. The club facilities provided a meeting point particularly Thursday and Friday nights when any forestry type visiting Rotorua or left over from a course, could be guaranteed conversation and entertainment around the ‘leaner’.
The club was also responsible for other legendary ‘sporting’ pursuits and events, including cricket, trivia quiz nights, home brew competitions, the dog race, mediaeval banquet, annual golf tournament and even an athletic pursuit or two. The club can also claim association with the annual polar plunge and ‘study tours’ undertaken by FTC (Forest Training Centre) staff.
The corporatisation of the NZ Forest Service in 1987 resulted in a loss of identity for NZFS staff and along with this came a need for the Conservancy Social club to pass on the club bach (crib for South Islanders) at Papamoa to FRESTRA for safekeeping. This served as a holiday bach and then holiday house, after the section was subdivided and a larger dwelling erected. The FRESTRA Club was the owner and custodian.
Sadly, a series of events conspired to a declining membership and under-utilisation of the bach. This meant the bach had to be sold and a wind-up of the club. With a lot of soul searching and with the participation of all remaining members, the bach proceeds were distributed to the Waiotapu Forest School camp, NZ Timber Museum and the bulk to Future Foresters, a special interest group of NZ Institute of Forestry. They are all charged with doing their bit to promote and preserve the values of the Forest Service, while maintaining the sense of fun and social engagement promoted by the captains of industry and research who provided the culture of FRESTRA.
So, to finish up, the final wind-up is happening at the Rotorua East Bowling Club on Saturday 30 April starting at 4.00 pm. The form will be informal, with drinks and a meal, and probably limited to 200 people.
If you are an ex-member, visitor or associate and want to participate, please contact Terry Lemon at; email@example.com
Chainsaw artist from a timber familyWhen Paul Stafford picked up a battered old chainsaw from his grandfather’s workbench at 16, he held three generations of history in his hands. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather worked as saw millers or loggers in rural Victoria. His life seemed mapped out.
“I come from a pretty big family. There’s lots of utes, lots of chainsaws, lots of logging,” Mr Stafford says. He left school to start his own business selling firewood and became a tree feller at 21.
After work, Mr Stafford and his friends liked playing backgammon and board games. Over a round of Pictionary one night, he realised his future could be different. “It was my turn to draw, so I drew a wagon. And they all just went, ‘Oh God, you can draw,'” he recalls.
Encouraged by the friends around the table that evening, Mr Stafford began experimenting with wood sculpting. He started by making things for his mates for free, which led to commissions and requests to appear at country shows.
Now 47, Mr Stafford gave up his day job two years ago to work full-time as a sculptor in his workshop at Nayook, 100 kilometres east of Melbourne. He uses chainsaws and rotary tools to carve intricate faces into fallen trees, shape animals from stumps and create life-like busts of local icons from lumps of cypress.
Mr Stafford’s career change happened as the national forestry workforce began facing more uncertainty due to bushfires and state governments phasing out native logging. An Australian Industry and Skills Committee report shows employment in logging has long been fluctuating, while the number of young people getting their qualifications is decreasing.
Many of Mr Stafford’s family and friends still work in the industry and he says some of his best days were spent among trees. “I get a strong earthly feeling from timber,” he says. “Just the smell and that real earthy feel is very grounding. Timber is so much of a part of us and we’re a part of it.” He has an enormous respect for trees, their resilience and ability to adapt.
“They grow back. If you don’t touch a bit of land, trees will just start growing back. Trees are amazing things. I don’t want to be religious but trees are God’s gift to Earth.”
Internet Explorer days - they're numberedA timely reminder. Yes, there are still a few of you still out there – 2-4% of our Offcuts readers are still using Internet Explorer as a browser. The message from Microsoft is that it's really time to stop using it now.
Microsoft has once again urged users to stop using its outdated Internet Explorer browser as the software limps closer to its retirement. The company has reminded users that Internet Explorer 11 is being retired from Windows 10 in June 2022, with Microsoft Edge taking its place.
It seems that some users may be a touch unwilling to make the jump, however, with Microsoft forced to emphasise that the days of Internet Explorer really are numbered. "The Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) desktop application will be retired on 15 June 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10. This means that the IE11 desktop application will no longer be supported and afterward will redirect to Microsoft Edge if a user tries to access it."
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... a weird conversation
I was barely sitting down when I heard a voice from the other stall saying:
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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