Friday Offcuts 3 July 2020
We’ve included this week a couple of stories and links to recent podcasts this week (since we’re now all well attuned to clocking in remotely during lockdown). One, as part of the FWPA podcast series, focuses on the development of new business models that could see areas of Australian farmland better utilised for planting trees. The other is a recent episode of a CFI Podcast that explores just what forest products companies can be doing to attract younger workers into the industry? The interview is with the chair of the Forest Products Association of Canada. In it, he covers current issues being faced by their industry with skilled labour shortages with many forestry workers approaching retirement age and fewer younger workers keen on entering the industry. Sounds familiar huh?
As an extra tool to help catch the attention of younger students and to get them to further explore the opportunities forestry and wood products offer, we take a closer look at how new technology can be employed. An article this week details how this new technology is central to the lives of the millennials and Gen Z (that’s around 90 million people born after 1997 through to about the early 2010s). We know it’s how they communicate, how they socialize, and increasingly, how they’re performing their jobs.
Augmented and virtual reality for example are slowly been integrated operationally into our own businesses. They’ve been featuring for the last couple of years at FIEA led technology events. Increasingly they’re being used in operations like forest inventory, mill and equipment maintenance (manufacturing, harvesting and wood transport) and induction training. Competition for new talent out there is fierce. So, why not use these new tools for our own career promotions as well as pushing the growing and innovative technologies that are being used in our own industry.
Australia’s already grasped the opportunity. You may have already heard about ForestLearning’s ForestVRTM toolkit. 360 immersive experiences and virtual tours have been filmed and are already being used by school students across the country. Check out this link to take a closer look at what's being done. That’s it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Forestry Amendment Bill would hurt GDPA new report has accused a forestry bill going through Parliament of increasing costs for the forestry business and reducing the value of the New Zealand economy. It also warned that the bill could conflict with trading agreements that New Zealand had signed with other countries.
The Forests (Regulation of Log Traders and Forestry Advisers) Amendment Bill, which aims to ensure logs are sent to local processors instead of being exported raw, was introduced just after the Budget and has already been through a select committee.
Forestry Minister Shane Jones had accused "log mongers" of selling Northland logs en masse to China, leaving not enough available for local saw mills to do their job, a move that would harm employment opportunities. However, critics of the bill have called it cumbersome and expensive, and it would require many people in the log trade to become registered.
These criticisms have now been supported in a new report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER), commissioned by the Forest Owners Association. It estimated the scheme would curb New Zealand's GDP by between NZ$16.5 million and NZ$30.9m, and said any sawmilling jobs created would cost more than twice the amount of money people could earn from doing those jobs.
"Yes, jobs are created in the short term, but at a huge cost," the report read. "Rather than diverting log supply to create employment for wood processing workers, it would be simpler to give those people the average wage in the wood processing sector."
You've got to burn to learnThis March, Scion’s rural fire research team completed six experimental burns of gorse scrub in the Rakaia Gorge, New Zealand, that had taken over 18 months of preparation. The burns are part of a set of experiments in different vegetation fuel types to test a new fire spread theory.
The burns were carried out safely and a lot of valuable data collected thanks to good planning, firebreaks, pre-burns, and the involvement of Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and local fire volunteers. This data will go on to provide insights into fire behaviour in scrub fuels and ultimately help protect people, property and the environment.
Gorse is renowned for its heavy fuel loadings that produce high intensity fires. But Scion and international scientists were surprised by just how hot their controlled fires were. An infra-red camera mounted on a drone at the edge of a burn reached the upper limit of its sensing capabilities at around 940°C. In-fire cameras blistered as the water that was supposed to keep them cool boiled off, and data loggers melted inside well-insulated housings. The temperatures in the centre of the fires were measured to have reached almost 1,500°C.
But why is it necessary to light fires to study fire? Fire scientists are testing a new theory about the roles of heat transfer mechanisms in how fire spreads, and studying wildfires under closely controlled, highly uniform laboratory conditions is not very realistic. The best way to study fire behaviour is in situations as close as possible to naturally varying, real world conditions.
New Zealand is one of the very few countries where large experimental burn projects are still possible – largely due to the relationships built up by the Scion rural fire research team with Fire and Emergency New Zealand. The burns attract worldwide interest from fire researchers. The gorse burns were scrutinised by researchers from the US Forest Service, San Jose State University and the University of Canterbury, as well as the Scion fire team. The amount of instrumentation, and the number of cameras and drones watching and recording ensured the recent fires were, according to the research team, the most closely observed burns in New Zealand to date.
Source: Scion Connections
Bunnings bans timber from VicForestsBunnings will stop selling timber logged by VicForests after a court found the state government-owned forestry agency breached conservation laws.
“Bunnings has a zero-tolerance approach to illegally logged timber that dates back two decades and our commitment is to only source timber products from legal and well managed forest operations,” Bunnings’ director of merchandise, Phil Bishop, said on Wednesday.
Bishop said in light of the recent federal court finding that VicForests breached the code of practice in its regional forestry agreement for the central highlands, Bunnings could no longer stock products that used its timber.
The decision comes as the Nature Conservation Council of NSW prepares to launch a campaign calling on the chain to stop selling timber sourced from native forests in New South Wales. VicForests said it was deeply concerned by Bunnings’ decision and it would be appealing against the federal court judgment once final orders were made in the case.
Further coverage on the announcement can be read here.
In response to the announcement, the Australian Forest Products Association’s CEO Ross Hampton said “Bunnings’s short-sighted decision to stop stocking timber sourced from Victoria’s sustainably managed native forests and produced by local timber mills, is a knee-jerk reaction to pander to extremist activist groups that will only lead to more imported timber from less sustainably managed forests overseas”.
“This decision puts at risk tens of thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs at a time when our country can least afford to lose them, especially in regional communities,” Mr Hampton said. Mr Hampton said he was disappointed that Bunnings had been duped by anti-forestry disinformation campaigns that misrepresented the sustainability of Victoria’s native hardwood timber industry, and warned it would have the perverse consequence of driving more deforestation in South-East Asia.
“The truth is that Victoria has one of the most regulated, sustainably managed native forestry industries in the world, harvesting the equivalent of just 4 trees out of 10,000. No old growth trees are used, and every area harvested is reseeded and regenerated by law. All Victorian native forest hardwood is harvested according to the highest standards under the world’s largest forestry certification scheme – PEFC, known in Australia as Responsible wood,” Mr Hampton said.
“Bunnings and its customers should be under no illusion that green groups will stop at Victoria – they are hellbent on ending all native forestry in Australia, which will mean even more imported timber from countries at high risk of deforestation and illegal logging, and it will be manufactured in countries with poor working conditions,” Mr Hampton concluded.
Sources: theguardian.com, thedailymail.co.uk, AFPA
Drone ‘mosaic’ to help environmental managementA drone "mosaic" of harvested forestry blocks is letting Marlburians see the wood for the trees, and could cut down environmental issues. In New Zealand, Marlborough company GeoInsight Limited is using drones, 360-degree cameras and an e-bike to "stitch together" images of forestry blocks and help the Marlborough District Council streamline compliance checks.
Of the council's 17 monitoring programmes, forestry is ranked the highest, due to its potential for adverse environmental impacts like land instability, erosion, and driving out native plants and animals.
GeoInsight co-founder Mark Spencer said the same issues cropped up "time and time again" during his decade-long stint as an environment officer at the council, so he teamed up with fellow co-founder and former council business analysis Rob Besaans to create 'RemoteHQ'.
The pair had spent three years developing the software while on independent compliance checks for the council, designing it to be used in the six years post-harvest, when blocks were vulnerable to weather. "What typically happens is a company comes in, takes all the trees off [a block] and says, 'see you later landowner. Good luck with that'.
"The block will sit idle during that 'window of vulnerability' period and landowners just really hope that no big weather events come through. If there is, a lot of the time ... they tend not to do a lot of maintenance. "It's important that pressure is put on either the landowner or the company to maintain what they put in place, otherwise we get erosion."
The software would help make compliance "proactive, rather than reactive", he said. The pair would send up a drone to photograph the forestry block, with images "stitched together" to create a high-definition mosaic. Shots were also taken on foot. An e-bike was used to get around forestry blocks and move equipment.
Spencer said the technology allowed compliance officers to spot issues that weren't visible on foot. He recalled a drone spotting "cracks" on a hillside, which could have triggered a compliance failure if wet weather had dumped forestry materials into the stream below.
After identifying spots that were a compliance failure, concern or excellent, the pair broadcast the results online on the RemoteHQ website for the council, public and other forestry members to see. A council compliance officer could then use the software to point out problems to forest managers and landowners, with the aim of stopping environmental issues before they occurred.
GeoInsight's fees were paid by landowners, not ratepayers, Spencer said. The pair were developing the software from their own pocket. Besaans described the software as a "radically new approach" to environmental management, one underpinned by public transparency.
"We set up GeoInsight ... to eliminate erosion and sedimentation across New Zealand, starting with the Marlborough region," he said. The pair's long-term goal was to see RemoteHQ used by other regional councils.
50 Shades of Green launches TV campaign50 Shades of Green launched this week a hard-hitting TV campaign on to raise awareness of the impact of carbon forestry on New Zealand’s sheep and beef sector. The group is alarmed the Government’s reform of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will incentivise the conversion of productive farmland into pine plantations by fossil fuel emitters.
It is also concerned at changes to the Overseas Investment Act, which streamline the purchase of land to plant carbon forestry at the expense of rural communities. The campaign airs across Mediaworks and TVNZ.
“We are concerned by the settings in climate change policy driving significant land use away from pastoral agriculture to exotic plantation forestry for carbon forestry,” says spokesperson Pattie O’Boyle.
“The legislation does not have effective safeguards in place to prevent this from happening. In fact, it encourages it. If the Government really cares about rural communities, they must establish a mechanism so limits can be placed on the amount of forestry offsets that can be used by fossil fuel emitters. If at all”.
“The phrase ' carbon farming' is also a misnomer. A farmer tends the land - as a caretaker for the next generation. Carbon Forestry is a one-off corporate investment in land accruing a large amount of cash over 17 years then abandoning both the land and the surrounding communities.
Initial analysis indicates since the change in legislation (Oct 2018) about 70,000 hectares of productive sheep and beef land has been, or is in the process of being, converted into forestry. This is approximately 13 times more than the average annual amount of afforestation in New Zealand over the past five years.
“Agriculture last year earned 63% of NZ’s export income and it is expected to account for even more as a result of COVID-19. Only one third of NZ’s land area is suitable for agriculture. Planting 70,000 ha/year of productive land into carbon farming is figuratively like every year cutting off a finger from NZ’s productive hand.”
The TV campaign has been produced because we don’t think the vision of a New Zealand covered in pine is a vision that resonates with most New Zealander’s nor have New Zealanders caught up with what the impact on our landscape will be.
You can check out the advert that aired this week.
Source: 50 Shades of Green
Can AR/VR pull in future talent?The better question is: Are you using these technologies to give employees the careers they want? Sometimes we don’t ask the right questions.
Will innovative technology catch the attention of young talent and bring them to manufacturing’s doorstep? While the question and sentiment are valid, it’s really a case of missing the forest for the trees.
Technology is intrinsic to the lives of millennials and Gen Z. It is how they communicate and socialize, and it is increasingly how they perform their jobs. Therefore, the real question that needs to be posed is not which type of technology is going to attract them to the field, but instead how can technology be used to give them the careers they want.
“Students, and especially engineers, all have the same desire,” says Dan Gamota, vice president of manufacturing technology and innovation for Jabil Inc. “They want to change the world.”
Making a difference in the world is in fact a strongly held belief of the 90 million people who comprise Gen Z (born after 1997 to about the early 2010s). And technology, including augmented reality, which offers a digital overlay of real assets, and virtual reality, which exists entirely in a virtual world, can become the foundation upon which those desires are realized.
How so? Both technologies can offer companies an edge when it comes to training, which is a key component of career satisfaction. Augmented reality enables the gathering of experience and data that can be turned into instructional videos, for example, which are then uploaded to wearables. It’s an efficient and, for many, enjoyable way to transfer knowledge.
“One of our long-term employees has become quite the video star,” explains Gamota. “Younger workers admire his skills and are using his know-how as part of their training. It’s been great to see the interaction and enthusiasm between the different generations of workers.”
These methods are paying off in terms of efficiency and cost. At Jabil’s Singapore facility, engineers in the Additive Manufacturing Center use AR to streamline training on 3D-printer operations. Prior to deploying AR, it took four weeks for a lead engineer to train a new operator. With AR, training time is narrowed to two weeks and the presence of engineers isn’t required.
AGCO, a manufacturer of agriculture equipment based in Georgia, also experienced reductions in the time it took employees to learn new skills. The company uses AR and mixed reality via Glass for Enterprise at some of its facilities. At a pilot facility the results have been dramatic, with a 50% reduction in the learning-curve duration. Defects have also been reduced by 50% during the learning-curve period.
Debarker enhances Port Taranaki’s log operationsThe installation of a debarker machine at Port Taranaki means full log vessels can now be loaded there. In an emailed statement, Port Taranaki chief executive Guy Roper said the new machine ensured the company's export log operations were more efficient and ready to meet future changes to environmental standards.
The debarker is owned by China Forestry Group New Zealand and will strip between 1200 and 1600 Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) tonnes of logs a day at port's former container transfer site. The debarker can process logs up to 12m long and is the first fully mobile, high-speed debarker in New Zealand.
The operation means full log vessels – both below deck and above deck – can be loaded at the port and leave directly for international markets in Asia. Unlike at other ports, logs are not fumigated at Port Taranaki and prior to the debarker installation logs were only able to be loaded into the hold of visiting vessels. The below deck logs were then fumigated while the vessel was at sea, and the vessel visited another port to load treated or debarked logs above deck.
Following increased environmental awareness regarding the impact of methyl bromide, it is expected the recapture or destruction of methyl bromide emissions will be made compulsory in the coming months. Having a debarker puts Port Taranaki in a great position ahead of environmental regulatory changes, particularly as we are the only port in the lower North Island to have a debarker on-site, Roper said.
“It is also more efficient for exporters as they can contemplate fewer multi-port visits, saving time and fuel, which is better for the environment,” he said. The first above-deck consignment of 8000 JAS was loaded on the vessel Mount Adams last week, with another 6000 JAS loaded in the ship’s hold. Port Taranaki head of commercial Ross Dingle said it was expected up to three log vessels a month would visit the port to load above-deck logs.
The operation had the potential to increase the volume of logs through the port, he said. “We are already seeing logs coming from deeper in our hinterland – north from Te Kuiti and towards Rotorua, and south of Taranaki, into Whanganui and further afield. They are logs that would have otherwise gone to another port.”
China Forestry southern North Island regional manager Scott Gordon said the debarker project was a great example of regional collaboration. “This is a fantastic asset to have in this part of the country and will be of real long-term benefit for forestry companies and exporters.”
First NZ biorefinery suggested for GisborneTairawhiti could be the first region in New Zealand with its own biorefinery, using waste wood and doing away with the need for oil-based products. The company behind the project, Futurity, was founded by Tairawhiti’s Jacob Kohn, Rupert Paterson of Queenstown and Dr Gaetano Dedual of Taupo.
“Our focus is on creating advanced biomaterial and biochemicals, not biofuels, to move us away from oil dependency,” said Futurity chief executive Mr Kohn. “Everything we use today is made with or transported by oil and oil derivatives. We use proven technologies which take waste wood, remove the bark, break it into a fine chip, digest the fine chip down to its core chemicals and use it to create advanced materials to utilise in everyday products, with real markets, so that oil can stay in the ground,” he said”.
Being from different regions across New Zealand, the company founders say their project can create economic resilience and jobs. “That’s a main motivation for us — to focus our efforts towards regional New Zealand,” Mr Kohn said.
“New Zealand is the largest exporter of softwood logs in the world, meaning there is a large opportunity to add value to this industry” said Dr Dedual, the company’s chief technological officer. Dr Dedual said companies overseas were producing advanced bio-based biochemicals and materials from wood.
“We thought we could do it here in New Zealand. There’s no reason why not.” They plan on using low-grade pinewood and pine waste wood but in the future will be looking into other plant materials. They envisage the biorefinery using 160,000 tonnes of wood a year.
Photo: The company’s founders are (from left) chief technology officer Dr Gaetano Dedual, chairman Rupert Paterson and Gisborne’s Jacob Kohn, chief executive officer. Picture by Ellen Mary Taylor
New business models to inspire forestry investmentThe latest episode of the Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) podcast series WoodChat focuses on the development of new business models that could see areas of Australian farmland utilised for planting trees.
An estimated 500,000 hectares of new softwood plantations are required to meet the increased demand forecast for domestic timber-housing markets by 2045. Local and export demand for hardwood timber has also been growing strongly. However, a lack of new investment in plantations could see Australia relying on an increasing amount of timber imports in the future.
Now, a team of researchers have developed and tested a number of new business models for commercial tree plantations, which could yield mutual financial, social and environmental benefits for the timber industry, rural landowners and investors.
The models were designed in collaboration with industry and rural landowners after analysing landowner needs and their past experiences with tree investment, and consider the positive impacts of trees on carbon, biodiversity and water. Listeners will hear from Professor Rodney Keenan of the University of Melbourne, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, who led the research.
Professor Keenen said the project found tree investment needs to be based on sound regional planning to ensure the right tree species are planted in the right places, to generate the desired benefits. “Models need to be built on mutual understanding, trust and long-term commitment among landowners, the timber industry and other stakeholders,” said Professor Keenan.
It is hoped outlining these benefits will inspire and enable new partnerships between forest growers and the agricultural sector. During this episode, hosts Georgia and Sam also speak to Dr Nerida Anderson, Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, who conducted a landowner assessment involving interviews and surveys as part of the project. In addition, listeners will hear from Tony Price, CEO of major industry sponsor Midway Ltd, about his involvement with the initiative.
The project was funded by the forestry industry and the Australian Government, and managed by FWPA. You can listen to WoodChat on SoundCloud and iTunes
Regulatory barriers to production planting removedThe Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s removal of regulatory barriers to enable production tree planting on farms and in plantations. The announcement will pave the way for tens of millions of new trees to potentially be planted over the coming decade as these activities will now be supported through the Government’s Climate Solution Fund.
Chief Executive Officer of AFPA Ross Hampton said, “Whilst it has always been possible for farmers and landowners to gain carbon credits for planting trees for environmental uses, it will now also be possible to bid for credits for production trees which will be processed into renewable products, and the area replanted”.
“These minor regulatory changes to Australia’s emissions reduction policies bring our country into line with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advice (4th Assessment) to governments which is:
“A sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”
“Trees are large and heavy and it makes no sense to promote their production-based planting in areas too far from sawmills and processing plants. Forest industries have long advocated for a very planned approach to this next growth phase arguing that any new policy must promote planting ‘the right trees, in the right place at the right scale.’”
“We are very pleased the Government has listened to this advice and specified that the carbon funding will be directed to plantings on farm and by other landowners initially in five* Pilot Regional Forest Industry Hubs. Industry looks forward to the Government moving quickly to provide the same opportunity for the remaining Regional Forest Industry Hubs across the nation.”
*The initial five Regional Forest Industry Hubs are in South West Western Australia, the Green Triangle of SA and Vic (with the caveat that details are yet to be resolved with the Andrews Government), North/North West Tasmania, North East New South Wales and the South West Slopes of New South Wales extending into northern Victoria.
The Cost of Bushfire Salvage OperationsThe Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) has been working to support its members in understanding the real costs of undertaking salvage work along with advocating for improved government support for members from the range of assistance and grants announced to support the industry through the bushfire recovery.
As part of this work, AFCA has undertaken an assessment of the impacts on contracting businesses operating within fire salvage operations. The assessment also covers the increased costs associated with these in comparison to normal harvesting conditions.
The information has been informed by data provided on fire salvage operations over an extended period of around eight months or more under differing conditions. Therefore, it could be considered the average or ‘generally expected’ costs over the life of a fire salvage operation.
The Bushfire Salvage Operational Costs paper can be viewed here.
Source: AFCA The Log
Carbon prices heading for a new recordCarbon prices are back in record-price territory, with spot NZUs mid-week trading above $32 on CommTrade and Carbon Match. But there is little business being done, with both platforms saying supply is scarce. Prices rose rapidly last month, from around $25 at the start of the month to pass $32 on June 11 before easing slightly.
The run follows the Government’s confirmation that it would lift the fixed-price option – a provision allowing emitters to pay money instead of surrendering carbon credits – from $25 to $35 this year. That move, along with plans to replace the FPO with a cost containment reserve with a trigger price of $50 a tonne, became law last week with the gazetting of major changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Source: Carbon News 2020
How to attract younger workers into forestryFor years now, the forest industry has been facing a shortage of skilled labour as many forestry workers reach retirement age and fewer young workers enter the industry. So, what can forest products companies do to attract younger workers?
To answer that question, in a recent episode of The CFI Podcast, CFI editor Ellen Cools spoke with Kevin Edgson, president and CEO of EACOM Timber Corporation, board chair of the Forest Products Association of Canada and a member of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s board of directors.
Use the SoundCloud link to learn more about what younger workers are looking for in their careers, the impact of new industry programs and initiatives, the importance of diversity and inclusion, mentorship, and more.
You can also find the episode on iTunes under Annex Business Media: Podcasts or stream it at annexbusinessmedia.com/podcasts.
Giant ‘hybrid timber’ building plans unveiledWith its world-famous beaches, fine weather and top class restaurants, Sydney, Australia, is an attractive destination for workers and tourists alike. It is also boasts some iconic twentieth century structures and buildings such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, and in the next few years, the city could be home to another example of innovative design.
Australian tech firm Atlassian has just unveiled plans to construct what it described as “the world’s tallest hybrid timber building,” which it hopes will be both a sustainable and visually striking headquarters. Standing around 40 storeys tall, the design of the building has been developed by SHoP, an architecture firm in New York, and Australia’s BVN.
It will incorporate timber and a façade of glass and steel that will also use solar panels and have “self-shade capabilities.” Plans are also in place for a staggered outdoor garden to be integrated into the structure.
According to Atlassian, the development will have a number of targets, including using 50% less “embodied carbon” in construction, compared to normal buildings. When it comes to energy use, the goal is 50% less when compared to a new, conventional building. The idea is for the tower to run on 100% renewable energy from its opening.
“We’re embarking on this project at a critical time,” Scott Farquhar, the co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian, said in a statement. “Projects like these will help the state and the nation bounce back from the massive impact of Covid-19.”
While it has been used in buildings and structures for thousands of years, timber could also have a role to play looking ahead, and has been used in a number of interesting recent projects. These include the 85.4 metre tall Mjøstårnet building in Norway, which used a combination of glue-laminated timber, known as glulam, and cross-laminated timber.
Back in Sydney, the Atlassian building will be a focal point of a larger development called Tech Central. The New South Wales Government has announced funding of AU$48.2 million to support the Tech Central scheme, which will offer start-ups and “scale-ups” 50,000 square meters of space to develop their businesses.
New building materials will also have a role to play. Earlier this month Boral – an Australian firm that specializes in building and construction materials – announced the launch of a five-year partnership with the University of Technology Sydney.
In a statement, the company said that the partnership would look to “accelerate product innovation, and the research, development and commercialisation of low carbon concrete.”
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... and one to end the week on ... everyone knows Dave
Dave was bragging to his boss one day, “You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them.”
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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