Technology to tackle steep-terrain harvesting

By Julie Taylor

New software is expected to help foresters in New Zealand, and around the world, to more efficiently harvest logs from increasingly steep plantations.

Rayonier New Zealand's Philip Elworthy explained the new Cable Harvesting Planning Solution (CHPS) to delegates at a forestry geographic information systems conference organised by Scion in Rotorua.

He said some steep terrain harvesting was already taking place in New Zealand, but the bulk of this planting occurred in the early 1990s and would be ready for harvest in the next five to 10 years, creating ``huge challenges'' for harvest planners.

``Harvest planning is working out how to get trees off the side of the hill and on to the back of a truck.''

On this type of land, this is generally done by cable harvesting, where felled trees are lifted on cables to a central hauler that can be cost effectively reached by trucks.

The new software integrates planning software with the most common geographical information system (GIS) in New Zealand to allow planners to model a particular plantation and work out the most effective places to position the hauler and the cables to maximise productivity and minimise environmental impact.

``The calculations have been around for decades, but this makes them easier to access. It is a more efficient way of solving the problem.''

Benefits include increased speed, allowing planners to consider a range of equipment and locations quickly.

It works with Esri's ArcGIS, which is the predominant software in New Zealand forestry and is used in many other countries, particularly North America.

Until now, solutions have not been integrated with ArcGIS, so there have been costs involved in transferring data from one system to another.

CHPS has been developed by Rayonier, Geographic Business Solutions (GBS) and Atlas Technology, with input from various industry group, including Rotorua's Scion crown research institute. It will be presented in the United States next month at a conference organised by Esri.

Geographic Business Solutions' director Harley Prowse said the cost and complexity of transferring data from GIS into planning software meant many people did not bother and made decisions based on less information.


``We held three workshops where we got together with harvest planners from various companies to make sure we ended up with something the guys needed.''

The software is still not finished, but a draft version has been made available to companies involved in the development. Prowse said some feedback would be used to fine-tune the initial software before its release, hopefully by the end of May, and suggestions for new functions would be looked at as the software is developed in the future.

He said the potential for CHPS to be used overseas would be positive for the New Zealand industry as more users meant more revenue to continue development.

``I am excited about it because we are satisfying a need in New Zealand, and to a degree in Australia, but the real potential is the fact it can go into North America and Europe. Early indications from Esri promoters in the US are that there is significant interest.

``The US market was not really a target, but the involvement of Esri is opening that up for us, so we might as well take advantage.''-->-->

- Rotorua Daily Post

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