Friday Offcuts – 1 April 2016

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Close to 350 key industry representatives from throughout the forestry, agriculture and horticulture industries have been in Rotorua over the last couple of days. The drawcard, MobileTECH 2016. This annual technology event, now into its fourth year, has very clearly established itself as one of this region’s premier events showcasing innovative new technologies being developed, rolled out and adopted by our leading food and fibre-based companies.

It’s also one of very few events where leading technology providers and some of the very early adopters meet under one roof to exchange ideas. As well as a strong turnout from New Zealand companies, MobileTECH 2016 this year attracted a solid contingent from across the Tasman. Some of Australia’s largest land-based companies and technology developers flew into Rotorua. The event finished yesterday. Further details and information will follow in future issues.

At another recent industry conference, ForestWood, Ric Sinclair, Managing Director of Forest and Wood Products Australia suggested that Australia and New Zealand should together be jointly developing a longer term solution for timber design life and durability. He’s been advocating for industry leaders and governments to commit $12.5 million to the cause. A copy of Ric Sinclair’s presentation can be downloaded in the story below. Results from FWPA’s market research into the expectations of local consumers and building specifiers for timber design life and durability will also be covered in the upcoming Wood Innovations 2016 series running for timber treatment and wood processing companies in both countries in May.

Other stories this week include results from a recent survey by Xerox that show that the move from paper to a paperless office is actually taking a little longer than predicted. It’s just around the corner though. Survey respondents are predicting an average of only nine percent of key business operations will be running on paper in the next two years. However, many admit they may not be ready for it. Results from another report this week looks at the advantages of leveraging collaboration technology – a clear focus for companies around this region involved in this week’s MobileTECH 2016 event.

Finally, this week we’ve had two tragic deaths of forestry workers in New Zealand forests. This follows on from an earlier fatality just two weeks ago. Again, and unfortunately so soon after the serious commitment shown by the signing the Forest Industry Safety Council Charter, this week has again reinforced the absolute urgency of all parties, from the forestry boardroom through to the forest floor, to work collectively towards the goal of zero serious harm and fatalities – to ensure that New Zealand forestry is a safe and healthy sector in which to work.

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Call for trans-Tasman collaboration on timber durability

Call for trans-Tasman collaboration on timber durability It is time for Australia and New Zealand to jointly develop a longer term solution for timber design life and durability with a call for $12.5 million over five years from industry and governments.

At the recent ForestWood conference in Auckland, Ric Sinclair, Managing Director of Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited (FWPA) outlined the Australian situation based on industry consultation and market research undertaken over the last two years.

From an industry perspective, many believe that there is poor market understanding of timber durability, unclear standards, inadequate monitoring and compliance, and a disconnect between the standards and the service life expectations.

According to FWPA’s market research, consumers and building specifiers certainly place durability as one of the most important selection criteria and timber rates poorly compared to other materials. Also, there was greater awareness of in-service failure with timber compared to other materials. Despite these shortcomings, timber remained the material of choice for many applications – any shortcomings with the material are often attributed to poor specification, installation or maintenance.

The situation in Australia was exacerbated by a loss of nearly all institutional research capacity, lack of trust between key players, difficulty of getting consensus and the overarching implications of climatic change and evolution of biotic agents.

Mr Sinclair said that there was an urgent need to rebuild the evidence base for the design life and durability system. He suggested that research should be focussed on aggregating existing proprietary data, maintaining and re-establishing field trials, development of a predictive process model, new systems of verification, and better understanding of building systems and material design life.

“Australia and New Zealand have a track record of success in trans-Tasman research collaboration with the Solid Wood Innovation (SWI) and the Structural Timber Innovation Company (STIC) being the most recent examples,” Mr Sinclair explained. He suggested the establishment of two research nodes, identification of international calibre key researchers, and post-graduate researchers working in a cross-disciplinary manner to address some of the key issues facing the industry and its current and future markets.

A copy of Mr Sinclair’s presentation can be viewed here.

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AU$3.5 million Indian sandalwood nursery opens

The world's largest Indian sandalwood grower, Tropical Forestry Services (TFS), has opened a AU$3.5 million nursery in Katherine in the Northern Territory, Australia. At a little over one hectare in size, TFS claims it is the biggest of its type in Australia, with the capacity to hold about 1 million Indian sandalwood and host seedlings. Saplings from the nursery will supply TFS's plantations in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland.

At the nursery opening, managing director Frank Wilson outlined an ambitious plan for TFS in the Northern Territory, hoping to have about 10,000 hectares of Indian sandalwood in the ground in the next 10 years. However, Mr Wilson said the company would need a lot more land and water to make that happen.

Mr Wilson took a swipe at NT Labor's water policy, which included a review of all water licences granted since August 2012. "If I understand the policy correctly, it is crazy," he said. "There is no way businesses such as ours can grow unless we have certainty. To suggest that water licences are going to be flexible, withdrawn or reviewed after they have been issued is not a climate where one can invest”.

Source: ABC News

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NZ forestry deaths – a tragedy

March has been a tragic month for New Zealand’s forestry industry as three men (four now this year) have been killed at work. In the first, a 31-year-old Masterton man had been working on a forestry block near Tinui, between Masterton and Castlepoint, about 2.30pm on Thursday (10th March).

The block where he died is managed by Masterton's Forest Enterprises. The man was part of a contractor's crew of about 10 and was in radio and visual contact with them when the tree fell, the firm's forestry director Bert Hughes said.

"He wasn't in an isolated, unknown area, he was in constant contact and he was being watched. It was observed something hadn't gone according to plan, and people reacted instantly." More >> .

The second tragedy occurred when a man died after being struck by a large log (while working as a breaker out) in a forestry block north- west of Whangarei. Whangarei police said the man, believed to be in his 30s, was hit by a log while in a forestry block of Murchison Rd, Pakotai, about 48km north-west of the city, about 10.10am on Wednesday of this week. More >>.

The third forestry worker died only yesterday after a tree fell on him in a forest north of Napier. The man was working on a Pan Pac forestry block inland from Tutira, north of Napier when a tree fell on him and crushed him. The alarm was raised just after 1pm. More >>.

WorkSafe Chief Executive Gordon MacDonald said the fourth forestry fatality this year is a tragedy for the families and the sector. “It is concerning to everyone in the sector including the regulator that there has been this rash of deaths in such a short period. WorkSafe is investigating the fatalities and will provide its conclusions to all parties as soon as they are complete,” Mr MacDonald says.

“The sector had a terrible year in 2013 when 10 died, and in the two years following, performance improved following work by a combination of the sector itself, the then President of the CTU Helen Kelly and WorkSafe’s very directed forestry workplace assessment programme.

“We have not let up our pressure on the sector to drive improvements in its health and safety record,” he says. “In 2015 we made nearly 2200 visits to forestry worksite to review their practices, provide advice where needed, and enforce the law if necessary. So far this year, we’ve already made 280 visits to sites on the same basis, and we will continue this process.

“Despite this news today (Thursday), I believe this industry is moving in the right direction. It has taken control of its own destiny through the establishment of the Forest Industry Safety Council. I see a strongly collaborative commitment to making better health and safety a primary focus in boardrooms, in forest management companies, amongst contractors, on the forest floor”.

“The sad news today shows clearly there is still work to do and WorkSafe will continue to be a vital driver of improved performance,” Mr MacDonald says.

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New Forests wins Environmental Finance Award

New Forests has just been awarded the Environmental Finance award for Sustainable Forestry Deal of the Year 2016 on behalf of the New Forests Tropical Asia Forest Fund (TAFF) for its equity investment into PT Hutan Ketapang Industri (HKI) in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The award highlights the integrated landscape approach New Forests and TAFF have applied to this large-scale rubber plantation investment, which involves a joint venture with Indonesia’s Sampoerna Agro (SGRO).

“We are honoured to receive this award from Environmental Finance, which I believe is a recognition of the growing need for large-scale demonstrations of plantation development projects that deliver both sound returns and positive community and environmental outcomes,” said New Forests’ CEO David Brand.

New Forests completed the HKI transaction in December 2015. TAFF is a USD 170 million fund, which has taken a 35% stake in HKI. TAFF is backed by institutional investors, including European pension funds, development banks, and European and American funds of funds.

The investment in HKI is believed to be the first institutional investment in large-scale forestry in Indonesia, and the strong environmental and social criteria of TAFF’s investment program have been incorporated into the partnership with Sampoerna Agro and the management of HKI. The HKI business will apply the IFC Environmental and Social Performance Standards as well as be managed in accordance with the Principles & Criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council.

With a concession area in excess of 100,000 hectares in the Ketapang regency, HKI aims to establish a sustainable rubber plantation of more than 30,000 hectares while applying an integrated landscape approach that includes rubber plantation, conservation management areas, community forestry, and ecosystem restoration.

“New Forests has developed a model for Sustainable Landscape Investment that looks to deliver investment performance through the management of economic, environmental, and business factors,” added Brand. “HKI is a terrific example of the type of investment we believe demonstrates this Sustainable Landscape Investment approach and we look forward to working with HKI and Sampoerna Agro to deliver both investment returns and positive community impact.”

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Collaboration the way forward

In order to be more competitive in today’s ever-changing landscape, enterprises need to leverage collaboration technology, according to new research from Dimension Data.

The 2016 Connected Enterprise Report found one in five organisations say collaboration technology had failed to improve their competitive positioning. However, 87% of organisations said the use of collaboration technology had improved teamwork, and 88% of enterprises had accelerated decision making.

Joe Manuele, Dimension Data’s group executive - customer experience and collaboration business unit, says that apart from improving employee productivity and teamwork, the research indicates that more organisations are turning to collaboration to drive new revenue and sales. ?

“Some 14% – the second highest number of respondents in the report – said improving sales is the top goal of their collaboration strategy, while one in three organisations said increased sales was among the three most important ways of measuring the success of their collaboration projects,” Manuele explains.

Brian Riggs, principal analyst - Enterprise Services at research firm, Ovum, says enterprises have had varying degrees of success when it comes to the improvements that the use of collaboration technology was intended to provide.

“They’ve become adept at improving teamwork and productivity, partly because they can work directly with employees to make this happen,” says Riggs. “But leveraging collaboration to improve competitiveness or streamline business processes can be a lot more complicated,” he says. “It involves larger changes to how the company does business, and its role within its industry. These changes can take significant time and effort to achieve,” he says.

The report also found a quarter of those organisations polled said they measure the success of their collaboration projects by how well they’ve implemented the technology, rather than how it’s used and adopted throughout the organisation.

One out of three IT departments see moving unified communication and collaboration to the cloud as the most important technology trend affecting their collaboration strategy. However, less than 25% of organisations currently rely on hosted collaboration services.

According to the report, at one out of three organisations, enterprise social collaboration is used by all – or most –employees, and nearly half of all companies that were surveyed said they expect social collaboration usage to increase over the next year.

Source: IT Brief

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Wood-based glass developed in Sweden

Swedish researchers have developed a transparent wood-based material that could be used in future to make biodegradable windows and photovoltaic panels. To make the wood-based glass a reality, the research team from Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology chemically removed lignin from the cell walls of the wood.

After removing the lignin, the researchers had wood which was completely white. With some additional nanoscale tailoring, they were able to get from white to transparent. On a microscopic scale, transparent wood has been created previously but the current project is the first demonstrating that the material could be suitable for large-scale production, paving the way for practical applications.

"No one has previously considered the possibility of creating larger transparent structures for use as solar cells and in buildings," said Lars Berglund, professor at Wallenberg Wood Science Centre at KTH. "Transparent wood is a good material for solar cells, since it's a low-cost, readily available and renewable resource. This becomes particularly important in covering large surfaces with solar cells."

The material, described in an article in the American Chemical Society Journal, could also be used to make windows and semitransparent facades that would allow light in but protect privacy of the inhabitants.

The team is now trying to enhance transparency of the material and scale up the manufacturing process. "We also intend to work further with different types of wood," Berglund added.


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World first robot farming unveiled

As outlined in this week’s editorial, the future of farming has been at the forefront of discussions at MobileTECH 2016 over the last couple of days in Rotorua, New Zealand. SwarmFarm Robotics has played a major part in previous MobileTECH events and demonstrated for the first time in Australia last week, a swarm of autonomous robots working cooperatively under commercial conditions in a world-first demonstration. The technology being employed in this and other similar land-based industries, as delegates learnt at this week’s event, as well as changing the face of how the land is being farmed also has direct application to the forestry industry.

The startup agricultural robotics company launched its new SwarmBot 3.0 machines at an official event in Gindie,Queensland with over 300 people in attendance. Attendees included federal Assistant Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy, federal Minister for Northern Australia Matthew Canavan and representatives from SwarmFarm sponsors Adama, Westpac, Elders, Fitzroy Basin Association, Central Highlands Regional Council and Telstra.

Following years of research, innovation and refinement, Tuesday’s demonstration included three robots working cooperatively to spray weeds on a wheat farm at Gindie. SwarmFarm CEO Andrew Bate said the launch of the new robots meant the concept of multiple robots working together had progressed from a dream into a commercial reality.

“We’ve been on the most amazing journey to go from concept to a university project to startup and now to today’s launch event,” Mr Bate said. “We’ve put in the hard work over a number of years to get where we are today and we’re so excited to finally reach this commercial launch stage. Our launch featured swarms of autonomous, collision-avoiding robots that will ultimately allow us as farmers to provide each plant with individual attention as someone would in their home vegetable garden.”

“In this new world the machines will have the time to undertake tasks, slowly, carefully and with great precision. Planting, applying fertiliser precisely and economically, eliminating weeds and insects and harvesting the crop means higher yields, lower costs, cleaner and greener food.”

Adama Australia’s Digital Innovation Manager Alex Mills said the company committed to a partnership with SwarmFarm Robotics to deliver innovative solutions to the agricultural industry.

“SwarmFarm’s technology will help to improve the productivity of current farming systems by offering small, lightweight, high-tech robotic machines that will operate in swarms to undertake key tasks of cropping systems, such as planting, weed control, insect control, fertiliser application, irrigation and harvesting,” Mr Mills said. More>>.

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Nominations open for inaugural forestry awards

Nominations for the inaugural Northland Forestry Awards in New Zealand are about to open. It’s an industry that is hugely important to the region, through both employment and what it contributes to the local economy.

The awards have been driven by the Northland Forestry Health and Safety Group and will recognise and applaud the efforts of the many people involved in the forest industry. Group member Andrew Widdowson, who is also Northlands Regional Manager for Hancock Forest Management says the awards are long overdue.

“This is an exciting time for the region's forestry sector,” says Mr Widdowson. “Northland has a strong and vibrant forestry industry. Those who work in it are professional and highly skilled, and make a big contribution to the regional economy. It is about recognising our forestry people, the environment they work in and excellence across a range of forestry operations.” Nominations open on 1 April and close on 1 June.

There are 169,000 hectares of plantation Radiata pine in Northland. Forestry in Northland directly employs around 850 people, which accounts for 11% of the region’s primary industry workforce. With a current harvest level of 3.7 to 4.0 million tonnes annually, it accounts for 13% of the national log harvest each year.

The industry pumps $255 million into the local economy, which is 4.5% of the region’s GDP. Each year there is around 2.89 million tonnes of wood products exported through Marsden Point. “Those are figures worth celebrating,” says Mr Widdowson.

For more information and nomination form, head to

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Only 9% of business activities to run on paper by 2018

A recent Xerox study shows the digital enterprise is on the horizon, but there’s more talk than action. Data is the lifeblood of business today, and it’s not easy digging through it to uncover insightful, actionable intelligence. That’s one takeaway from a survey of 600 IT decision-makers in large North American and Western European organizations. The “Digitization at Work” report from Xerox shows the move from paper to digital processes is nearly upon us; however, many survey respondents admit they may not be ready for it.

The report found broad concern over paper-based processes, with cost (42 percent) and security (42 percent) cited as primary issues. Survey respondents predicted an average of only nine percent of key business operation processes will run on paper in the next two years. But more than half (55 percent) of the respondents admit their organizations’ processes are still largely or entirely paper-based, and about one third (29 percent) are still communicating with end customers via paper, rather than email or social channels.

This is despite the fact that 41 percent agree moving to digital workflows will cut organizational costs, and 87 percent appear to have the skill sets available to make this happen. “Organizations foresee a lean and agile digital future, but current business processes are still weighed down by paper,” said Andy Jones, vice president, Workflow Automation, Large Enterprise Operations, Xerox. “The disconnect between an organization’s vision and the steps required to achieve successful digital transformation has stalled the promise of digitization.”

The report identified a number of basics that many enterprises have yet to address to make automation and digital workflows a reality in key business functions. According to the organizations surveyed:

- 40 percent have not yet implemented solutions for the mobile workforce
- 47 percent have not yet added or improved cloud services
- 45 percent have not yet incorporated or improved predictive analysis through big data

The full Xerox report on the study can be downloaded from

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Pulpwood costs have fallen worldwide

Wood cost is the factor that often determines the competitiveness of a pulp manufacturing plant or region, because it is the largest cost component when producing wood pulp. During the past few years, this cost has varied between 45% and 70% of the total cash cost, depending on product grade and the costs of other components such as chemicals, energy and labour.

Hardwood fibre prices continued to fall in most of the major pulp-producing countries in the world in the 4Q/15. The biggest declines were seen in Brazil, Chile, Russia, France, Germany and Indonesia. In most regions, the price adjustments occurred in both in the local currencies and in US dollar terms.

With the exception of the US South and New Zealand, softwood fibre prices were also down throughout the world in the 4Q/15. The declines ranged between two to ten percent from the previous quarter.

Source: Wood Resources International LLC,

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Virgin Australia and Air NZ to seek to fly on biofuel

Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand will seeking to reduce emissions from their jet fuel by moving towards locally-produced biofuel. The two aviation companies have teamed up to issue to the market an official Request for Information on aviation biofuels, to reduce carbon emissions, and to boost fuel security.

Air New Zealand chief flight operations and safety officer Captain David Morgan says it is a key initiative under its carbon management programme. “We hope we can stimulate the local market, drive innovation and investment and potentially uncover a sustainable biofuel supply,” said Morgan.

Virgin Australia’s head of sustainability, Robert Wood, said Australasian airlines need to catch up with international competitors. United made significant investment in biofuel as the first-mover, with flights in 2017 expected to utilise the fuel. “We are seeing the development of the aviation biofuel industry accelerate internationally but that is not yet the case for our region,” said Wood.

A 747 taking off uses about as much fuel as an average family car for a year, and wider than this, aviation is estimated to contribute just over 2 per cent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants, with additional problems from the emissions at altitude.

There have been a number of test flights flying on fuels as diverse as used cooking oil, to coconut oil, but due to costs, haven’t been pursued. At any one time, there are around 7,000 aircraft in the sky at any one point in time, significantly more while the USA is awake. Source:

Fossil of oldest pine tree discovered

Scientists have discovered the oldest-known fossil of a pine tree. The charred pine twigs date back 140 million years to a time when fires raged across large tracts of land. The research suggests the tree's evolution was shaped in the fiery landscape of the Cretaceous, where oxygen levels were much higher than today, fueling intense and frequent wildfires.

"Pines are well adapted to fire today," said Dr Howard Falcon-Lang of Royal Holloway, University of London, who discovered the fossils in Nova Scotia, Canada. "The fossils show that wildfires raged through the earliest pine forests and probably shaped the evolution of this important tree."

The specimens, which are described in Geology journal, were preserved as charcoal within rocks from a quarry. "It was only when I digested [the samples] in acid that these beautiful fossils fell out," Dr Falcon-Lang told BBC News. "They were sitting in my cupboard for five years before I actually worked out what was there."

The fossils are just a few mm long but probably came from trees resembling the Scots Pine that now cover large areas of Scotland. Pines are well adapted to fire, containing inflammable deadwood that makes them burn easily. They also produce cones that will only germinate after being scorched, ensuring a new generation of trees is seeded after the fire has passed by and other vegetation has been destroyed.

Scientists have debated for many years why some trees seem to thrive on wildfires. "One of the oddities about pine trees today is that they are one of the most fire adapted species on our planet," explained Dr Falcon-Lang.

"These oldest pine fossils are preserved as charcoal, the product of fire, suggesting that the co-occurrence of fire and pines is something that's very ancient, that goes back to the very origin of these first pine trees."

Source: BBC News

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Buy and Sell

...and one to end the week on .... artisanal drinking water

Because of the outstanding response to a video clip we ran a month or so ago on artisanal firewood, we’ve added another from the same series. It’s a quick look at Bill and Terry Timmy, Brooklyn-based makers of artisanal drinking water.

Carried overland by their own team of burros, the Timmy’s source water from around the globe to make their signature batches utilizing ancient, painstaking methods of filtration. They're introducing handcrafted water to the world with an almost pathological attention to craftsmanship and a thirst for helping people become less thirsty.

The Timmy’s represent either the pinnacle or nadir of the artisanal food movement.

And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
PO Box 904
Level Two, 2 Dowling Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 470 1902
Fax: +64 3 470 1904
Web page:

This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at

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