Friday Offcuts 10 June 2022
Just out of curiosity - and for a bit of Friday nostalgia – we’ve dug into the archives to see what was news in those first few issues – 17 years ago. Included in the June 2005 issues were; Weyerhaeuser Australia's Tumut sawmill was planning to spend AU$20 million to boost the mill’s log capacity by 50 percent to 750,000 cubic metres, Boral timber had just paid AU$25 million to acquire NSW timber businesses Fennings Timber and Davis & Herbert, the NZ Forest Owners Association president Peter Berg was criticising the government's Kyoto policies of the time and a new forestry lobby group, the Kyoto Forestry Association, had just announced they’d be launching a NZ$2 million advertising campaign (it was an election year at the time) to bring the Government back into line for “stealing” forest owners carbon credits. For the older readers amongst you, this brings back memories. Now, back into stories breaking for the week ending 10 June 2022.
As we get right into planting season, we cover this week a couple of stories related to developments around automating forest establishment. Work on an autonomous tree planting machine, AutoPlant, appears still to be ongoing with more trials of the autonomous base unit and a prototype of the planting head taking place right now. Funding has also just been secured by the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden,“Skogforsk”, to develop a remote-controlled scarifier. The project’s expected to finish up in 2024. As we’ve reported on recently (further details can be found on www.foresttech.news), with trials on drone thinning and robotic pruning underway, there are numerous projects on the go right now designed to free up hard to get labour by automating forest establishment and silvicultural operations.
Building on early trial results and commercial operations with mechanised planting in New Zealand, the ForestTECH 2022 event has been set up for November of this year. Details this week have been posted onto the event website. This time, conferences, exhibitions, workshops and meetings have been set up for local resource and inventory foresters, those involved in forest establishment and tree crop managers in both New Zealand and Australia - and in person.
As well as a raft of remote sensing innovations being employed out in the forest, the programme this year is going to include results from mechanised planting trials being undertaken by forest companies across Australasia this planting season. In addition, insights into innovative nursery, planting and silvicultural developments from three of three larger South American forest companies, CMPC and Forestal Arauco from Chile and Cenibra, Brazil have been included. Further information on the event and content is contained in the story below. And that’s it for this week.
This week we have for you:
Development of a remote-controlled scarifierThe Forestry Research Institute of Sweden, “Skogforsk”, has received funding to develop a remote-controlled scarifier. The goal is to bring the technology of remote-controlled forest machines closer to reality.
The choice of a scarifier for this project is because it’s easier to control compared to other types of forest machines. Scarifiers operate in an environment where most trees have been removed which makes communication between the machine and a remotely placed operator much easier. The interaction with the machine is also less intensive as no crane is being used during operation.
Furthermore, a scarifier normally offers an inconvenient working environment for the operator as vibrations are worse than in a forwarder or a harvester. This is because the scarifier operator must operate in straight lines and cannot avoid obstacles in the same way as with e.g., a forwarder.
“A scarifier must cover the whole site, also difficult terrain,” Martin Englund at Skogforsk explains. “If the operator instead can control the machine remotely it should be a great improvement of the working environment for the operator. In the long run, it could also mean that simpler and cheaper machines could be used as there will be no need for advanced systems for e.g., cab-damping,” he concludes.
The project covers many areas
The project includes several knowledge and development areas where progress contributes to making remote-controlled scarifying possible. Among other things, relay stations will be developed and evaluated for improved coverage of radio communication. Different operator support systems will also be looked at to cover the operator’s need for information.
Another part of the project is to find out how driving in the terrain is affected by remote-controlling and if, and how, a digital planning tool could be helpful in route planning. The study, which starts now and ends in 2024, will end with a demonstration where the machine will be controlled by an operator from an operator’s cabin close to the working site.
Sometimes I think it’s a pity that the forestry machine business is so small. Compared to construction machinery or trucks, the volumes that we are talking about in forest machines are ridiculously small. This means that the incentive to invest in development is smaller compared to other types of vehicles. E.g., self-driving trucks have been underway for a long time now.
As for forestry machines, we have seen machines like the Beast & the Courier, both machine systems that actually work. And then of course the ongoing projects with the Autoplant and the autonomous machine concept. Not to mention the AirForestry project which is both remote-controlled and very exciting.
I have mentioned it before, and I still believe that the technology is there. It’s the money that’s missing. What´s positive is that there seem to be many projects going on simultaneously for the moment, which hopefully means that something will come out of it soon.
ForestTECH November 2022 details now outStarting in 2007, every year, over 300 forest resource managers, remote sensing, GIS and mapping specialists, inventory foresters and technology providers to this part of the industry from throughout Australasia (and more recently, North and South America, Europe and SE Asia) have met up. It’s the annual ForestTECH series.
For 15 years now, it’s been the one forest technology event every year that’s run in both New Zealand and Australia. For the last few years, foresters from 15-20 different countries have also been participating. The word is getting around - it’s now well and truly recognised internationally as one of the leading forestry remote sensing events being run, anywhere in the world.
Since 2020, the cross over between new data collection technologies for forest estate reporting and operational planning and precision forestry innovations around forest establishment and tree crop management have meant that these two major themes have been combined into the one single event.
Overwhelmingly, feedback from delegates attending ForestTECH 2020 and ForestTECH 2021-22 have told us to stay with the same two themes for the region’s next technology update, ForestTECH 2022. With key players across Australasia, North and South America and Europe, the ForestTECH 2022 programme has been designed and posted onto the event website.
For the first time in three years in Australia, and two years in New Zealand, the plan is to get the ForestTECH communities together in person in both countries as well as setting up virtual opportunities for the growing number of international foresters, forest managers and tree establishment and silvicultural operators that link in each year.
Again, the very latest developments around remote sensing, data capture, forest inventory, tree establishment, automated silviculture and mechanised planting will form the basis of this year’s technology update – as well as research and trial results, new and developing technologies and key lessons from industry on the integration of this new technology into forest operations. Some key presentations include;
1. Trial results and key lessons from 2022 commercial mechanised planting operations with pine and eucalypts in Australia
2. Results from 2022 trials using hydrogels at the time of planting to extend the planting season
3. Insights into how mechanised planting machines are being employed across steeper slopes in South America. After developing and improving the equipment in Brazilian conditions in eucalyptus forests, a fleet of mechanised planters are expected to be operational this year
4. How GPS planting spades being used commercially this year have performed
5. New Scandinavian mechanised planting systems being used in Sweden and North America
6. Innovations in GNSS. Recent advances in satellite-based corrections to assist in field mapping, data capture and activity reporting
7. Commercial use of hyperspectral imagery (SWIR and NIR) in Forestal Arauco Chilean forests and nursery operations
Full details on the programme for ForestTECH 2022 can be now found on the event website. Further information will follow.
Four land sales approved for overseas investorsNew Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office has approved the sale of a further four farms to overseas investors to plant into forestry. Each month the office released decisions made under the Special Forestry Test, which was introduced in 2018 to encourage more tree planting.
The government announced it would end the test to help ensure the right forest is planted in the right place. This months’ Overseas Investment Office (OIO) decision outlined the sale of four farms including the sale of a 1100 hectare sheep and beef farm in Waimumu, near Gore, to dutch company Ingka Investments - a parent company of furniture giant IKEA.
The company intended to convert the farm into a Radiata pine plantation forest. Last month the company bought Stoneridge Farm in the Hawke's Bay, which had 41 hectares of existing forest. The majority of the farm would be planted in rotation forest in the next two years with harvest taking place in 27 to 30 years.
Other decisions just released by the OIO include the sale of Te Papa Station, a sheep and beef farm in Ormond Gisborne. It was sold to Canadian company Forestry Investments Limited for NZ$6,8 million.
Totara Forestry Services Limited acquired Glentui Station an 850 hectare sheep and beef breeding operation in Tolaga Bay, 550 hectares of which would be planted as rotational forest. Austrian company Cerberus Vermogensverwaltung was approved for Birch Hill, a 1500 hectare farm in South Wairarapa.
Planting trees outside the normal planting seasonNewly published research by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service into tree planting will provide some welcome solutions to problems foresters and planters are all too familiar with.
“The research has enabled us to come up with strategies to successfully plant trees outside of the normal planting season, and also have a better understanding of how to safely hold back trees in nurseries without impacting the quality,” says Emily Telfer, Programme Delivery Manager, Forest Science at Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service.
Tree planting is normally carried out in the middle of the year, with significant work required in nurseries leading up to winter to prepare a crop of trees and by landowners to prepare sites for planting. “The yearly forestry planting cycle follows a sequential series of steps and is driven by biology, so the research set out to look at what mitigations can be utilised when the sequence is disrupted.”
Managing disruptions to a planting season, site maintenance when planting is delayed, and ‘right tree, right place’ in an extended planting season were some of the topics covered in the research, which was commissioned in response to the COVID-19 lockdown and the potential disruptions to One Billion Trees planting projects and the wider sector.
Emily Telfer says while the bulk of the research was undertaken as a response to the disruptions caused by Covid-19, the outcome is a package of new understanding which will be invaluable for tree planting in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“Disruptions to a planting season can have major implications, especially when you consider nurseries are carrying 50-60 million seedlings heading into a planting season to meet planting demands. “If we need to delay plants leaving the nursery, there are a number of techniques which nurseries can use to keep plants in good health until the time they can be dispatched and planted.”
The research explored innovative approaches to manage sites that are unable to be planted in a season, including ways of increasing site fertility to increase the success and health of trees once they are able to be planted. Among the options looked at were the potential to apply nutrient rich waste like treated dairy shed effluent and wastewater, and site preparations that made the most of existing slash to protect new trees from drying wind.
The One Billion Trees Science Extension team, in partnership with the Canopy Website team has summarised the key research findings into easy-to-read factsheets. The factsheets are based on work by researchers at Manaaki Whenua, Scion and Tane’s Tree Trust, and are available at Canopy.govt.nz
Source: Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service
Assessing CO2 sequestration from forestry projectsFormer Teagasc worker Enda Keane had ambitious plans for his forestry software company Treemetrics, which facilitates the auction and measurement of forests.
He wanted to more than double his workforce and boost revenues from €1m to €40m by the end of 2022. Then a pandemic, a war, and soaring inflation scuppered these goals. “The Covid pandemic had a huge impact globally on forestry. The forest industry just stopped. And now there’s this huge issue of lack of supply. So now you’ve got this situation in forestry where lumber has become crazy expensive,” said Mr Keane.
While much of the forestry activity halted in the pandemic, it gave Mr Keane time to alter his 18-year-old business. He realised among the biggest challenges for forestry was climate change, but it also provided a business opportunity.
“We’ve got many challenges with climate change killing our trees, we’ve got this ever-increasing demand for wood, the ever-increasing demand to plant new trees,” said Mr Keane. “It’s a really, really difficult period that we’re facing. We’re tiptoeing in the direction of environmental catastrophe,” he said.
Treemetrics provides its clients, which include Coillte and the World Bank, with ways to become carbon neutral by facilitating the sale of forests to corporate companies for carbon credits.
“Landowners and forest owners are getting paid per tonne of carbon that the forest captures. The price of carbon credits is increasing week on week, because of the increasing demand from corporates,” said Mr Keane. More and more companies are looking to buy carbon credits to help offset their emissions, but some critics say it is hard to accurately assess how much carbon dioxide has been sequestered by forestry projects.
Mr Keane is hoping Treemetrics can bridge that gap in over 40 countries using its services. “We built a process where we would help the forest owners and the buyers of the carbon to verify how many hectares of trees do you actually have. We have to verify that the trees actually exist and that they’re growing at a certain rate and that they are capturing the amount of carbon that people are claiming,” he said.
The company uses satellite images, through its contract with the European Space Agency over the last decade, to quantify the number of trees in a forest. Then it uses software to calculate the weight of carbon being captured.
Treemetrics is also focused on sustainable forest management. It is working on developing a tool for this with the ESA which has just been launched. “Sustainable forest management is about trying to get more timber produced from less trees,” said Mr Keane.
Details on this week's launch of Treemetrics new platform for climate – smart forest management and forest carbon certification can be viewed here.
Source: irishexaminer, Treemetrics
Australian building industry facing shakedownSome of Australia’s biggest businesses in the construction industry are in the throes of crisis.
Smaller operators including Pivotal Homes, Privium, Hotondo Homes Hobart, Home Innovation Builders and New Sensation Homes, as well as Sydney-based firm Next have also collapsed, leaving homeowners in limbo with unfinished houses and whispers of price gouging and possible breaches of directorial duties floating about.
The Reserve Bank of Australia’s bigger than expected jump in the cash rate of 50 basis points to 0.85 per cent on Tuesday will only spook the market further. Housing prices are already on the way down and forecast to fall further, which will increasingly erode market confidence.
On the past two years the cost of building a new house has increased by about AU$76,715, with average construction expenses exceeding AU$400,000 for the first time, The AFR reported.
The reasons behind this are rising costs of materials thanks to shortages of materials and labour – causing expensive delays after the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, not to mention government stimulus that directly targeted the housing sector.
Accusations of price gouging are floating about. In May, South Australian government minister for housing and urban development Nick Champion with the support of Master Builders SA, wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, asking it intervene in increased building costs and their impact on housing affordability.
Source: The Fifth Estate
AutoPlant – is this going to be planting this year?In February last year, Forestry.com wrote about the AutoPlant project, an autonomous planting machine. We also covered it in a February 2021 issue of Friday Offcuts. Now, over a year has passed and the planting season is here again. Can we count on the AutoPlant this year?
You may have noticed dear reader, that mechanized planting is something I find interesting. It´s not only because I used to work as a salesman for planting equipment. It´s even more because I think that planting is a heavy and important job that deserves more attention than it gets. I mean, it´s over 50 years ago that tree falling was mechanized, and that job wasn´t as heavy (and boring) as planting.
Well, as usual, it´s all about the money. For many, planting is a necessary evil that would never happen if it wasn´t regulated by law. Unlike falling, planting doesn´t bring any direct income and is less “important” to many.
AutoPlant – What´s new?
So, a project like the AutoPlant is good even if it turns up now because of the cheap labour from other countries we have been used to have discovered that they can make more money in other jobs. However, the answer to the question above is: No, we can´t count on the AutoPlant this planting season. It´s still far away, but it´s moving forward.
At Sweden Innovation Days at the Expo 2022 in Dubai earlier this year, the AutoPlant was presented by Skogforsk, the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden. It looks promising though it, as commonly in the research World(?), is a lot of talk for the moment. Nice words about the future and the importance of the project.
But, yes, it is promising because there is a prototype of an autonomous base unit and a prototype of the planting head, both up and running, just not together – yet. More trials of both will take place during the spring and summer. In September field tests with the combination of the two are planned. That will be the first time the complete concept of an autonomous planter will be tested.
Will the manual planter ever be replaced by machines?
The eternal question. Will it ever happen? We have asked this question several times but so far, no real breakthrough for mechanized planting in the northern hemisphere is in sight. In the South American plantations, it’s moving faster. But plantation forestry is more like agriculture meaning that other types of machines could be used which makes the mechanization easier.
The combination of rough terrain, sturdy machines, and small plants is difficult to handle. All attempts to use small machines for this purpose have failed due to low efficiency and the terrain. Yet another issue is the planting spot itself. What should it look like? If you ask researchers, it should be designed in one way. If you ask forest owners and foresters, you get a variety of suggestions. Who decides what´s right? What should be considered? Should the public be considered?
Before it´s decided what a planting spot should look like it´s difficult to design a machine that can make one. And if the machine should be flexible, being able to make different kinds of spots, it becomes even more complicated.
Native logging ban impacts on forestry familiesA decision to end native logging in Western Australia is "bitterly disappointing" for the Dawson family, who are facing what could be the end of their business after 40 years in forestry. Bernie Dawson says he has tried to "insulate" his dad from the stress his family has experienced since the WA government last year announced a ban on native logging from 2024.
"[My brother] Daryl and I have had to sit down and have a real man-to-man discussion with our families," Mr Dawson said. "What are we going to do? What will there be for us come 2024?"
The Dawson family's Donnybrook business is one of multiple WA companies facing the end of an era when the last jarrah and marri logs are felled commercially in 2023. The state government says it is investing in a new future for forestry, with Premier Mark McGowan pledging AU$350 million for the expansion of softwood forestry — primarily pine plantations — to address looming timber shortages in the future.
It has also set aside AU$80 million to help affected businesses. But questions remain about the viability of expanding the softwood industry, and the supply of timber to WA — and the rest of Australia – since both native hardwoods and softwoods are in increasingly short supply.
Premier and Minister tour OneFortyOne operationsOneFortyOne CEO Andy Giles Knopp welcomed the opportunity to host the South Australian Premier on a tour of the Jubilee Sawmill and a plantation harvesting site, and the Minister for Forest Industries at the Glencoe Nursery. Andy said that the newly elected Premier and Minister for Forest Industries had a great understanding of the opportunity and the potential of forest industries from seedlings through to finished timber products.
“It was an honour to have Premier Peter Malinauskas, together with Minister for Forest Industries Clare Scriven and their guests experience our business and discuss our commitment to the industry and the community.” Andy said he was excited and optimistic for the future with the State Government’s interest in the industry remaining strong post-election.
“We support the recent policy and budget commitments which will assist the industry to sustainably grow plantation trees and manufacture timber products that are used by Australians every day. Strong government support is a critical step for the industry’s growth.” The ongoing collaboration between Government and industry is making a significant impact. The work undertaken by the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub and the South Australian Forest Products Association continues to drive us forward.”
OneFortyOne has invested close to AU$50 million into the Jubilee Sawmill since 2018, with another AU$11 million planned for the Drymill over the next two years as part of its modernisation program. Jubilee Sawmill General Manager Paul Hartung said the site tour highlighted these investments and OneFortyOne’s connection to the region.
“It was great to show Premier Malinauskas, Minister Scriven and other guests through the Jubilee Sawmill, one of the largest mills in Australia. We are a significant regional employer, with over 300 people working at the mill, and it is awesome for our team to be able to showcase some of our upgrades, from the Continuous Drying Kilns through to the robotic pack wrapper,” Paul said.
“These investments ensure our mill is progressive and efficient. To make best use of wood fibre we need highly skilled current and future teams. For this reason, we focus on development and training as well as bringing younger people into the industry.” Further investment has been committed to Glencoe Nursery, with AU$7 million going towards upgrades to improve efficiency, capacity, and working conditions for employees and contractors.
Nursery Manager Craig Torney said the tour was a chance for Minister Scriven to see the nursery in action at one of the busiest times of the year. “We’ve just started despatching seedlings with the commencement of the planting season, so there was plenty of action for our guests to see.”
“Earthworks for our upgrades have begun, with construction to begin later in the year.” “In 2021 this nursery produced over 8.5 million seedlings for OneFortyOne and other forest growers. The investment will help us grow an additional 4 million container seedlings every year.”
Photo: Minister for Forest Industries Clare Scriven with Nursery Manager Craig Torney
Chinese demand drives global trade of woodchipsIn 2021, the world’s shipments of wood chips reached almost 35 million m3, close to the highest on record. Significant expansion of pulp capacity in China combined with a lack of domestic wood fibre has driven the global increase in traded wood chips over the past decade (see chart). About four-fifths of the trade was hardwood chips in 2021, predominantly destined for pulp mills in Asia, while the remaining volume was softwood chips.
According to the Wood Resource Quarterly, importation to China reached a new record-high of 14.8 million odmt in 2021, a 12 % increase from the previous year. This rise was a continuation of an unprecedented upward trend that started in 2008 when China imported only one million odmt. During the first four months of 2022, China’s wood fibre demand continued to rise and was 10% higher than during the same period in 2021, accounting for 56% of the world’s hardwood chip imports.
Outside of China, the trade of wood chips has been relatively stable over the past ten years, ranging between 19-21 million tons annually, except for 2020, when total shipments fell to just over 17 million tons. This decline is attributable to the short-term supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 rather than a change in forest production trends. In early 2022, total imports to Asia (excluding China) and Europe were practically unchanged from 2021.
When the investments in large-scale pulp mills in China began to take place in 2008, the preferred wood fibre was predominantly lower-cost and lower-quality Acacia wood chips from Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. This started to change in 2013-2014 when pulp mills saw the cost and quality benefits of using higher density wood chips such as Eucalyptus Nitens and Eucalyptus Globulus from Australia and Chile.
As a result, from 2012 to 2017, the high-yield fibre share of total imports dramatically increased from 11% to 47% of the total import volume. However, in 2018, this five-year rise in market share levelled off and fell during 2019-2022 to only 30% in the 1Q/22. With the supply of hardwood fibre becoming tighter around the Pacific Rim, the fibre sourcing by Chinese pulp mills will likely continue to evolve, including the possibility of new regions coming into play.
Source: Wood Resource Quarterly
New Forests completes acquisition of over 100,000 acresAcquisition sees New Forests become second largest private land manager in California
New Forests has announced the purchase on behalf of institutional investors of an approximately 108,000-acre forestry estate in Northern California from The Michigan-California Timber Company (MCTC).
The estate consists of productive mixed conifers, including fir and pine, in the Mount Shasta region, and presents significant opportunities for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber production, management for carbon stock protection and atmospheric carbon removal, along with continued wildlife habitat protection.
This estate is proximate to over 315,000 acres of existing forestry assets managed by New Forests in Northern California. New Forests has deployed around $500 million to date on behalf of its clients in US sustainable forestry assets and is now the second largest private land manager in California.
Source: New Forests
North Coast wood supply contracts extendedTimber processors on the flood-affected NSW North Coast have been given certainty to invest in their businesses and equipment, following the NSW Nationals in the state government’s announcement of a five-year extension to existing wood supply agreements.
Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the additional five-year deal has aligned the expiry date for all timber supply contracts right across the region, and confirmed the government’s support for the hardwood timber sector.
“Most agreements on the North Coast were due to end in 2023, while others run through to 2028, but now these critical timber mills have all been put on the same timeline to help provide investment and business certainty,” Mr Toole said.
“The timber industry plays a critical role on the North Coast and employs hundreds of locals, so extending the current agreements will help future-proof local processors, whether they’re a small family business or a larger operator,” Mr Toole said.
“This brings immediate relief to the local industry, which generates about AU$349 million each year, and is a timely manufacturing boost for the hardwood products that are processed here.”
Source: NSW Nationals
Ponsse impacted by Ukraine conflictPonsse Plc is inviting its personnel to cooperation negotiations pursuant to the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings. The negotiations concern adaptations to the current situation. The needs for adaptations are related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting stoppage in exports to Russia, the significant increase in manufacturing costs, and the decrease in profitability and cash flows. Challenges involving the availability of components have also increased operational risks and uncertainties.
“The situation is highly polarised. Ponsse’s market situation has so far been relatively good in its main markets, but the stoppage in exports to Russia and local maintenance activities has had a massive impact on our operations, profitability and cash flow. In the short term, the Russian market is too large to be replaced. Due to the changes in our operating environment, we are forced to slightly downscale our production volumes and streamline our operations,” says Juho Nummela, President and CEO of Ponsse Plc.
The cooperation negotiations pursuant to the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings concern personnel reductions and lay-offs that are expected to involve at most 120 annual work units. The negotiations concern Ponsse Plc’s all personnel groups and all operations in Finland, apart from technology company Epec Oy. The negotiations will start on 13 June 2022.
Sales in Russia and Belarus have accounted for roughly 20 per cent of net sales based on the 2021 financial statements. On 25 April 2022, Ponsse issued its guidance, according to which the company estimated its euro-denominated operating profit in 2022 to be significantly lower than in 2021. Ponsse’s export and service operations in Russia have been suspended since 2 March 2022 when the company announced that it will suspend all exports to Russia and Belarus.
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... two wishes
A truckie walks into an outback cafe with a full-grown emu behind him.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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