Wood Business

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Forestry drives Atlantic economy

April 3, 2014 - The first day of the Canadian Woodlands Forum’s Spring Meeting was a lively one that started with an economist’s view of the importance of a consolidated forest sector to the Atlantic economy. Elizabeth Beale, CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, confirmed that the region’s economy is improving though it remains slow and weaker than at the national level.

One of the issues identified in her keynote address is that employment is steadily contracting in rural areas. This trend has been seen nationally but it has only recently started to affect the Maritimes where the economy depends on its resources to generate jobs.

Beale confirmed there’s a rising number of older workers and very poor job growth for young people. This trend is going to continue to be a serious problem for the region.

Globally speaking, the economy is expected to continue to grow in 2014 with the growth of the middle class in Asia and emerging economies. This will mean a growing need for more homes and goods in China and this demand will filter through to all resource producers.

But the globalized economy requires innovation, Beale explained. “Improving productivity and developing the higher end of production cycle is vital to our industry.” The innovations she named include advanced building supplies, building systems and the development of biochemicals.

Dean Toole, Regional Coordinator and Project Manager for the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC), also talked about innovation. He spoke about the Enhanced Inventory project the CWFC has been working on using remote sensing technology and his group is commited to finding new uses for wood chips since the pulpwood sector has declined in the region and chips are underused. Fibre optimization in the regions sawmills will reduce the number of chips being produced. His team is looking at new techniques and best practices for the most economic use of wood fibre. 

David MacLean from the University of New Brunswick talked about spruce budworm – how can we intervene early to prevent or reduce outbreaks? His team is looking into developing an early intervention strategy to suppress the populations before they cause any damage. The questions he's examining include: When should early intervention start? What methods are most effective and what are the impacts of early intervention on associated natural enemies?

The afternoon split into two concurrent sessions, one of which had a large group of contractors and suppliers attend whose intent was to identify common issues and discuss solutions for logging contractors. Many expressed concern over the new Tier 4 technologies - will they have increased maintenance costs? When will the Tier 3 machines be discontinued? Dealers in attendance confirmed they would continue to provide Tier 3 machines until they run out of the components or legislation forces the switch.

Other attendees spoke about the need for more education from suppliers to help them get optimal use of their equipment including on board diagnositcs. In response, one supplier said that it can be difficult to schedule training sessions because training requires the operator to take a day off of harvesting. 

Taking a show of hands, the crowd concluded that many contractors in attendence aren’t using the new technology that has been supplied with their machines (such as JDLink that was developed by John Deere). Most manufacturers have developed software that will produce productivity charts and other information that can be invaluable for fleet management but can be intimidating to learn. One attendee, however, noted the software can be intuitive for the younger generation who are often more comfortable with technology.

Once the sessions were over, the group gathered for a charity meal and silent auction, Log-a-Load for Kids. The proceeds raised went to providing life-saving equipment and professional health care for local children. Tony Quinn provided comedic entertainment after the meal and the networking continued into the night.