Friday Offcuts 17 February 2017
As we know, the skill sets being sought out by our industry are quite different from those required two to three years ago. As any employer will be able to tell you, young engineers and tech graduates are now currently in hot demand. We’ve included a great piece in this week’s issue outlining how a new generation of tech-savvy graduates are increasingly being attracted to working with drones, robots and automated sensors. Believe it or not, Agri-business is now considered a “sexy” sector by today’s youngsters.
For forestry and wood products companies, adoption of new technology is critical to ensuring the business remains internationally competitive and that improvements in productivity and safety in the forest or on the manufacturing site can be made. New technology may also just be the answer to filling those skills shortages as well. For some of the younger generation, the attraction may be the lifestyle – certainly for forest management. For most though, we probably need to rethink our approach in profiling our industry by accentuating and actively selling the now high tech nature of our business.
To assist in filling the void with ongoing communications and networking, FIEA is also now extending the annual technology events that to date have been supplied through it’s very popular ForestTECH technology series to foresters in the region. The ForestTECH website ( www.foresttech.events) will now include regular updates (breaking news, research results, reports, information on new technology and essential links) for forest resource managers, remote sensing specialists, GIS, mapping and inventory foresters throughout Australasia. Further details on this new service can be found in the story below. If keen on subscribing (it’s free) or getting some of your team on board, you can sign up directly through the revamped ForestTECH website.
Finally, our thoughts go out to those that have been involved in battling forest and rural fires on both sides of the Tasman during the week. New Zealand has seen two active fires (although most will tell you that the summer hasn’t been that great); over 500ha of scrubland, grassland and forest burnt in Hawkes Bay earlier in the week and ongoing fires on Christchurch’s Port Hills overlooking the city has seen around 2,000ha burnt along with the tragic loss of a helicopter pilot whilst working on the fire front. In Australia, at the beginning of the week more than 2,500 firefighters were battling 120 bushfires in NSW as temperatures went through the roof. One fire, the Sir Ivan fire, east of Dunedoo, had burned through almost 50,000ha with an active fire edge at its peak of around 200km reported. As of yesterday, firefighters were still working to consolidate containment lines at some of these fires. It's being a long week for many.
This week we have for you:
High-tech attracts hard-to-impress graduatesAustralia's struggled to attract potential recruits to farming thanks to its harsh traditional image, but modern technology's changing that. Parts of Australia's farming industry are rushing to recruit a new generation of tech-savvy graduates as the sector swaps its bucolic past for a future of drones, robots and automated sensors.
The push comes as cutting-edge machinery is used to plug a labour shortage on the nation's remote farms that threatens to derail its ambitions to become Asia's food bowl. "For the first time in many years, we're finding it easier to attract graduates because agriculture, particularly technology in agriculture, is back on the radar," said Felicity Hennessy, general manager of innovation at agribusiness Ruralco.
For years, potential recruits to Australian agriculture have been turned off by the harsh image of traditional farming, but a marked acceleration towards automation has piqued the interest of young generations, with jobs available to do everything from developing crop-protecting drones to crunching data on cattle nutrition. "The proliferation of drones and sensors are the key drivers," said Hennessy, adding that Ruralco's graduate programme had seen a rise in the number and quality of applicants.
While Australia is among the world's leaders in robotics for outdoor use, having given birth to the first robot to round up cattle, the A$4 billion (NZ$4.2 billion) agriculture technology industry is still in its infancy. It is mainly just a few companies that are big enough to recruit.
The nation's largest cattle firm Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) is one of the local firms in the sector that has regularly been hiring tech-savvy youngsters. "Interest in agriculture is rising, from engineers to science-type graduates," said Gerard Davis, who heads a team of seven in an innovation department at AACo that started under three years ago.
Data from Rimfire Resources, a recruiting firm specialised in farming, showed 4600 agricultural jobs were advertised on the internet in 2016, from an average of 3750 in the past three years. "It is difficult to say whether the increase is driven by technology, but there is a clear shift for off-the-farm roles," said Nigel Crawley, a director at Rimfire Resources.
New degrees such as agri-sciences are being added by universities, with a sharp rise in students who do not have a farming background. City-born engineering student Michael Forrai had never set foot on a farm, but as part of his studies is now testing weed-spraying functions on robots in wheat fields near Emerald, a remote town in the state of Queensland. "I had never heard of Emerald before and really would have never expected to work on a farm," said the 30-year-old student from the University of Sydney. "Now, I see it as an amazing opportunity ... I am definitely considering staying in agricultural robotics."
But competition is stiff for agricultural companies looking to recruit engineers or tech graduates. "We have to be looking all the time," said Matt Pryor, the founder of water and livestock sensors maker Observant, citing companies in aerospace, automotive, finance, healthcare and e-commerce vying for the candidates.
Tenon's Clearwood being bought for US$55MRubicon, the NZX-listed forestry biotech company that controls Tenon has teamed with US and New Zealand investors to agree to buy the wood processing company's remaining asset, the Clearwood manufacturing business, for US$55 million, a deal that would actually free up cash and reduce Rubicon's exposure.
The deal needs sign-off from Tenon shareholders before it can be settled on the target date of April 28. Tenon is tied to the transaction by a US$1.65 million termination fee if it halts the sale plus costs for the bidding group of up to US$500,000.
"Given an extensive investment bank-led process has been run, Tenon’s independent directors have accepted the consortium’s offer and signed the sale and purchase agreement as being in the best interests of Tenon shareholders," the company said.
Rubicon owns about 60 percent of Tenon and also owns about one-third of American seedling company ArborGen. Tenon shares last traded at $2.38. Rubicon rose 2 percent to 25 cents.
Hugh Fletcher, chair of Rubicon's independent committee managing the deal, said there were several reasons why Rubicon was involved.
"Firstly, to ensure that Tenon’s strategic review is completed successfully, with an appropriate outcome for all shareholders," Fletcher said. "Secondly, we have indirectly managed the Clearwood business for a long time and know it well. We are a comfortable owner, but would rather own our Clearwood investment directly through a private vehicle, than via a public entity."
ForestTECH - a new communication tool for forestersForestTECH 2016 delegates in Rotorua and Melbourne late last year provided input to this new venture. Together with industry, the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) plans to communicate much more regularly with local foresters and key suppliers to those involved in forest resource management.
As well as annual technology gatherings, the ForestTECH website will now be used to provide the very latest updates on breaking news, research results, reports, information on new technology and links for those involved in resource management and forest planning in Australasia.
Background: Since 2007, FIEA has run Australasia’s leading technology event, ForestTECH. It’s run for forest resource managers, remote sensing specialists, GIS, mapping and inventory foresters. It’s become the ONE technical event every year that’s attended by all major forestry companies from around New Zealand and Australia. It’s also the only independent forum in the region for tech updates, for disseminating results from recent research and from in-forest trials, for sharing information and for networking amongst technical foresters.
What’s planned? ForestTECH delegates over the years have suggested a platform for more regular communication and networking amongst themselves. They’d like to connect during the year as well as in and around the ForestTECH events. They’ve pointed to the ForestTECH website as the logical tool or vehicle to make this happen.
The website, www.foresttech.events is going to be used in future to provide more regular communication on news – and events – to forest resource managers and inventory foresters. It will complement weekly updates from the forestry e-news sources, Friday Offcuts (www.fridayoffcuts.com) and WoodWeek (www.woodweek.com) along with other technical events and news sources.
It will contain information we hope will be relevant – and of direct use to our readers. As well as updates on the website, a regular blog with links to new stories or posts will be sent out (no more than once a month but will be dependent on news sources and contributions received) to subscribers.
At this early stage, recent ForestTECH delegates have been added to this new community of blog subscribers. If you wish to add company or team members to the distribution list for this new resource, please subscribe or get your team members directly to sign up through the new website.
How can you help? The service is being provided for you. It’s free. It’s also dependent on your input and guidance. We’d be grateful for your input with news stories, contributions from research, papers written for journals, links to news feeds, relevant new equipment or product launches …. This can be done on line – or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Any suggestions or recommendations on content or format of course will also be gratefully received.
What now? Check out the website. Our first ForestTECH blog went out yesterday. Thanks for your advice, input and contributions to the concept and we look forward to working with you all in future.
The Vertical Forest comes to ChinaFor a long time this TreeHugger was skeptical of hugging Stefano Boeri's Vertical Forest concept, but others thought it the most beautiful and important high-rise in the world. Now Boeri is building his third complex, the Nanjing Vertical Forest. It will have 1100 trees from 23 local species, covering 60,000 square feet of plantable area. The architect says it will provide a 25 tonnes of CO2 absorption each year and will produce about 60 kg of oxygen per day. More >>
New round of RFA’s start in AustraliaThe “battle lines” in the long-running 'forest wars' between environment groups and the timber industry are being drawn again, with Victoria and Tasmania once again set to become the main battlegrounds reports the ABC.
The renewed tensions are surfacing as Regional Forest Agreements—known as RFAs—start expiring across Australia. The RFAs are 20-year agreements between the state and federal governments which are designed to guarantee resource security to industry for sustainable logging, while also delivering environmental outcomes and a comprehensive reserve system.
Recently, Victoria secured a temporary extension to its East Gippsland RFA until early next year. But the Tasmanian RFA is up for renewal later this year, and other states will follow. More >>.
Source: ABC News.
Snap to it! Forest photo contestAs governing body for PEFC international in Australia, Australian Forestry Standard Ltd is promoting a nation-wide photo contest, aimed at further raising awareness of the importance of sustainable forest management and certification. AFS CEO Simon Dorries said the contest theme – ‘experience forests, experience PEFC – would enable participants to submit photos that fit this theme.
“This could embrace many topics, from forest landscapes to individual trees and plants, from harvesters to families hiking in the woods, from indigenous people to rural village life, from wooden buildings to photos of PEFC/AFS-labelled products,” he said.
The winning Australian entry selected by a panel of judges will receive a $500 gift voucher. All national competitions will run at the same time, from Earth Day (April 22) to World Environment Day (June 5). By June 16, all PEFC national government bodies will have picked their winning entries which will then enter an international contest with an opportunity to win the International grand prize.
All entries can be submitted electronically or by postal mail. All photos will remain with AFS Ltd for future use and promotion of Australian forest management. Photo entries (any number) can be emailed to AFS Photo Contest at Simon.Dorries@forestrystandard.org.au.
Timber preservative testing lab set upIndependent Verification Services Australia Pty Ltd has just announced the availability of an additional Treated Timber Analysis Laboratory in Melbourne, complementing its existing lab in Brisbane. The new laboratory is the result of a partnership between IVS and Australian Forest Research Company (AFRC).
Independent Verification Services NZ Ltd has been operating a timber testing service in NZ for six years and in Brisbane for the last four years. The new Melbourne laboratory is managed by Colin Malcolm who has over 30 years’ experience in analytical testing.
"Our lab results are sent to our compliance section who independently assess the levels for compliance and issue the compliance report. The area of compliance is a very complex and challenging area," said Tim Evans, IVS Business Development Manager.
Photo: Peter Webb, IVS CEO and Garrie James, TPAA President – signing an agreement for IVS to provide Quality Assurance and Product Testing Services to TPAA members.
Wood processing innovators sought for Gisborne sawmillIn a major move to reactivate the Prime Sawmill site on the East Coast of the North Island, Eastland Community Trust (ECT) is actively seeking an operator for the Prime Sawmill – this week launching a national campaign to seek an appropriate operator.
This move comes on the back of securing innovative wood processing company WGL late last year and is a key component to creating the region’s first wood processing centre of excellence - an innovative wood processing cluster that, the Trust expects, will house a number of sustainable businesses and create over 120 jobs in the coming years.
Since the Prime Sawmill was decommissioned in late 2010, it has undergone a regular maintenance programme to keep the plant functional. As it stands, recent assessments of the sawmill by independent forestry specialists Forme Consulting Group, indicate there is potential to establish a significant business processing 80,000 to 100,000 cubic metres of mixed log grades per annum. With further investment in the plant, Forme believes there is potential for the site to grow to process over 400,000 cubic metres per annum.
Those in industry circles believe the opportunity to restart the mill is well timed. New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries recently provided data that indicated significant increases in wood availability in the East Coast wood supply region. Credible industry reports suggest the regional forestry harvest is forecast to increase by 50% - 75% over the next five years, requiring a potential increased workforce of 30% - 50% in the sector. Harvests have already increased, and new infrastructure is being established to support additional logging and transport capacity north and south of Gisborne city.
Because they work collaboratively, clusters are often the driving force in business growth and innovation. ECT will, over time, seek a mix of industry tenants to occupy and operate the wider Prime site, creating a high value, innovative wood processing cluster. That mix will likely include wood processing companies, marketing and distributions businesses, and even tertiary and industry training organisations. The vision is to create a wood processing hub where businesses benefit from competition, cooperation and collaboration.
Other industry innovators and stalwarts have already seen the potential and have made long-term commitments to the Prime site. In 2016, WGL (headed by industry leaders including Angus Fletcher, Michael Andrews and Peter Pettit) took the opportunity to become the anchor tenant. The team is currently constructing the first of their plants and expects that, when operational (early 2018), they will have 20 staff on site. Mr Evans say there are other parties also willing to add value to the cluster waiting in the wings. Proposals are currently being accepted through a formal RFP process. ECT’s point of contact is Tony Coombe who can be contacted via the Trust’s office in Gisborne.
Background: Eastland Community Trust was established in 1993 as a result of the privatisation of regional lines companies. ECT is the sole shareholder of Eastland Group, which specialises in regional infrastructure: ports, electricity distribution and transmission networks, and electricity generation. Eastland Group’s operations include Eastland Port, Gisborne Airport, and Eastland Network – the electricity network for Gisborne, Wairoa and the East Coast – as well as Eastland Generation, which produces electricity from hydro, diesel and geothermal plants.
In early 2016, the Eastland Community Trust invested NZ$7.4million in the purchase of the Prime site, intending to establish a wood processing cluster or centre of excellence in Tairawhiti.
Working group considers future of ASHWorkers at the Heyfield timber mill in Victoria hope a Government-commissioned working group looking at how the mill might remain open will start to provide some answers from next week. The Weekly Times reports that the working group expects independent analysts to report back on Monday on three key queries including: How Government-owned business VicForests determines the available timber resource for harvesting., the viability of ASH’s proposal to retool the mill, with Government assistance, in order to take smaller logs while it transitions to plantation timber and the impact the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum is having on the forest available for logging.
Source: Weekly Times
NZ carbon emitters on way to paying full costsEmitters are now on their way to paying the full cost of their carbon emissions in New Zealand, says Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett. “As part of our ongoing work programme to reduce domestic emissions we have started the three-year phase out of the one-for-two emissions trading scheme subsidy,” says Mrs Bennett.
“This subsidy allowed some businesses to pay one emissions unit for every two tonnes of pollution they emit. Last year the Government announced we are phasing the measure out over three years to give businesses time to plan and adjust.”
The initial 50 per cent unit cost increased to 67 per cent from 1 January, and will rise to 83 per cent from 1 January 2018. All sectors in the ETS will pay the full market price from 1 January 2019.
“Meeting our Paris Agreement targets will require more than business as usual. Alongside the ETS review, we have established three expert groups to help get more trees into the ground, reduce agricultural emissions, and adapt to the environmental impact of climate change” says Mrs Bennett.
Recommendations from the second stage of the ETS review are expected in mid-2017 when the review is scheduled to conclude.
Safety in hardware supplier yardsTimber and building hardware merchants in New Zealand are being reminded to assess and manage their risks following a recent case where a builder was injured by timber that fell from a high rack.
A customer was injured – and one year after the incident was still unable to work – after a bundle of weatherboards weighing over 300 kg fell from height and struck him in the back when he was outside in a building supplies merchant’s timber yard.
A forklift was being used to retrieve a pack of timber, stored three metres above the ground, from a cantilever racking system. When the pack of timber was lifted by the forklift, a pack of weatherboards stored in the adjacent stack was dislodged and fell onto a customer. More >>.
Source: WorkSafe NZ
Arauco's first greenfield facility in North AmericaArauco North America will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for its new facility in Grayling, Michigan, according to an announcement from the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce. The ceremony for the particleboard plant on a 600-acre site, which is Arauco's first greenfield facility in North America, will be held on 12 April. Arauco announced in October that it had secured state and local approvals to build the US$400M plant, which will have an annual capacity of 452 mmsf/year and the largest single continuous particleboard press in in North America.
C$4.5M invested in Wood Innovation Research LabB.C. Premier Christy Clark has announced a C$4.5-million joint federal-provincial investment that will accelerate innovation in timber engineering and development of wood products at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). The Wood Innovation Research Lab will be used by students in the master of engineering in integrated wood design program and the B.C. leadership chair in tall wood and hybrid structures engineering.
The one-storey, 900 square-metre (9,680 square-foot) building will create a state-of-the-art wood-engineering research facility. The new building will expand possibilities for collaboration with external researchers and industry by providing unique capabilities for testing and researching wood structures. It will include a wood conditioning and processing room, office and seminar/classroom space, and a research lab that can also be used for teaching.
Construction will meet requirements under the Wood First Act, and will incorporate a high-performance building envelope that strives for Passive House certification. Structures built to this certification may cut their heating energy consumption by up to 90%, and overall energy consumption between 60% and 70%.
The new lab will provide additional dedicated research and classroom space for UNBC, which currently occupies the first three floors of the adjacent Wood Innovation and Design Centre (WIDC) that opened in October 2014. WIDC was created as a gathering place for researchers, academics, design professionals and others interested in generating ideas for innovative uses of wood. In addition to UNBC, WIDC also houses the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations. Construction is expected to get under way in early 2017 with substantial completion expected by spring 2018.
Callaghan Innovation announces new CEOCallaghan Innovation in New Zealand has announced the appointment of Vic Crone as its Chief Executive, following a thorough and highly competitive recruitment process.
Sue Suckling, Chair of Callaghan Innovation, is pleased to welcome Ms Crone to lead the next phase of the organisation’s development, following its establishment and consolidation phase under the inaugural CEO.
“Her significant executive and governance experience in the tech and innovation sector, and her broader profile, also position her well to drive Callaghan Innovation’s connectedness with all key stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem,” says Ms Suckling.
Ms Crone was previously Managing Director Xero, NZ and New Markets, following executive roles at Chorus and Telecom New Zealand. She is an Independent Director on the Boards of a number of companies in the tech sector. Ms Crone takes up the role of CEO on 28 February.
Callaghan Innovation was established in 2013 to help New Zealand businesses in the High Value Manufacturing and Services sector to commercialise innovation, lift international competitiveness and contribute to economic growth. Key to achieving its mission is its role as integrator in the innovation system, making it easier for businesses at all levels of maturity to access the support they need to move further up the value chain.
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...and one to end the week on .... amazing driving skills
Sent in recently by one of our readers. Aside from the obvious skills at the beginning balancing the logs on a scooter, check out the driving skills of a couple of truck drivers at the 4.20 min and 5.24 min marks on the video. Enjoy.
And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.
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