New PGP harvest technology targets safety

  • Jo Goodhew
Primary Industries

New forest harvesting technology revealed today in Nelson sets its sights on further increasing safety in steep land harvesting operations, Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew says.

The new ‘tele-operation’ technology provides out-of-harm’s way operation of a purpose-built tracked feller-buncher forest harvester, from the safety of a separate operator cabin and console.

The breakthrough is part of Steepland Harvesting, a 6-year, $6 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and a consortium of forestry companies and contractors, led by Future Forests Research Ltd (FFR).

“The successful development, installation and demonstration of the tele-operated harvester builds on the Steepland Harvesting programme’s successful integration of remote control technology into a forest harvester in 2015,” says Ms Goodhew.

“Tele-operation of the tracked harvester enables trees to be felled and bunched by remote control, beyond line-of-sight on steep slopes, which is believed to be a world first.

“It marks a big advance in the safety of forestry harvesting operations, while improving the operator’s environment and potentially increasing productivity.  It is a fantastic achievement for the Steepland Harvesting PGP programme and for New Zealand’s forest industry as a whole.”

The Steepland Harvesting programme has delivered a number of innovations aimed at keeping forest workers safe, while increasing harvesting productivity. This includes development of the ClimbMAX harvester, a ground-based, winch-assisted machine which can fell and bunch trees on steep slopes of up to 45 degrees.

“Eight of the million-dollar ClimbMAX harvesters are now operating commercially in Canada and New Zealand, with the ninth machine recently shipped to Canada and the first machine sold into the United States is currently being built.”

Successful commissioning of the tele-operation control system is the latest result from three-and-a-half years of design and engineering research and development by the FFR team involving Scion, Cutover Systems Limited and ADM Design Ltd, working with harvesting contractors Ross Wood and Simon Rayward of Wood Contracting Nelson Ltd.

“The Steepland Harvesting programme, and this latest innovation in harvesting technology, is a clear example of the value of government and industry working together to keep forestry workers safe and improve productivity in forest operations,” Mrs Goodhew says.