by Dr Rosie Bosworth
Fibre-Gen: HITMAN PH330: Kiwi Tech Company Transforming NZ’s Conservative Forestry Industry with World Leading Technology and Innovation.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if New Zealand (or any developed nation for that matter) is to be internationally competitive, bolster exports and insulate the economy from fluctuating commodity cycles then focussing on value added commodities is the only way to go. So it is somewhat ironic then that the forestry industry, one of the country’s largest primary industries and our third largest export earner, has for decades, scarcely deviated from producing very basic commodity logs and timber goods. Despite producing some of the world’s finest, high quality timber with so much potential to add value, technology and innovation in the sector have been largely non-existent. The result? Not nearly enough of our precious high quality wood is being used for industries, such as housing, construction, and premium furniture manufacturing, that value and pay significant price premiums for high strength, high quality wood. Meaning New Zealand’s forestry sector is still largely synonymous with the production of rudimentary logs for low value, low revenue generating activities like pulp and paper. Hardly ideal.
Recognising the huge potential that technology can bring to NZ’s highly under-valued forestry industry, Christchurch-based Kiwi design and manufacturing company, Fibre-Gen is transforming NZ’s forestry sector into a high value as well as safer industry with its string of award winning hi-tech sonic products under its Hitman brand. CEO, Nigel Sharplin says compared to other manufacturing industries like the Japanese automobile sector who have been making strides since the 50s, the sector has been slow to innovate, particularly around the very early stages of the felling and wood processing value chain. The forestry industry is missing out on huge chunks of cash simply by selling unsegregated, high stiffness logs at no premium. Fibre-Gen’s Hitman sonic technologies are revolutionising this.
How? Sharplin says it all comes down to the bendiness of trees. Some trees are stiff and some are bendy. High stiffness makes for a higher quality and stronger wood suitable for engineered wood products thus enabling it to fetch far higher price premiums on the market. Mid stiffness and bendy wood on the other hand has fewer applications, for example, plywood, construction lumber and pulp which are only useful for low value markets. The only way to tell the difference between stem stiffness – i.e. timber quality – is through acoustics (or sonics). However, to date there has been no sonic technology on the market enabling the forest industry (forest owners) to measure the stiffness of the logs, and, accordingly, segregate them before they are transported to the mills for processing. Top shelf stiff timber gets lumped together with the bendy trailer trash for processing and forestry owners are squeezed out of a pretty price premium when potentially high value wood is sold with commodity price tags. Less than ideal for everyone involved. For a forestry owner its clear which market you’d prefer to be playing in if you had the tools available.
Read full article here.