During the last week of March, the city of Moncton hosted the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s (CWF) spring meeting, as well as the Atlantic Heavy Equipment Show (AHES). The team at Canadian Forest Industries attended both events to see and hear the state of the industry in Atlantic Canada.
CWF kicked-off with a keynote address on the Atlantic Canada forest sector by Peter Woodbridge of Woodbridge Associates Inc. Choosing to look forward to the future of the forest industry in Atlantic Canada, Woodbridge stressed the region’s need to discover new sources for job growth in the next five years. He believes that the forestry industry is one of the few sectors showing real potential for sustainable growth in the region.
Woodbridge also talked at length about the evolution of the global supply chains for forest products. Filling the timber demands in Asian markets has become the focus of Western Canada, according to Woodbridge. That shift in focus has come as a result of the American economic downturn, but opens windows of opportunity for Atlantic Canada foresters should the U.S. economy begin to recover.
That discussion moved to changes in the usage and growth of wood products industries in countries outside of North America, with a particular focus on Brazil. In that country, commercial growing zones have been established for the development of crops, fuel and forestry. The areas are cleared and then replanted to achieve sustainability. Woodbridge questioned whether or not such a program should be considered for the forestry industry in Atlantic Canada to help move towards sustainability, leaving the audience to consider the value of such an idea.
Woodbridge’s presentation was followed by an address from Xuejun Zou of FPInnovations. Zou spoke about the development of bioproducts from forest resources to help create sustainability in the industry. Included in the discussion was an update on the Bio-pathways Project, which concluded that bioenergy and bioproducts will supplement and add value to the forest industry, but will not replace it. As a result, FPInnovations will push a greater amount of research and development monies towards the creation of new products to assist in the diversification of the wood industry.
The final keynote address was given by Andrea Fuenekes, co-CEO of Remsoft, on the subject of rekindling the entrepreneurial spirit in the forest sector. That included a discussion on the need to accelerate growth of the New Brunswick private forestry sector by providing access to capital, workforce development, innovation, and a regionalized approach to the economy. Fuenekes cited a few success stories developing in the New Brunswick marketplace, including Future Alternative Wood Products Limited of Bathurst, and the New Brunswick Wood Flows Project.
CWF’s “Outstanding Logging Contractor of the Year” awards were handed out, with Major’s Logging Limited winning the award for Newfoundland and Labrador, and Highland Pulp Limited winning for Nova Scotia. The winner of the Atlantic Canada Contractor of the Year was then recognized, with Highland Pulp Limited getting the prestigious “Peavey” award.
The afternoon session split in to two groups, with a large number of area contractors attending sessions on silviculture strategies for the Atlantic provinces. At the same time, a contractors’ roundtable was held to voice the concerns of the forest industry in Atlantic Canada. The focus of the discussion was on issues of shrinking bottom lines, mounting regulatory burdens, and the need for a strategy for short-term financial stability in the forest industry. In years past, the conversation has focused on issues surrounding equipment, but many recognized that the quality of today’s machinery has improved.
A pair of presentations from FPInnovations concluded the session. The first presented information learned in studying new advances in road-building and water-crossing techniques. That included looking at the value of products such as geotextiles, high flotation tires and geofoam. Also included was a presentation on the new EnviroSpan Modular Culvert System, a more flexible option for culvert construction than steel. The second presentation looked at the FPDat on-board datalogger and GPS navigation system for heavy equipment. Shawn Little of W. & R. Gillespie Ltd. spoke about his company’s experience integrating the system into its machinery, and the benefits realized since installation.
The CWF spring meeting was capped off by a fundraising dinner and silent auction in support of “Log a Load for Kids.” The event raised close to $4,000 to support the IWK Health Centre Foundation.