Friday Offcuts 30 August 2019
In the new technology space this week, we touch on a number of significant advances that have been made over the last 12 months with UAV platforms, data collection capabilities and operational applications. This includes a new technology that's going to be profiled at this year’s ForestTECH 2019 series that provides collision avoidance for drones, advanced autonomy and simultaneous localization and LiDAR mapping in challenging GPS-denied environments. With 3D printing, researchers have now been able to print with wood fibres (or cellulose) and produce a solid material that has the structure and qualities of natural wood. The idea here is that ultimately everything from packaging to furniture will be able to be produced as a finished product. It won’t have to be sawn, planed or lathed into a desired shape. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
From Australia we have an update on Cyrene. It’s a new non-toxic, bio-based solvent and it’s being manufactured in Tasmania from by-products out of the papermaking process. At the beginning of the year we detailed how the product had just been approved for sale in the EU. In the follow-up story this week, Cyrene is now reportedly being used part of a European project that's aimed at repowering old electric vehicle batteries. With the world’s electric car fleet now past 5 million and expected to reach 130 million by 2030, the products’ future looks bright with millions of tonnes of spent batteries expecting to need recycling.
A couple of weeks ago, we covered a story exploring the growth of automation and the change that this is having on employment. In most countries, robots and humans are already working alongside each other, in manufacturing as well as retail. By 2025, more than half of the total time spent on labour is expected to be handled by machines, according to the World Economic Forum's The Future of Jobs 2018 report. On the back of this story, one of our readers sent in a video clip showing robots and humans working alongside each other. It was taken two years ago. At this time, a Mercedes Benz car was being built – in wait for it - just 10 minutes.
And finally, you better believe it. There's a National Toilet Paper Day. What’s more, it was celebrated this week. Missed it huh? Apparently, it’s observed every year on 26 August. And if you’re right behind the cause (excuse the pun here), as a toilet paper consumer, there is a “wipe right” pledge (yes, you read that correctly) that you can check out and follow. And if you missed observing the day, to help you get into the spirit of the occasion, a number of suggestions including trying your hand at some toilegami or maybe a spot of TP-ing are supplied in this week’s story. And on that note, enjoy this week’s issue.
This week we have for you:
NZFFP acquires Claymark GroupThe board of NZ Future Forest Products Ltd (“NZFFP”) announced yesterday (29 July) that it has entered into a sale and purchase agreement to acquire 100% of Claymark Group Holdings Ltd (“Claymark”) from its controlling shareholder.
Claymark is a global leader in manufacturing high quality New Zealand radiata pine wood products. It has approximately 600 employees, operates six manufacturing sites in New Zealand and generates revenue of approximately NZ$185 million.
The transaction includes all of Claymark’s operations in New Zealand and the United States. It remains subject to certain conditions being satisfied prior to completion, which is expected to occur by 30th September 2019. Mark Clayton, who has led Claymark for 30 years, will be appointed as a non-executive director of NZFFP for 3 years as part of the transaction.
NZFFP managing director, David Henry, says: “We are very pleased to announce this acquisition. Claymark is rightly considered to be one of New Zealand’s most successful wood exporters, with value-added products provided to international markets and well-established brand recognition amongst its customers for its precision approach to manufacturing. These characteristics are essential to NZFFP’s corporate ethos”.
“The board of NZFFP welcomes Mark’s expertise as a non-executive director as we undertake significant investment to increase efficiencies and production at Claymark to ensure that we satisfy increasing global demand for its products. NZFFP is committed to retaining the Claymark brand, maintaining its reputation for quality products and expanding its international export presence.”
Log prices rise after last month's tumbleLog prices in NZ have improved slightly, after falling to their lowest level in four years. In July a backlog of imports into China, a downturn in demand, and nervousness over its trade war with the United States pushed prices down about 25 per cent to their lowest point in four years.
AgriHQ forestry analyst Reece Brick said A-grade logs, which were considered the benchmark grade, had for six months been sitting around $150 - $145 per JASm3 (Japanese Agricultural Standard cubic metre), but in the space of two weeks fell sharply to $105.
Mr Brick said the wider forestry industry was still feeling the strain from the recent Chinese log price re-adjustment. But he said prices had recovered slightly, helped by a small decrease in port-level inventories. Latest figures from August showed A-grade log prices were now sitting at $110 per JASm3.
Mr Brick said while it was hard to quantify, it was estimated there had been a 20 per cent drop-off in harvesting while some in the industry opted to wait for prices to improve. Most of the people that have stopped harvesting now are those with woodlots planted 25-30 years ago and who are looking to cash.
"They can only really make money in one go. The bigger companies, which have constant harvesting rotations, they're just going to keep on going as per usual more or less."
Mr Brick believed those in the sector were cautiously optimistic that prices would start picking up in the short term, although they were still a long way from the record high levels seen earlier in 2019.
"Volumes leaving New Zealand shores are already tightening, which is expected to impact on China from September/October, when Chinese log use usually increases. This is creating some level of confidence that the market should rise from here to the end of the year," he said.
NZ logging contractors feeling the pinchNZ logging contractors are letting staff go or are working on reduced hours after the sudden fall in log prices earlier this year, and some are having trouble meeting their loan repayments on capital equipment, the Forest Industry Contractors Association said.
The association, which has 200 members who are responsible for about 75 per cent of the annual harvest, said the sudden fall had caught many unawares. Many forest owners have put their harvest on hold in the hope that prices will soon recover.
Chief executive Prue Younger said about 20 per cent of the association's membership had made workers redundant, were working on reduced hours, or were struggling to make capital repayments on their equipment. About 3000 people are employed by the association's members, which tend to be the bigger contractors. Each member has one to eight crews, and each crew comprises eight to 10 people.
The sector is no stranger to market downturns - there have been three over the last 20 years, but Younger said this one is different. "It's such a rapid drop this time," she told the Herald. New Zealand log prices in China have improved a little after slumping earlier in the year on the back of reduced demand. "A" grade logs last traded at US$112 per JAS metre after last month hitting a low of US$105/metre. Still, they remain well short of the US$140/metre achieved this time last year after a five-year-long run of strong prices.
Younger said labour shortages and an increased emphasis on health and safety had led contractors to invest heavily in capital equipment in recent years. As an example, so called "processing heads" - which do the job once done by people with chainsaws cutting logs to length - sell for $1 million apiece.
She said the downturn would "take out" a number of smaller players - particularly those catering for woodlot plantations. The hardest hit regions were the ones with little or no sawmilling facilities, such as Eastland and parts of Taranaki.
"A lot of contractors are losing their men because they can't hold on to them - they can't continue to pay them," she said. "Now they are losing them to other industries. "We doubt that we will get them back - it's been such a rapid drop this time.
"Because contracts have been cut, it means they can't pay guys or meet capital repayment obligations on their equipment." Younger said the sector had been quite buoyant for the last 10 years, so many players were ill prepared for the sudden fall in prices.
Source: NZ Herald
UAV advancements for forest inventoryEvery year, over 250 resource managers, remote sensing, GIS and mapping specialists, inventory foresters and technology providers from throughout Australasia (and more recently SE Asia) meet up at the annual ForestTECH technology series. Since 2007, it’s the one event every year that’s run in both Australia and New Zealand focussing on this particular part of the forestry industry.
In a recent issue of Friday Offcuts, we outlined how one of the presenters at the November technology series, US company, DroneSeed, are employing swarms of UAV’s (or drones) to automate tree planting and spraying operations for a number of major North American forest management companies. A number of other significant technology advances have been made over the last 12 months with an array of new UAV platforms, data collection capabilities and operational applications.
New technology, Hovermap, is now allowing collision avoidance for drones, advanced autonomy and SLAM-based LiDAR mapping in challenging GPS-denied environments.
Work is also currently underway in both Australia and New Zealand to develop autonomous, unmanned aerial systems for mapping the forest from beneath the canopy. The purpose here is to develop a system to provide a mapping solution for areas of dense undergrowth and dense canopy, where ground-based methods are difficult or hazardous and above canopy methods struggle to penetrate to the stems.
These presentations along with recent work on beyond visual line of sight for UAV’s, using machine learning for tree counting and tree detection from UAV collected data and recent operational trials to evaluate post planting seedling survival with UAV’s form part of the ForestTECH 2019 series this year.
The ForestTECH 2019 series this year runs in Melbourne, Australia on 13-14 November and then again in Rotorua, New Zealand on 19-20 November 2019. Details can be found on the event website; www.foresttech.events.
NZ Council writes off $800k on timber millThe Northland Regional Council is facing a loss of NZ$800k after investing in a timber mill at Marsden Point. The council lent the money to Resource Enterprises Limited, or REL, in 2014, from its investment funds.
REL ceased trading in 2017 and has not paid its last two quarterly interest payments. Council chief executive Malcolm Nicholson said the council had invested in REL in the hope of stimulating Northland's economy after the Global Financial Crisis.
"The decision to invest was not made lightly; investigation and due diligence was done including advice from a reputable forestry consultancy." Northland was still emerging from a recession at the time and the council had been keen to support initiatives to create employment and add value to Northland logs being sent overseas for processing, he said.
Another council source said REL was set up with state-of-the-art equipment that squared-off the logs, making them cheaper to transport, and the company had markets for both the slabs and flitches in Saudi Arabia and India. But as log prices soared, the company's hopes of profits had faded.
"Local log prices rose about 40 percent from 2014, drastically reducing REL's ability to secure the logs it needed at a competitive price," Mr Nicholson said. The NZ$800k loss to the council was regrettable and disappointing, but would not hit Northland ratepayers directly in the pocket, he said.
Source & Photo: rnz.co.nz
Australian paper mill producing cyreneA Tasmanian made by-product of paper waste is being used in Europe to repower old electric vehicle batteries. Earlier this year, the Norske Skog Boyer paper mill began producing Cyrene, a non-toxic solvent made from by-products of the papermaking process.
The bio-based solvent is being produced at an on-site plant at Boyer, in a joint venture between Norske Skog and the Circa Group, to replace harmful solvents used in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The product is being used as part of the Reclamation, Remanufacture of Lithium Ion Batteries project funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Faraday Battery Challenge — a European initiative aimed at creating cost-effective, recyclable car batteries.
And with the world’s electric car fleet now past 5 million and expected to reach 130 million by 2030, it is predicted millions of tonnes of spent batteries will need recycling. In 2015, the State Government provided AU$1.5 million towards the construction of the plant with the funding later matched by a Federal Government investment.
FSC Australia CEO stepping downThe Forest Stewardship Council Australia announces that Sara Gipton will step down as Chief Executive Officer at the end of September. Sara has played a critical role in FSC Australia’s successes over the past two years, including the finalisation, launch, and implementation of the Australian National Forest Stewardship Standard.
Sara also oversaw the finalisation the Australian National Risk Assessment for sourcing controlled wood, released in 2019, and the New Zealand Centralised National Risk Assessment, which is soon to be completed. As convenor of the FSC Australia Indigenous Working Group, Sara also reinvigorated FSC’s engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Sara has made great progress in building the market for FSC certified products in Australia. Under her leadership, FSC Australia formed a group of prominent Australian retailers and B2B brands with the shared goal of raising awareness of FSC in Australia.
FSC Australia Chair, Amanda Naismith reflected on Sara’s contribution to the organisation, “Sara has been a dedicated CEO, her strengths in finance and governance have been particularly beneficial and are reflected in the successes of the organisation over the past two years. We thank Sara for her outstanding efforts and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.”
FSC Australia are in the process of recruiting a new CEO. During this period, activities will continue as per the normal course of operations.
Source: FSC Australia
3D-printing breakthrough for printing wooden productsSeveral years ago, we heard how scientists from Sweden's Chalmers University had created a 3D-printing medium made from wood fibre. Now, they've developed a new method of printing with it, producing solid material with the structure and qualities of natural wood.
The original material took the form of a nanocellulose gel – this means it contained tiny cellulose fibres, which were obtained from wood pulp. And while a variety of objects could conceivably be printed from it, they would lack the porosity, toughness and torsional strength of actual wood.
Recently, however, the researchers added a new ingredient: hemicellulose, which is a natural component of plant cells. This boosted the strength of the gel, acting as a glue to help hold the cellulose fibres together.
Additionally, they digitized the genetic code of natural wood, then used that code to instruct a 3D printer that was printing with the newly-improved gel. As a result, they were able to precisely control the arrangement of the nanofibers during the printing process, creating simple items that were not only made of wood fibre, but that also had the "ultrastructure" of real wood.
It is hoped that the technology could ultimately be used to create everything from packaging to furniture, which would be made of pre-formed parts that didn't have to be sawn, planed or lathed into the desired shapes. Additionally, because the technology could utilize cellulose obtained from forestry industry waste – or plant-derived cellulose that didn't even come from wood – it would likely reduce the number of trees that needed to be cut down.
And what's more, the 3D-printed "wood" could in some cases take the place of less eco-friendly materials such as petroleum-based plastics.
"This is a breakthrough in manufacturing technology," says Prof. Paul Gatenholm, lead scientist on the project. "It allows us to move beyond the limits of nature, to create new sustainable, green products. It means that those products which today are already forest-based can now be 3D-printed, in a much shorter time."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Applied Materials Today.
Source: Chalmers University
Look inside a Mercedes production lineIncredible. A Mercedes built in 10 minutes with Robots from inside the Mercedes Factory, May 2017.
Record cargo volumes for Port of TaurangaPort of Tauranga lifted annual net profit 6.7 percent on record cargo volumes with sales rising 10.4 percent. Net profit for the year ended June was NZ$100.6 million compared with NZ$94.3 million the previous year on sales of NZ$313.3 million.
The port, which is 54 percent owned by the investment arm of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, handled more than 26.9 million tonnes of cargo, up 10.2 percent, with container volumes growing 4.3 percent to more than 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalents (TEUs).
Exports through the port rose 11.2 percent to 17.1 million tonnes in the latest year while imports rose 8.4 percent to 9.8 million tonnes. Log exports were up 12.5 percent at 7.1 million tonnes but the port says that trend isn't expected to continue in the short-term because of falling log prices in June following a drop in demand from China, New Zealand's biggest log export market.
Sawn timber exports rose 5.4 percent by volume and overall forestry-related exports rose 10 percent. Ship visits fell 3.9 percent to 1,678 for the year but the average size of vessels continues to increase. Port chair David Pilkington says an 11.2 percent increase in transhipments points to the company’s “success in becoming New Zealand’s major international port.”
Transhipments, where containers are transferred from one service to another, have been growing significantly since 2016 when Port of Tauranga completed its NZ$350 million capacity expansion programme to accommodate bigger container ships. They now account for 32.1 percent of containers handled.
“Wipe Right” on National Toilet Paper DayThe Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is urging American consumers to mark National Toilet Paper Day by pledging to use recycled toilet paper or “wipe right” to save more than one million trees from the tree-to-toilet pipeline.
“The tragic Amazon fires burning right now show how fragile the world’s forests really are,” said Shelley Vinyard, Boreal Corporate Campaign Manager at NRDC. “If every American switched one roll of toilet paper made from trees to a roll made from 100% recycled materials, we could save over 1 million trees, which are critical to meeting the world’s goals for avoiding catastrophic climate change. It would also show companies it’s time for them to stop flushing our trees down the toilet.”
Many major toilet paper brands are made with 100% pulp from ancient trees and old-growth forests, like the Canadian boreal forest, with zero recycled materials. More than 1 million acres of the Canadian boreal are clear-cut each year – that’s more than seven National Hockey League (NHL) rinks a minute – threatening hundreds of Indigenous communities, iconic boreal caribou and billions of migratory birds, all of which call this ancient forest home. On top of that, recycled toilet paper has one-third the carbon footprint of toilet paper made from trees, such as Procter & Gamble’s Charmin.
NRDC’s goal is to reach 100,000 pledges to wipe right for the environment and use recycled toilet paper. After people take the pledge, NRDC will send important information, resources and tips that will help people become a more conscious toilet paper consumer.
To help celebrate the day, suggestions to help mark the occasion are given here.
Potential for active Australian bushfire seasonThe 2019/20 fire season has the potential to be an active season across Australia, following on from a very warm and dry start to the year. Due to these conditions, the east coast of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as parts of southern Western Australia and South Australia, face above normal fire potential.
The Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook: August 2019 shows fire potential across Australia over the coming months. Above normal bushfire potential refers to the ability of a large fire to take hold when you take into consideration the recent and predicted weather for a particular area, the dryness of the land and forests, recent fire history and local firefighting resources.
The Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook August 2019 is used by fire authorities to make strategic decisions on resource planning and prescribed fire management for the upcoming fire season. The outlook is developed at an annual workshop convened by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC. The workshop discussed the weather, landscape conditions and cross-border implications leading into summer and determined areas that had the potential for a fire season that was above normal, normal or below normal.
The Outlook map shows the bushfire outlook for Australia through to the end of 2019. This map has been combined with the outlook for the northern Australia bushfire season, which was released in July, to show the areas of fire potential for all of Australia. This Outlook will be reviewed towards the end of spring to take into account the impacts of actual temperatures and rainfall in the lead up to summer.
For further details, click here
Source: Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC
Tōtara Industry Pilot project unveil detailsProject partners running a two-year study into the viability of a Northland tōtara timber industry have unveiled a new website ( www.totaraindustry.co.nz) to explain the project and its social, economic and environmental objectives.
Tōtara timber from Northland farms is being harvested selectively under a ‘continuous cover forestry’ model and milled as part of a two-year project to assess whether the native tree can be managed sustainably for commercial use.
The Tōtara Industry Pilot (TIP) project will assess the forest resource; harvest and process up to 500m³ of farm-tōtara logs; collect data and research results from drying studies and trials; conduct milling trials, product and market testing; and develop and analyse the business case for a regional tōtara timber industry.
The vision behind the project is of a regional industry based on the sustainable management of regenerating farm-tōtara and summarised by the vision statement ‘he tōtara tuturu, he iwi tū tonu’, or ‘sturdy tōtara, sustainable communities’.
TIP maintains that a successful tōtara industry will see the sustainable management of existing regenerating forest and scrubland and encourage the planting of new areas, increasing the area of native forest on private land.
The new website features a video explaining the TIP project, an overview of its objectives, a section explaining the various workstreams, an overview of the organisations involved, a comprehensive question and answer section, and a collection of resources that will be useful to anyone wanting to familiarise themselves with the project’s progress and some of the academic thinking behind it.
“We understand that there will be some concerns expressed about harvesting native trees,” Dr Dunningham said. “So, we’re doing what we can to outline our work and explain clearly exactly what we are trying to achieve. And, perhaps more importantly, what we aren’t.”
... and some to end the week on ... the american astronaut
An American astronaut has an emergency during his re-entry into earth's atmosphere and his space craft crash-lands in the Australian bush, way out in the middle of nowhere.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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