Friday Offcuts 15 December 2023
Normal production is scheduled to resume on Friday 19 January 2024. As we sign off today, we’d like to thank all of you for your ongoing support, contributions and comments throughout the year and we’re really looking forward to working with you all again in 2024.
Already, a full programme of eagerly awaited 2024 technology events for local forestry and wood products companies has been planned with the industry for the first half of 2024. Check out what’s on offer and mark the relevant dates into your 2024 diaries before heading off on a short break. We’ll provide further updates next year as the final pieces fall into place and as we move closer to running each of these events.
As well as being the last issue of Friday Offcuts for 2023, it’s also the last issue for the Editor, who together with a small dedicated team, set up this weekly newsletter 18 years ago. That’s something over 850 weekly issues. The objective then – as it is now – has been to provide an easy- to-read newsletter at the back end of every week that’s filled with articles, stories and leads directly relevant to local industry. From the very early issues, jobs and classified advertising followed soon after. Very quickly the newsletter became the single most important weekly bulletin for job vacancies across the sector, principally NZ and Australia. It still is. Readership boomed through word of mouth and through attendance at the wide array of technology events that we continue to run for forestry and wood products companies every year.
It’s been a real pleasure in bringing this weekly service to you over the years and I really do need to thank the many regular contributors over the years that have made this all this possible. So, what now? The good news is the service and weekly newsletter will continue to be sent directly to your inbox every week. One of our key programme managers, Ken Wilson ( email@example.com) who has been working on our team for some 18 years, co-ordinating advertising with our Offcuts clients for 18 months and providing editorial input to our three targeted monthly tech newsletters, will be taking up the editors reins from our first planned issue for next year, Friday 19 January 2024. You’re in excellent hands. And, we look forward to catching up with you all again next year.
This week we have for you:
Autonomous trucks cutting a path in forestry sectorIn an untamed Quebec forest, a Canada lynx watches curiously from the bush as a platoon of Mack Granite logging trucks, one of them operated autonomously, passes by on a remote logging road. Meanwhile in Maryland, engineers from Robotic Research Autonomous Industries (RRAI) watch the lynx on screens set up to monitor the performance of the autonomous truck platoons serving a Resolute Forest Products facility.
This is the rugged Canadian wilderness, where forestry trucks encounter some of the toughest conditions imaginable. And this, according to Robotic Research, is the perfect environment for the near-term automation of commercial trucking.
Gabe Sganga is head of commercial growth for RRAI. The company got its start in automation more than 20 years ago, before anyone in the commercial trucking sector was even thinking about automating heavy trucks. Robotic’s origins involved working with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop automated military vehicles. In recent years, the company realized its AutoDrive self-driving platform had commercial potential as well.
“The leadership team at the company looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve built an end-to-end technology stack that’s really focused on off-road. What are some commercial uses for this technology?’ And one of the greatest commercial use cases that we found was forestry, in areas where you have a lack of human resources or where they’re incredibly remote and it’s just hard to get people to do the jobs,” Sganga said.
While much of the focus on the automation of trucking has focused on the middle mile, RRAI felt the greatest potential for early success would be off-road.
Carving a path off-road
“From a regulatory perspective, that’s a pretty scary place to be for the next few years,” Sganga said of middle-mile applications. “We really want to focus on places where autonomy can make a difference in the immediate term.”
Meanwhile, FPInnovations, a Quebec-based research body focused on the forestry sector, was working with members to address challenges including the lack of professional log haulers. It connected with RRAI to embark on a project that would test autonomous truck platoons on off-highway logging routes to get logs from the forest to the mill safely and efficiently.
“Our mission is to help the industry be more competitive and to help the transformation of the industry as well,” Stephane Renou, president and CEO of FPInnovations, said of the work. “This project actually fulfilled both goals.”
Up to 40% of the cost of wood can be traced to transport costs, he pointed out. And forestry companies are struggling to find drivers to haul product in remote areas on rough roads. “It has become a bottleneck to be able to transport that biomass from the north to the south and to the mills efficiently.”
Renou said FPInnovations initially felt going straight to full autonomy was “a step too far.” But he added, “When we start looking at those concepts of platooning, basically getting another truck to follow the lead truck, then it becomes interesting.”
Perfect for platooning
The lead truck in a platoon is piloted by a human driver who establishes a breadcrumb trail, so to speak, for the subsequent trucks to follow, even where there are no paved roads. The following units (one in the initial tests, but more are possible) are equipped with lidar and other technologies allowing them to follow the lead truck without a human driver. FPInnovations and RRAI successfully concluded benchmark testing in July and continue to operate the AutoDrive-equipped Mack Granite platoons today.
But Robotic Research didn’t choose to start out in an off-road environment because it would be easy. “We think the harder challenge is operating in the really multidimensional, undefined spaces where there are no paved roads, and in some cases, there aren’t even roads,” Sganga said. “If you can do that well and operate in the Canadian wilderness, and you can operate in the Permian Basin of Texas where temperatures can approach 49 C in the summer, then you can do just about anything.”
The temperatures, of course, are quite different in Northern Quebec, and so too are the road conditions. But Sganga said the company must be able to handle all weather and road conditions. “If a vehicle that’s manually operated can handle the weather, then we have to be able to do the same,” Sganga said. “So far AutoDrive has done a fantastic job. From a perception and path planning perspective, we’re doing fantastic.”
Another challenge encountered in forestry that wouldn’t be an issue in paved cities is the roads themselves are constantly evolving. The forestry roads are recreated every couple of years, and can even experience changes day to day based on the traffic they encounter.
December NZ log market updateOpinion Piece: Marcus Musson, Director, Forest360
December’s export prices were like the early Christmas present from Aunty Doris that you expected to be socks but turned out to be a bike. While there were expectations of a slight lift in prices for the month on the back of reducing supply, we probably didn’t expect the levels that we have been presented with which are around $8/m3 above November. Depending on what port you sell to, the number will vary, but for most North Island ports we are seeing A grade in the early $130/M3 region. It’s hard to get to that number if you reverse engineer the actual cost and revenue components but we won’t argue and ride the bike gleefully. There is a $10/m3 spread between some exporters and the higher numbers may be based on lower shipping and foreign exchange fixtures taken in November when both were significantly reduced.
The $130/m3 level is the magic number that arouses some fizziness in the woodlot trade and is a trigger point for many forest owners whereby the transporter is welcomed rather than farewelled. This combined with some drier weather (except for the East Coast and Hawkes Bay) will see increased demand for harvest crews in the provinces. The problem with that is the number of crews that no longer exist, due to the horrific years that have been, which will keep a lid on total supply volumes. How long we expect to see prices at this level is anyone’s guess and it’s important to note that this is not a demand driven number, it’s more to do with reduced supply than increased demand. Nothing’s changed in the construction market in China, there’s still more new, empty houses than there are people in China and many of the indebted construction firms continue to miss loan and bond repayments despite the Chinese government throwing stimulus packages around with Grant Roberston style abandon.
Port inventories in China have been reducing steadily over the past few months and are now at the 2.2Mm3 level which is the lowest point in memory. To put added pressure on the inventory position, one of the larger Chinese exporters has had around half a million m3 of this inventory frozen pending an audit which temporarily takes it out of the market and makes the buyers pucker about as much as Nicola Willis ahead of the recent Treasury fiscal update. This volume will unfreeze at some point but it’s unknown as to when that might be.
While supply will seasonally increase around NZ, it won’t be at previous levels and it’s more likely that the supply/demand gap will widen over the next quarter rather than decrease. Off-port Chinese demand is running at around 70,000m3 per day and we are heading into our Christmas shutdown with many companies taking a longer than usual break. To top that off, the Taupo windthrow salvage, which has been running at around 15,000 tonne per day, will start winding down as the bugs start chewing through the cambium layer, rendering those logs unsuitable for export – remembering this has been on the ground since late February. Chinese New Year celebrations are in early February this year which will see most of the Chinese sawmills close for near on a month and may provide the time frame needed for a slight inventory restock.
If you’re a forest owner in the middle to lower South Island, that has the displeasure of having to supply Lyttleton, or Bluff ports, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re getting fleeced when you hear of @$130/m3 A grade as your export numbers will likely be $10-25/m3 off the Northern offerings. These lower returns are thanks to a myriad of issues including lower port/space/shipping efficiencies causing high on-port costs and poorer wood quality. The wood quality is climatic and results in logs that have more taper which gives terrible stowage and m3/tonne conversions. Unfortunately, in terms of export prices, you guys are the red-haired stepchild and Aunty Doris gave you socks, plus they’re too small.
Domestic demand is steady and although some sawmills are a bit nervy, business as usual is the order of the day. Now that the Chinese construction sector has pulled the handbrake on, Chinese sawmills have turned their hand to producing high-end engineered wood products and are now competing with our sawmillers in export markets such as Australia which is worrying. Quality of the Chinese product is more than likely dubious but in the end price talks. Pruned prices have had steady and successive rises thanks to reduced supply and many forest owners are deciding to prune forests again after a long run of unpruned regimes. Pruned supply nationwide will be under pressure over the next decade as the national age-class reduces along with the proportion of available pruned forests. If you made the decision to prune your forest in the past decade, my guess is you will be very happy with the investment.
The last government carbon auction for the year unsurprisingly failed to trigger the reserve price effectively wiping 15 million tonnes of carbon from the market and around a $1.3 billion from the govt coffers. The Climate Change Commission estimates that there’s currently an excess of 49 million units (tonnes) in the ETS compared to future emissions targets so the loss of 30% of that estimated excess is positive. There’s still a reasonable level of uncertainty within the carbon market, especially following the previous governments ‘tinkering’, however, National have stated they want to see stability in the carbon market and will likely scrap the review that was proposed under Labour. Current spot pricing is at $71/NZU following a dip post the auction failure last week.
So, what does the next few months look like in terms of log prices? Likely flat-ish as shipping and foreign exchange strength offset any gains in CFR (sale price in China), however it will all depend on the Chinese inventory position going forward. We don’t want to see prices steaming northward as the race to the top is generally followed by a race to the bottom – as shown in the graph. We’re all pretty keen to rule a line under 2023 and get to riding our new bikes - hopefully Santa is kinder to our South Island step cousins than aunty Doris. Wishing you all a Merry and safe Christmas, hohoho……….
Harvesting in a high-density kiwi habitatJustin Anderson and his logging crew, JPA Logging, have recently completed one of the more interesting jobs of their careers so far. Contracting to John Turkington, JPA Logging has just finished harvesting a 50-hectare block of Pinus radiata on Haupouri Station, part of the Cape Sanctuary, which is the home to a large population of Eastern brown kiwi.
Most people would think that a logging crew harvesting in an area populated with kiwi is a disaster in the making, with the kiwi likely to suffer during the harvest process. But JPA Logging have dispelled that misconception by going above and beyond in their efforts to mitigate any harm to kiwi.
Logging crews live and die on being productive. They have to produce a set tonnage of logs every day to stay afloat. This is referred to as their target. To be able to ‘hit target’ everyday involves utilising every minute of the day to cut down trees, extract the trees, process them into logs, and load those logs onto trucks. It doesn’t matter how steep the terrain is, how atrocious the weather is, how short staffed they might be, or even if machinery breaks down, they still need to ‘hit target’. Throw an endangered species into the mix as well and ‘hitting target’ could become very complicated – unless you’re Justin Anderson and JPA Logging.
At the beginning of the Haupouri Station job, Save the Kiwi Eastern regional manager Tamsin Ward-Smith monitored and assessed where kiwi were in relation to the logging operations. This involved placing transmitters on as many kiwi as possible before harvesting commenced so that telemetry equipment could be used to ensure there were no kiwi in harm’s way when harvesting operations began. This was carried out on a daily pre-start basis.
To save Tamsin the 90-minute round trip at 5am every morning, Justin Anderson learnt to use the telemetry equipment so he could ‘beep’ the birds before his crew started work and if any birds were present Tamsin was called in to do any kiwi handling required. Only qualified kiwi handlers are allowed to handle kiwi.
In 2005 the Hansen family and staff, together with the Lowe and Robertson families, the other two landowners of Cape Sanctuary, spent eight months building a predator-proof perimeter fence which runs from Ocean Beach to Clifton and forms the 2,500-hectare area of land Cape Sanctuary operates. This saw just over 800 hectares of Haupouri land being fenced off as part of a predator-free, mixed land use format.
Jono Berry’s family farm Haupouri station and was very happy with the way the JPA crew harvested the high-density kiwi habitat. “Haupouri Station has been in the family since 1860, and we are proudly the 8th generation to farm the land,” Jono says. “Our land makes up 10% of the Sanctuary but we’re proud of the small contribution we continue to make with this rugged area of the farm. Our gullies are full of native regenerating shrub which appears to be a thriving habitat for the kiwi.
Source: John Turkington, savethekiwi
Significant increase in female executives recordedForest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA) are pleased to share the Gender and Diversity Survey results for FY2023. For the fourth year running, companies in the forest grower and timber processing sector completed a voluntary Gender and Diversity Survey, which is part of an ongoing industry-wide commitment to increasing the participation of women across the workforce.
The 2023 survey was completed by 23 companies. The key finding shows a positive trend in the increasing number of female employees in the industry. The survey also highlights an increase in female executive roles in both forest grower and timber processing sectors. Over the past 2 years, the proportion of female executives has increased from 20% (27 roles) in 2021 to 29% (42 roles) in 2023.
“As a female executive in this historically male dominated industry, it is great to see gender diversity improving, clearly recognising and realising the benefits of diverse thinking at a strategic level” said Katie Fowden, General Manager at Hyne Timber and Board Member at FWPA.
“The gender diversity at industry events has completely transformed in recent years and it is vital that the leaders in our industry, whether male or female, continue to support such opportunities. Appreciating that gender is only one aspect of diversity, as an industry, we need to be cognisant of the broader opportunities diversity can deliver”, said Katie Fowden.
“The ongoing FWPA member commitment to the diversity and inclusion survey plays a key role in providing key information for the industry, reflecting their positive efforts in the diversity and inclusion policy area”, said Erick Hansnata, Statistics and Economics Manager at FWPA.
New fertiliser reduces emissions and improves efficiencyFertiliser technology advancements are delivering environmental and growth benefits for the Australian forestry industry.
Results from replicated two-year trials show that an innovative new fertiliser product can deliver performance improvements, even with a 75% reduction in application rates.
Over the past few years, Matt Thomas from E.E. Muir & Sons has been testing Platinum Nergetic from Campbells Fertilisers in pine plantations in north-east Victoria. “Young trees need key nutrients early to optimise growth performance and plant health. The aim is to apply enough fertiliser to support the tree, particularly in the first 12 months, while minimising waste from excess fertiliser that the plant doesn’t use.
“We have been assessing Campbells Platinum Nergetic for several years now, demonstrating that we can use 50-75% less fertiliser without compromising tree growth. “In fact, we are seeing these trees outperform those treated with the grower standard fertiliser by a reasonable margin.”
Platinum Nergetic is a compound NPK granular fertiliser with calcium, magnesium and trace elements. A biodegradable polymer is used to coat the fertiliser granules, providing protection against leaching, volatilisation and soil lockup.
In the trials, it was applied at 50g / tree at planting, achieving 7-10% improved tree height and diameter at 12 months when compared with the standard blended product applied at 200g / tree. “The new coating technology used in the Platinum Nergetic forms a gel on contact with water. The tree roots can pass through the gel to get to the nutrients, which are released slowly as the coating dissolves,” he explained.
“It helps with even distribution and improved uptake of nutrients to the tree. You use much less product but improve the results.” Matt says the benefits extend beyond tree health. “There are also greater sustainability and environmental benefits, with the same amount of fertiliser now supporting four trees, instead of one.
“It is a quarter of the freight volume and handling, with improved efficiency and less associated emissions. In terms of productivity, efficiency and sustainability, it ticks all the boxes. We are getting more nutrients to the tree with less loss to the environment, while using up to 75% less product. It’s very significant.”
Ongoing Platinum Nergetic trials are being conducted by Campbells Fertilisers in partnership with HVP Plantations and E.E. Muir & Sons. Click here for further information.
Source and image credit: E.E. Muir & Sons
SnapSTAT - Christmas tree statisticsReal vs Fake Christmas Trees - Units sold
The Douglas-Fir: A Christmas Tree Favorite. Did you know that each year, 25-30
million Christmas trees are sold in the United States and Douglas-fir is one of
the most popular species? Their popularity stems from their ideal shape, full
branches, and wonderful scent. These trees symbolize the festive spirit and bring
joy to households every winter (or summer, for us here in NZ).
Photo Source: thehustle
For more interesting statistics, click here
Interactive ArcGIS Story Map to highlight biodiversityOneFortyOne has published an interactive ArcGIS Story Map that highlights the native conservation values the business protects within its Green Triangle plantation forests. OneFortyOne uses Geospatial Imagery Systems (GIS) to ensure that extensive, accurate, and reliable data is collected over time. Story Maps are a great way to showcase data and how it is used to make informed decisions in the forest.
The Biodiversity within OneFortyOne’s Green Triangle Plantation ArcGIS Story Map takes viewers on an interactive journey through some of the native conservation areas across OneFortyOne’s South Australian and Victorian plantations. Ashwood Caesar, OneFortyOne Senior Geospatial Technologist says, “The data that is gathered by our business is incredibly valuable and can, when displayed using GIS mapping, provide a picture of activities over both space and time.”
“We wanted to develop an interactive tool that showcases the native wildlife and plants living in our forests.” The story is linked to a GIS map of the native conservation areas that fall within OneFortyOne estate across the Green Triangle Region. Each native conservation area is colour-coded in relation to its conservation rating.
“Using data, photography and audio we have been able to create a tour of some conservation areas within our forests. The audio and images help create an auditory and visual experience of what walking through OneFortyOne conservation areas can be like.”
“GIS is a tool that we use every day. If you’ve ever used Google Maps, then you’ve used GIS” says John Cannon, OneFortyOne Senior GIS Analyst.
For further information and to view the Story Map visit Sustainability Matters
Access to high-resolution thermal-infrared imageryUP42, a geospatial developer platform and marketplace, and OroraTech, a leader in space-based thermal intelligence, have signed a partnership agreement to grant easy and fast access to global high-resolution thermal-infrared imagery. OroraTech delivers low-latency, global coverage, near-real-time thermal data products.
OroraTech, the first of its kind to join UP42's growing marketplace of nearly 80 data and processing partners, provides valuable insights to customers during unpredictable events through its newly launched thermal sensor, FOREST-2. Via UP42’s marketplace, the company offers on-demand tasking for near real-time data access from anywhere in the world with 400km coverage and 200m resolution on a daily basis. It also offers access to an ever-growing future archive of thermal imagery for past event analysis.
"As global temperatures rise, wildfires and heat waves are having an increasing impact on people, the environment, and economies. In 2022 alone, heat waves accounted for 99% of all climate-related deaths in Europe," said Sean Wiid, CEO of UP42, referring to a recent World Meteorological Organization report. "Expanding our offering with OroraTech’s thermal-infrared data will help our customers build early-warning and monitoring systems to help us mitigate the impact of these climate-related emergencies."
OroraTech's high-resolution thermal data serves customers on six continents, ranging from forestry and utility companies to governmental organizations and geospatial experts. Facilitating rapid disaster response, location accuracy, and predictive analytics, its data helps assess risks, minimize losses, and supports 24/7 response measures.
To learn more about OroraTech’s thermal-infrared products via UP42’s marketplace, please visit UP42’s marketplace for On-Demand Tasking and the marketplace for the archive of thermal imagery
Remembering Jerry LeechThe Mt Gambier community and wider forest industry has been mourning the loss of Dr Jerry Leech AM who passed away on Sunday 26 November.
Dr Leech then attended the University of Adelaide where he studied a Bachelor of Science before moving onto the Australian Forestry School in Canberra where he received a Diploma with Distinction. Dr Leech was posted to the South East before being transferred to the branch managing forest resources.
In 1969 he studied computer programming and systems analysis and design and developed the early forest management planning systems. Dr Leech became a Member of the Australian Computer Society in 1973 where he was also awarded a MSc degree from the Australian National University and a PhD in 1978.
The models Dr Leech developed then are still being used some 40-years later. From 1970, he was responsible for the systems analysis, design and implementation of the system for making long-term predictions of forest growth from radiata pine estate then owned by the State Government.
Dr Leech was also responsible for much of the biometrics. The system came into its own after the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires destroyed about one third of the forest.
During his career, Dr Leech mentored many young scientists and foresters where he was also respected by his peers for his technical skills and knowledge. From 1986, he carried out 30 international consultancies which was mostly for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation in Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Italy.
Over a 13-year period he also spent five of these on consultancy missions and professionally, he considered the consultancies his greatest challenges and greatest successes. Dr Leech resigned as Principal Scientist, Forestry Systems in 1994 to become a consultant which was a role he continued until about 2014.
He was also a joint Technical Editor of the Australian Forest Valuation Standard in 2001 which he also kept until 2014. Dr Leech was very proud of the 2007 version with its associated handbook and in 2013 he was a member of an international working party on forest valuation.
He was also a long standing member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia and the Association of Consulting Foresters of Australia. Dr Leech was also a member of the Australian Computer Society and the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute as well as being elevated to Fellow of the Institute of Foresters of Australia.
In 2009 he was awarded the Regional Medal for South East Asia-Pacific by the Commonwealth Forestry Association and in 2021 he was also awarded the N.W Jolly Medal by Forestry Australia. It was in 2022 that Dr Leech was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his significant service to the forest industry, to tertiary education and to the community.
Dr Leech was also an Adjunct Professor at Southern Cross University and a Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne with the title of associate professor. During his career, Dr Leech was responsible for about 200 books, refereed papers, reports for the United Nations and other consultancy clients, conferences and other published miscellanea.
WoodChat #31: Defending Australia's forestsFWPA's long-running WoodChat podcast has released a new episode focusing on biosecurity. You’ll hear about three exciting research initiatives aimed at improving Australia’s protection measures to help mitigate the risks posed to our forests by exotic pests and diseases.
Lucy Tran-Nguyen, GM of Partnerships and Innovation at Plant Health Australia, tells us about The National Forest Pest Surveillance Program – also known as Forest Watch Australia – which commenced on the 1st of July 2022, and recently completed its first full year of activity.
Lucy also told us about The MyPestGuide Trees app, which equips all forestry stakeholders with the tools to do their bit and help minimise the damage caused to Australian forests and trees by the presence of exotic pests and diseases.
In addition, you’ll hear from Dr Madaline Healey, Research Fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Forest Research Institute, about work to improve risk management for invasive forest pests and diseases right across the South East Asia region.
Other recent episodes reported on work to create a culture of smart manufacturing for wood products in Australia, as well as efforts to model the future and help minimise the impacts of bushfire events on forestry.
WoodChat is a great example of the commitment of FWPA to embracing a wide variety of ways to ensure the industry and beyond remain up to date with the most significant developments in the forestry and wood products space. Each episode contains in-depth expert insights on some of forestry’s most exciting innovations.
Click here to listen to this esposide of WoodChat. You can also listen to WoodChat on Soundcloud, iTunes and Spotify. We also encourage you to have a look at the other WoodChat episodes and create a playlist for your summer break.
World’s largest single span timber arch aircraft hangarThe New Zealand-based architecture firm, Studio Pacific Architecture has designed Air New Zealand’s new 10,000 square meter hangar at its engineering base in Mangare, Auckland.
The hangar will be the largest single-span timber arch aircraft hangar in the world and will be one and a half times the size of Air New Zealand’s largest existing hangar. It will be able to house wide-body aircraft such as a Boeing 777-300 or 787-9, and two narrow-bodied aircraft such as an A320 or A321neo, at the same time, according to the architecture firm.
Hangar 4 has been designed to be a 5-6 Green-Star building, certified by the NZGBC (New Zealand Green Building Council). The rating system is internationally recognized for the design, construction, and operation of buildings.
According to Architecture Now, "the laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and cross-laminated timber (CLT) hybrid timber arch, designed in association with structural engineer Alistair Cattanach of Dunning Thornton, spans 98 meters (321 feet) and has a low total structure mass, making it considerably easier and more efficient to put together on-site than a similarly sized steel structure would be."
Kulwinder Panesar, Senior Project Manager at Air New Zealand told Architectural Now, “With the use of modern engineered timber available today, the hangar has the ability to become a world-leading example of innovation and creativity. As timber is a net carbon sink, building a timber hangar structure instead of a steel structure results in savings of close to 600 tons of CO² equivalent, which equates to approximately 2300 hours of flight time.”
Photo: Studio Pacific
International conference awards young researcherseedEnergy’s Quantitative Geneticist Dr. Michael Bird was awarded "best presentation by a young researcher" at the latest IUFRO conference “Improvement and culture of Eucalypts” held in Colonia, Uruguay on 20th to 24th of November. The conference featured a strong showing from Australian industry and researchers.
Michael presented “A novel open pollinated seed production strategy to exploit both additive and non-additive genetic effects in Eucalyptus dunnii”, drawing from his recently completed PhD at the University of Queensland. Michael’s talk combined results from the research chapters of his thesis estimating genetic parameters from a large international progeny trial network, with applied industrial research and management programs, detailing seedEnergy’s strategy to produce high genetic quality seed for plantation forestry.
seedEnergy General Manager, Barry Vaughan, congratulated Michael on receiving the award, explaining “it's great to have recognised Michael's extensive breeding of new material, coordination of international collaborators and his synthesis of the complex genetic analysis".
Should WA to let go of pine plantations?Gavin Butcher, a forester and former Forest Products Commission director, wrote an interesting opinion piece about pine plantations in Western Australia:
South Australia did it in 2012. Victoria managed it back in 1998, Queensland in 2010, Tasmania in 2017. Only WA and NSW have held on to their pine plantations as commercial businesses.
Why have most States decided to relinquish these massive estates…and realised significant financial windfalls through privatisation?
More than 50 years ago across Australia, governments took the lead in expanding plantations with financial assistance form the Commonwealth. Softwood was a new industry and the scale of the investment was large.
Even as the industry developed, the Federal Government maintained its primary role as the plantation grower while timber processors focused on developing their plant, technology and markets.
Fast forward 50 years, and despite the industry having fully matured, the WA Government continues to take responsibility for supplying the wood.
It’s time for the State Government to change its methods for encouraging plantation forestry and follow eastern Australia — pass the pine plantation baton on to the private sector and, with government support, let it take control of its own destiny.
Scientists recognised at annual Science NZ awardsScion scientists have been celebrated in the annual Science New Zealand awards for work to help cut industrial CO2 emissions, reduce microplastics in the environment, and to connect Māori communities with research and science. Among them is Dr Bing Song.
Song joined Scion in 2019. The following year he was separated from his wife Zhiyan Li by Covid-19 border restrictions. Seeing the adversity as an opportunity he threw himself into his work. The couple would video call each other daily — Song would read research papers in Rotorua and his wife would study English in Hong Kong.
Since joining Scion, he has been a primary author on seven papers and co-authored another five. Of the 35 published papers in his career, 31 have been in Q1 journals – the highest-ranking in a particular field.
Now his work and commitment have been recognised at the annual Science New Zealand awards held at Parliament on December 6. The awards celebrate staff at New Zealand’s seven Crown research institutes, plus Callaghan Innovation, in three categories: Early Career Researcher, Lifetime Achievement and Team.
Song, who won an Early Career Researcher Award, currently leads Scion’s Solid Biofuel Project mentoring colleagues, leading and supporting funding bids, and reviewing papers for journals in his field. He is passionate about the work, which could replace coal and gas in New Zealand industry helping reduce the nearly five million tonnes of CO2 emitted by industry every year.
“To me science is an amazing journey from identifying research challenges to finally achieving the right solutions,” he says. “Science is an essential part of my daily life.” Song has a growing international collaboration network and is currently on a six-month, Scion-funded sabbatical at the University of New South Wales. The sabbatical separates him from his now-Rotorua-based wife again, and their 10-month-old daughter.
Kirk Torr, Scion’s Chemistry and Physics research group leader, says Song “stretched the boundaries” in his field. The other Scion recipients were Scion’s Microplastics Team, given a Team Award for research into marine-based microplastics and Dr Tanira Kingi who was given an Individual/Lifetime Achievement Award for his more than 30-year career.
Science New Zealand Chief Executive Anthony Scott says the Awards “celebrate the people creating and applying ideas that are useful, usable and used in Aotearoa New Zealand. The event celebrates excellence in science, its application to real world issues, and the partnerships we have with clients and collaborators in many industries and sectors that make things happen.”
He says the members of Science NZ “deliver results that tangibly improve the prosperity, sustainability and wellbeing of New Zealand”. For the full list of winners from New Zealand’s CRIs see sciencenewzealand.org.
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... the authentic Xmas tree
“Bringin’ Back Christmas” performed by Ryan Reynolds and the cast of Spirited. In this scene Reynolds, who plays corporate executive Clint Briggs, presents at the National Association of Christmas Tree Growers convention in Vancouver – encouraging the association to compete with fake trees!
And a few more since Xmas is just about upon us.
That's it for this year. From all of us, it's been
again a real pleasure bringing you Friday Offcuts every
forward to working with you again in what we hope is a
more settled year in 2024. Our first issue for the New Year
be Friday 19 January. Cheers.
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