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January, 2020

Harvesting Innovation Workshops yield useful results for small growers

Six Forest Growers Levy funded workshops have been held throughout New Zealand, focussing on harvesting innovations taking place in small-scale forests. This has resulted in useful insights into recent developments that could be turned into opportunities for improving harvest efficiency in small forests. A key group of levy stakeholders has also been updated on research outcomes and current trends via the workshops.

The previous “Steepland Harvesting” Primary Growth Partnership programme has resulted in accelerating the development of forest harvest engineering infrastructure in New Zealand such as winch assisted felling. The recent emphasis on greater harvesting mechanisation because of health and safety concerns has resulted in lower accident rates. However, as a result of greater mechanisation, capital costs have increased with an associated rise in harvesting costs for small growers. However, lower cost winch assisted traction machines are becoming available from overseas and this trend may result in reducing costs of mechanised harvesting for smaller growers.

A positive consequence where winch assisted ground-based felling has been adopted on steep terrain, is that fewer mid-slope tracks are required and hence environmental impacts have reduced. Small forest growers seek systems with improved harvest cost efficiency along with improved environmental outcomes.

One of the key outcomes from these workshops was that harvesting costs for small-scale forest growers could potentially be reduced by a change to using lower cost forwarders that require lower quality roads for two-staging using sort-and-load yards near roads. Innovations with 4x4 agricultural trucks and 8x8 tractor/trailer units offer forwarding systems that are still coupled with large (full scale) harvesters and loaders, without the high roading costs associated with conventional harvesting operations.

Trees in smaller-scale farm forestry operations are no smaller nor easier to harvest than trees in larger scale operations. The general trend identified in the workshops is toward fewer machines where possible, fewer workers, lower capital costs, and multiple use of machines.

These workshops have resulted in two projects being funded by the Growers Levy, via the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) Committee’s good work in recent months. A Harvest Planning tool will be developed by a team led by Graham West and three new pieces of harvesting equipment will be evaluated in Production Studies led by John Schrider.

See the full report and presentations "Harvesting Innovation Workshops".

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