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​Log segregation in the forest

Scion and the New Zealand Forest Owners Association (FOA)

The problem: The Wood Council of New Zealand (Woodco) wants to see the value of forestry exports more than double by 2022 to $12b. The forests that will contribute to this increase are already in the ground and growing, and therefore the whole sector needs to find ways to add more value to the existing resource.

A key challenge is the variability that exists within this resource and the lack of knowledge about this variation. Within the MBIE-funded Growing Confidence in Forestry’s Future research programme (GCFF), one of the key hypotheses is that cost-effective segregation methods that deal with inter- and intra-tree variation will improve the utilisation of the current resource.  This view is, however, not universally held throughout the sector, and reservations are held about the cost of segregation, the logistics that are required (in particular landing space and the complexity and cost of multiple log sorts), and that the benefits of segregation accrue mainly to the downstream processors rather than the forest growers. The earlier in the supply chain segregation is carried out the greater is the need for standardised tools and procedures – one or a few tools will have to do it all. These challenges reflect the fact that the forest products sector is fragmented with few integrated companies (i.e. those that both grow and process trees). There are often differing views on quality and market signals often do not encourage growing for improved quality. 

Key stakeholders:  Forest growers, forest processors, Product Quality Improvement innovation cluster members, MBIE, Forest Owners Association, Forest Levy Growers Trust, Nelson Pine Industries, Lake Taupo Forest Trust, Tenon and various iwi.

Timeline: The innovation project is seated within the GCFF programme. The GCFF programme is co-funded by forest growers through the Forest Growers Levy Trust. The goal of the GCFF programme is to “build more productive, resource-efficient forests that provide the raw material base for added-value processing”. The case study will: examine the relationship between growers and processors and aims to understand how signals are passed from processor to grower, by establishing an innovation network, or cluster, to enhance knowledge exchange and interactions between these two groups within the sector; establish whether segregation creates positive benefits and how these benefits are shared between the two parties, and understand how stakeholders need to work together to optimise future resource utilisation and capture key markets for each other’s business.

The research will be supported by an innovation cluster called “Product Quality Improvement”. The innovation cluster concept will have regular discussion meetings, workshops, field and technology demonstration days, and is seen as a strong enabling infrastructure for cross-party exchange and co-development to occur. At present, interest in the innovation cluster membership is high, and a charter is being written to describe how the groups will operate in practice (behaviours, purpose and impact). The aim is to have the first meeting of the PQI cluster in September 2014.

To hear more about co-innovation in this project, check out the webinar here.

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