Forest innovators attract international audience

Published: Tue 23 Jun 2015 02:27 PM
Forest innovators attract international audience
This week in Rotorua the Forest Industry Engineering Association (FIEA) is hosting the largest ever gathering of international forest contractors, forest managers as well as machinery and service suppliers to the industry. The HarvestTECH 2105 international conference is focused on logging machinery designed for steep slope forest harvesting and has attracted over 400 delegates to Rotorua, the heart of forestry.
FIEA director Brent Apthorp says, “We’ve targeted forest contractors and managers from around the world . The response has been fantastic. They are here to see how our innovative local contractors have come up with novel solutions for safe and productive harvesting machines.”
Large groups of senior forestry leaders and contractor company owners are now arriving from Chile, Australia, USA and Canada. Every one of the major forest companies in Australasia and South America has people coming here to learn more.
Apthorp added “Over the past few years our New Zealand forest contractors tackled problems no one else was prepared to. They’ve made mechanised forest harvesting safe on a range of steep slopes by tethering the machines. Now they’ve done it, the world has arrived here on our doorstep to see how they’ve cracked it.”
Every one of the major manufacturers of forestry equipment is sending senior engineers and top managers from USA and Canada to see the leading edge here in Rotorua. The most innovative contractors have tackled both safety and productivity at the same time. They did it to solve their own local terrain issues but now it looks set to spread around the world.
Two local contractor-developed harvesting equipment systems have become so popular they’re now getting export orders. This Kiwi-developed technology is set to spread around the world where people have the same steep slope challenges. It takes intensive training alongside the technology for it to succeed in new terrain. The remarkable change is that tree-felling has become much safer thanks to the new technologies that have been put in place.
HarvestTECH 2015 is a two-day technology conference for practical loggers and machinery developers. The large international audience will be seeing not just Kiwi innovations but other technologies being developed in Europe, North America and places like Chile. The Forest Industry Engineering Association is just one of the many forest and wood product associations and conferences run by local company Innovatek Limited. Brent Apthorp and John Stulen are recognised conference innovators in the forest industries. The company started in Rotorua and now has offices in Dunedin and Melbourne.
Innovatek director John Stulen, who also represents the Forest Industry Contractors Association (FICA) says many of his members have been leaders in these steep slope logging technologies. Underlying these innovations has been a change of heart by the big forest management companies – in fact Hancock Forest Management set a challenge to their contractors and these innovations have been a big part of their response.
“People outside of forestry are in for a surprise. Innovative forest contractors are leading these new developments.”
He says, “This conference proves we’ve got some of the most innovative and leading edge thinkers and developers of technology right here in our own forests.”
“The HarvestTECH conference is a great networking opportunity for everyone across the forest sector, says Stulen, “For this conference, Brent has been able to get the innovators of these new harvesting systems to share their new knowledge. That’s drawn a huge response – far greater than we expected.”
“But we said the same thing when we hosted the Forest Industry Safety Summit in March this year and back in November 2013 when we tackled safety and steep slope logging the first time in a combined conference.”
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