Friday Offcuts 21 August 2015
The focus this year is on an issue being faced by most forestry companies right now. With the operational use of LiDAR, traditional data collection and management over the last couple of years has been turned on its head. Information and field data is now being collected by a myriad of new sensors, mobile apps and tools. Mobile connectivity within a forest and out to the mills, dispatch offices and to contractors vehicles has also improved. The sheer volume of data though is starting to create a bit of a headache.
Forestry isn’t unique in this space. Collecting the information, processing “big data”, analyzing it and then providing it in a useable format to the managers, planners and then back out to field staff is the theme for this year’s ForestTECH series. Additional industry workshops, like last year, have also been planned by forestry companies and researchers. Early details on the full programme can be found on the event website. You can also sign up to the free blog if you want to be kept informed as the event is being developed.
Other news this week includes an update on building activity in New Zealand. It’s certainly good reading for the local timber industry. Auckland and Christchurch have tended to grab the headlines but it appears that looking to the future, the growth in the New Zealand construction market is rosy. The country’s Building and Housing Minister is upbeat. He describes it as “unprecedented”. Over the next six years around NZ$209.4 billion of work is being projected (see story below).
In forestry investment, a report out this week from KPMG says that Canada has eclipsed China as the biggest source of foreign direct investment in New Zealand over the past two years, Carter Holt is reported to be scaling back its planned listing and instead is looking only at an IPO of the Carters Building Supplies business in New Zealand (50 distribution outlets to the building trade and nine frame and truss sites across the country) and we run a story on how large corporates like Apple and IKEA are increasingly buying up large tracts of forest land.
Finally, from our weird and whacky files, we take a look at an innovative use of 3D printing. Hardly functional but certainly interesting – and it’s got a wood processing theme for you. A kiwi hobbyist, obviously with more than enough time on his hands, has used some 3D printers to produce the world’s smallest circular saw. It’s about the size of your thumbnail. Check out the image and the short video below. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
Canada leads China in NZ forestry investmentAfter repeatedly hearing how the Chinese are leaders in buying up property in New Zealand – urban and rural – a report out this week says that Canada in fact eclipsed China as the biggest source of foreign direct investment in New Zealand over the past two years. This is after the Public Sector Pension Investment Board bought a property portfolio from AMP Capital Investors and acquired more of the Kaingaroa forest.
A total NZ$14.2 billion of investment applications were approved by the Overseas Investment Office between January 2013 and December 2014, according to a KPMG survey. That's down from NZ$18 billion in the preceding 2 1/2 year period. Canada accounted for 22 percent of total gross FDI in that period, followed by China at 14 percent, the US at 13 percent and Australia at 11 percent.
AMP Capital sold a portfolio of 18 New Zealand properties worth more than NZ$1 billion last year to the Canadian pension board, which also increased its holding in the 178,000 hectare central North Island Kaingaroa forest to 30 percent as part of a sell-down by Harvard Management Co, which manages Harvard University's endowment fund.
Of the 250,000ha of freehold and leasehold land acquired by overseas interests in the past two years, 46 percent was bought by US investors, followed by those in China, at 11 percent. Of the 595,014ha of land acquired in the past five years, 330,333ha was forestry, 177,810ha was sheep & beef farms and 72,002ha was dairy farms.
KPMG said Australia's investments are understated because of recent changes to regulations relaxing the requirements for Australian companies to obtain OIO approvals.
Carter Holt looks to list Carters building suppliesCarter Holt Harvey's on-again, off-again listing plans may be on again, although in a downscaled version incorporating only the New Zealand-based Carters building supplies distribution business.
Auckland-based Carter Holt, owned by Kiwi billionaire Graeme Hart's Rank Group, is considering an initial public offering of the Carters unit to list on the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges, it said in a statement last Friday, adding that it would still retain a "significant stake" in the company.
It has scaled back earlier plans for an IPO, which would have included its New Zealand and Australian timber processing and building supplies businesses. That plan was put on hold in early June following what it said were changes in market conditions leading to uncertainty on the earnings outlook of the Australian timber business.
The latest proposal incorporates just the Carters unit in New Zealand, which supplies the building trade with 50 distribution outlets and nine frame and truss sites across the country.
"This well-established national network puts Carters in a strong position to capitalise on the continuing strong demand for new housing," Carter Holt said in the statement. It didn't give an indication of the likely value of the unit, the size of the stake it planned to sell or when it planned to list.
Rank paid NZ$3.31 billion for Carter Holt in 2006 and has since sold the company's forestry and farm land and its pulp and paper unit, leaving a smaller business focused on wood products and building supplies.
Mobile apps and data management focus for ForestTECH 2015Mobile apps and data management focus for ForestTECH 2015 ForestTECH 2015 is again running this year. It’s timely. This annual technology series run by the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) brings together forestry managers, planners and resource foresters from around the region. It will be providing local forestry companies with an insight into new data collection tools and the growing issue facing most forestry companies right now, how best to manage and analyse the quantity of field information being collected from a variety of sources.
Other key themes include new technologies to improve mobile connectivity and data exchange within the forest and also between the forest, and other parts of the business. Leading forestry companies, technology providers and software developers will also be detailing an array of practical forestry apps that have been developed, are available, and are adding value to forestry operations around the world.
“Since 2008, the ForestTECH series has firmly established itself as the principal technology event in Australasia showcasing new technologies for forest owners and technical foresters every year” says FIEA Director, Brent Apthorp. “Without doubt, remote sensing over the last couple of years has made a profound impact on how foresters are now planning and managing their forest estates. The interest and opportunities that exist in this space was evidenced late last year with around 300 technical foresters attending ForestTECH 2014.”
Last year’s ForestTECH series profiled new developments in remote sensing and analytical tools that were available for forestry companies. Results from recent research and the operational use of airborne and terrestrial LiDAR, UAV trials collecting high-resolution spatial data-sets and the integration of this information into forest inventory and planning systems was also covered. Case studies from the early adopters of remote sensing technologies outlined just how far they’d got with their trials, what tools are being used, how the technology is being rolled out and what impact – financially and operationally – it’s made to the forestry business.
ForestTECH 2015 runs this November. Again it will be running in both countries. Satellite imagery, the increasing use of UAV platforms and airborne and terrestrial LiDAR, data being drawn from harvester heads, in-field sensors and improved field data collection and reporting increasingly is being used by forestry operations. “Big data” is no longer only a concept. Leading forestry companies increasingly are appreciating the potential transformative value that data analytics can bring to their operation.
The issue of data collection and analysis isn’t only an issue being faced by forestry companies. A staggering 90% of the world’s data has been generated in just the last two years. Industries around the globe are investing heavily in “big data” and the expected productivity gains that will come from it. The forestry industry is just now grappling with how to collect, process and manage this data.
New processing systems are required to handle “big data” and to produce the right results at the right time. Cloud computing technology is already reshaping the resources that forest managers have at their disposal. With data and applications held in the cloud, processing times and the ability to get the right information into the hands of the managers, planners and field staff is essential.
Development of digital gadgets like smartphones and tablets and improved connectivity has also changed just how forestry companies are collecting and managing data. Forestry apps and the development of mobile forestry applications also continue to rise exponentially – from measurement of wood volumes out in the field through to scheduling and logistics of wood flows. As more and more companies migrate their data and applications to the cloud, the business itself is changing dramatically.
ForestTECH 2015 will be exploring with leading technology providers and forestry companies, new data collection tools, systems to manage, analyse, report and use the ever increasing volumes of field data being collected out in the field and mobile options for improving connectivity within forestry businesses.
ForestTECH 2015 will run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 18-19 November and again in Melbourne, Australia on 24-25 November. Further information along with the drafts of the two programmes can now be found on the event website, www.foresttech.events.
If you'd like to stay up with the play as ForestTECH 2015 is being developed you can sign up to the event blog by clicking here.
NZ construction boom tipped for 6 yearsAn “unprecedented” level of building work is predicted over the coming six years, due largely to Auckland’s housing boom, a new report says. Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith heralded the latest National Construction Pipeline Report as confirming the nation is "building more than we have ever before" with NZ$209.4 billion of work projected over the next six years, peaking in 2016 at NZ$36.5 billion of work.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-commissioned report showed Auckland building activity will peak in 2018 at NZ$16.3 billion, of which about 60 per cent will be residential work. The value of residential work is expected to grow 22 per cent over that period, while non-residential building is expected to rise by 17 per cent.
"Today's report points to a golden era for New Zealand's building and construction industry," Dr Smith said. "The challenge for government is to ensure we have the skills and capacity to meet the demands of this growth, and that the regulatory measures are in place so that quality is not compromised for quantity during this period of unprecedented growth."
The report, prepared by Building Research Association of New Zealand and Pacifecon, said while the value of construction will reach a higher peak than ever before it is not expected to result in a higher number of dwellings than ever before due to more expensive costs per dwelling. The report's authors said the primary driver for more expensive dwellings was an increase in cost per square metre built.
It estimates 94,400 new dwelling consents will be issued in Auckland between January 2013 and December 2020, of which 53,500 will be detached homes. Some NZ$51.8 billion of residential work is expected between 2015 and 2020, almost half the NZ$109.3 billion of residential work predicted across the country.
A stunning 7 million acres burned so far in the U.S.We’ve read and heard stories about the devastating wildfires being experienced this summer in North America. New Zealand and Australian rural fire-fighting crews have been helping out stretched resources in both the US and Canada. It’s hard though to actually get a feel for the scale of the wild fires. A report out from the Washington Post this week paints a much clearer picture of the wild fires raging across the western United States.
Some 30,000 firefighters and additional support staff are now fighting fires across the United States —the biggest number mobilized in 15 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. And it’s still not enough.
Two hundred members of the military are being called up to help further — they will be trained and deployed within just a few days — as are Canadian firefighting forces. There’s even some talk of potentially needing to draw on further help from Australia and New Zealand.
And no wonder: As of midweek, five states are now battling more than 1o large wildfires — California is contending with 16, Idaho 21, Montana 14, Oregon 11 and Washington 17. Most terrifying, perhaps, is the Soda Fire, which has scorched 283,686 acres in Idaho, burning up ranches, killing wild horses, even generating an alarming fire whirl recently.
The total acres burned so far in 2015 is now a staggering 7.1 million, with currently burning fires accounting for over 1 million of that total. “This is the earliest the number of national acres burned has been more than 7 million in the past 20 years,” notes the National Interagency Coordination Centre — although the centre acknowledges that 5 million of those acres burned in Alaska earlier this year.
There is no year, in the past 10, in which year-to-date wildfire acres burned were as high as they are now. In fact, based on records provided by the National Interagency Fire Centre, only nine years since 1960 have seen more acres burned in total than 2015 has as of August 18. The most acres burned in any year on record is 9,873,745, in 2006. The United States is at wildfire preparedness Level 5 — the highest — and has been since Aug.13.
The gigantic convulsion of fire activity makes a report released two weeks ago, by the U.S. Forest Service, seem prescient. The agency sounded the alarm about rising wildfire costs, saying that fighting fires will consume more than 50 percent of its budget this year and could be up to two thirds of it by the year 2025, based on current trends.
According to the Forest Service, the U.S. spends US$ 100 million per week when it is at wildfire preparedness level 5, as it is now. More >>
Source: Washington Post
LiDAR to maximise the efficiency of inventory plotsForestry managers and inventory surveys need accurate plantation attributes in order to extract the most precise information using the smallest number of plots. New Australian research has quantified the potential efficiencies in using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data as an aid to estimation of standing timber volume in softwood plantations.
Field measurements from Pinus radiata plantations in New South Wales were used to form statistical models and simulate populations of inventory plots. Plot stimulations were then run using a variety of sampling strategies to calculate the benefits from using LiDAR data.
Results suggest that using model-based or model-assisted estimators, when compared to using traditional inventory surveys, could increase relative efficiencies two-fold. The use of LiDAR data as an aid to survey design produces marked efficiency gains compared to traditional inventory methods.
For more information and to view the full report check out the latest issue of R&D Works. Photo: Finnish Geospatial Research Institute
New Timber Plantation Operations COP for QueenslandQueensland timber plantation owners and operators can now access the Timber Plantation Operations Code of Practice for Queensland, a guide that outlines how to comply with all laws and with accepted principles for sound plantation management. Rod McInnes, CEO Timber Queensland launched the Code last week at the Institute of Foresters of Australia Queensland Division Annual General Meeting.
Mr. McInnes said the new Code aims to ensure commercial timber plantations are profitable whilst being environmentally sustainable and socially responsible. “The Code complements all Acts, regulations, State government policies, local government planning schemes and local laws that relate to the development of new plantation areas, “said Rod McInnes.
“It really provides everyone involved in running an existing or establishing a new commercial plantation in Queensland with a level playing field,” he said. “Every person from the landowner, the plantation owner and the plantation manager to the harvest manager and any employees and contractors employed to work in a plantation can access the Code to understand the voluntary standards they should strive to meet.”
Mr. McInnes said that the Code is ‘tenure blind’ which means it can be voluntarily applied by plantation operators over any land tenure in Queensland. In his speech Mr McInnes acknowledged the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for their funding support through the Queensland Forest and Timber Industry Plan to develop the new Code.
The Timber Plantation Operations Code of Practice for Queensland is available to download from Timber Queensland’s website.
NZ export log prices fall in AugustNew Zealand export log prices fell this month as weaker demand from China pushed up inventories in the country's largest market to more than double their normal level. The average wharf gate price for New Zealand A-grade logs dropped to $84 a tonne in August from $86 a tonne in July, according to AgriHQ's monthly survey of exporters, forest owners and sawmillers.
The prices for New Zealand export logs has weakened as inventories on Chinese ports rose to about 4.7 million tonnes from 3.8 million tonnes last month, and more than double the normal level of about 2 million tonnes. This, combined with lower demand during the country's summer season, caused the price for New Zealand A-grade logs delivered to China to fall to US$98/JAS, the lowest price since AgriHQ started collecting the data in September 2012.
"The lower New Zealand dollar and reduced shipping rates are a bright spot for exporters, buffering the impact on prices at the wharf gate," said AgriHQ analyst Emma Dent. "Market participants are not confident in the Chinese market at present. Buyer confidence is at an all-time low, along with a turbulent stock market and slowing economy. Most are expecting to see demand pick up through September. However, until inventories clear, a price recovery will remain out of reach."
Prices for New Zealand domestic logs fared better, Dent said. Pruned logs remained unchanged at $163 a tonne as demand continued to exceed supply in the central North Island. "While some mills are still reporting an influx of pruned logs, overall there is still a shortage," Dent said.
That saw North Island pruned logs fetch a premium of $166 a tonne over South Island logs at $155 a tonne, she said. The price for structural logs slipped to $105 a tonne from $106 a tonne the previous month as demand weakened over winter, Dent said.
"Market participants are expecting to see demand pick up as we head into summer," she said. "The housing shortage, along with recent building statistics, show that demand is still there for structural logs."
Smith Agri International launches in AustraliaWith over 26 years international forestry experience throughout the value-chain, much of which was spent building the Willmott Forests business from family owned forest manager of three to ASX listed leader in Pinus radiata establishment throughout Australia until 2010, David Smith was thrilled to formally launch Smit Agri International.
Encouraged by his expanding client database of international and domestic based investors, mining, Australasian forestry, processing and agricultural clients he has established this new business. David said “Smith Agri International specialises in Timberland and Agricultural Transactions throughout Australasia”, but was quick to highlight that recent successful transactions have also included the highly regarded sale of Seloh Nolem (Melon Holes spelt backwards) cattle property located in the heart of Queensland’s cattle country on behalf of the world’s largest private-sector coal company, Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU).
Smith Agri International has also presented at a recent forestry conference in Melbourne and will also be representing a growing list of timberland investment opportunities whilst in the USA in early September wherein Smith Agri International will be represented at ‘Who Will Own The Forests’ international conference held in Portland, Oregon, USA.
IKEA is buying up whole forests, and so is AppleIKEA bought 83,000 acres of forest last month. In April, Apple bought 36,000 acres. What’s the reasoning behind these retail giants buying their own forests? To manage them.
Last year, we saw major technology and retail companies buying up wind and solar farms. Walmart, Facebook, Apple, IKEA, Google — all decided to either build or buy renewable energy farms. Nearly as many made pledges to start using fully renewable energy sources: IKEA said it would become “energy independent”. Facebook is already using all-renewables- powered data centres to manage all your likes. Now, some of them are going further down the supply chain to manage the provenance of their materials — by buying up the forests that source their paper and wood.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that IKEA had bought up almost one hundred thousand acres of forest in Romania and the Baltic — this, after the company had been accused of “brutal” logging practices in Russia and cutting “old forests that have high conservation value,” according to the WSJ. The company doesn’t log in Russia anymore, and instead will focus on farming its Romanian forests, managing its purchase to create a renewable source for its operations. After all, IKEA uses one per cent of the world’s wood supply, a number it’s trying to scale back by half. It’s all part of the company’s plan to become “forest positive” in the next five years, growing more wood than it uses.
Similarly, Apple recently bought up a 36,000 acres of forest in Maine and North Carolina. These areas are “working forests,” or regions that act as renewable sources of wood and paper pulp for industry. Apple and the Conservation Fund, which is collaborating on the project, says that these “working forests” are increasingly being developed. That’s not only bad news for them commercially, but bad news for forests that were once outside the scope of industry — as Apple’s Lisa Jackson explained in a post about the purchase:
We are in the midst of one of the greatest land transfers in history. In the last 15 years, we’ve already lost 23 million acres of forestland that provided the pulp, paper, and solid wood material for products we all use. That’s roughly an area the size of Maine. As land continues to be sold and change hands at an alarming rate, an estimated 45 million more acres are currently in the crosshairs of development.
The goal of the Conservation Fund’s work is to create limits on how those working forests can be used beyond producing paper products. These are designed to “ensure sustainable harvests and restrict the subdivision or conversion of land to non-forest uses,” the group writes.
Solomon Islands reaches agreement with NZ timber industryLast week the Solomon Islands sawn timber industry hosted a delegation of the New Zealand timber industry. Solomon Islands currently exports around SBD 23 million (NZ$4 million) of sawn timber to New Zealand each year with the value of the trade having increased significantly over the past 10 years.
The New Zealand delegation comprised some of the main buyers of Solomon Islands sawn timber. All are members of the New Zealand Imported Tropical Timber Group (NZ ITTG), which includes timber importers, retailers and conservation organisations such as Greenpeace (also on the trip). New Zealand ITTG members work with producers to actively seek and develop sources of sustainably managed tropical timber.
As in many parts of the world, New Zealand consumers want assurances that the timber products they buy have been sourced from legally and sustainably managed forests. Australia and New Zealand, which are the two main markets for sawn timber from Solomon Islands, both require some form of legality assurance for market entry.
Systems to ensure the legality of timber sourced from Solomon Islands were the main topic of conversation during the visit. The Solomon Islands industry and NZ ITTG have agreed to collaborate on a number of initiatives to develop a system of third party legality assurance over the next two years. This will involve the establishment of an independent organisation that will audit sawn timber production to ensure that the source and legal production of timber can be demonstrated. This is seen as an important first step towards sustainable forest management.
The industry visit was facilitated by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program. The PHAMA Program is an Australian aid project, funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments. It works across five countries in the Pacific, with PNG to join the Program in 2015/16. In Solomon Islands PHAMA is working with the private sector and government on helping improve the cocoa, fish, horticulture, coconut and timber industries. This initiative is part of a wider program of support that PHAMA is providing to strengthen the sawn timber industry in Solomon Islands. (Photo: Members of the Solomon Islands and New Zealand sawn timber industries meeting in Honiara)
Kiwi creates world's smallest functional circular sawWhat do you do after you've 3D-printed the world's tiniest functional power drill? If you're Lance Abernethy, you go on to add another miniature power tool to your Lilliputian toolbox. Abernethy's latest creation is a working 3D-printed circular saw that fits in a briefcase slightly bigger than a thumbnail.
According to a report by 3DPrint.com, Abernethy used Onshape software to design the saw and then printed it using an Ultimaker 2 3D printer. The saw has all the usual components of a typical life-sized circular saw such as a blade holder, a saw guard and two halves that form the main housing. The saw parts have a shell thickness of 0.5 mm and a layer height of 21-40 microns. It took Abernethy less than an hour to print the entire thing.
"The saw was just a natural progression from the drill," Abernethy, a maintenance engineer from Auckland, New Zealand told 3DPrint.com. "I would like to be able to make a whole set of power tools just like my Makita set I have. I’m not sure how many I will get around to making though."
Currently it's powered by a small hearing aid battery. While you can turn the saw on by pressing a teeny-tiny button on its handle, the saw doesn't actually cut anything. Abernethy plans to refine the design to 3D-print a saw that does cut, later on. Check out both the drill and the saw in the video below.
NZ Timber Design Awards celebrating 40 yearsThis year the NZ Wood Resene Timber Design Awards are celebrating 40 years of recognising excellence of timber buildings. The highly acclaimed awards are held every 18 months showcasing the innovative, structural and aesthetic use of timber by New Zealand architects and engineers. The entrants constantly provide projects of an exceptionally high standard and this year, record entries have been received spanning over eight categories.
NZ Wood will be announcing the finalists at a Gala Presentation Event on the 15th September at the Rendezvous Hotel Auckland CBD. To view the full list of 2015 finalists: click here and for information on the evening itself including registering, go to the event website.
Buy and Sell
...and one to end the week on...the last laugh
A minister decided to try golf, so he went to the local course, where the professional found him a partner – a member with whom nobody liked playing.
And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.
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