Harvesting companies asked to contribute data and funds to new study

18 February 2024

Each day timber harvesters collect very useful data on every tree they process. Currently that data is either not used or only used by the harvesting company - this project aims to collate data from multiple sources across the UK and then make it available for wholescale analysis.

This data can be used in several ways, such as at forest level to better understand the log percentage breakout and to inform the sawmill of material available in real time. There are also science applications such as informing and improving GB production forecasts, informing official statistics and creating the opportunity for greater analysis into timber properties.

The latter is of upmost importance as the industry explores alternative species, we need to understand the timber better. This type of data will be very useful to timber buyers as well. 

Similar projects have been running for many years in Sweden and Finland. The team has already met with representatives from Sweden to learn and advance our project. The UK project will begin with a pilot with key industry partners , the aim being to role out more widely in due course.

So far the project has been funded by the Terrestrial Natural Capital Ecosystem Assessment (tNCEA) Programme via Forest Research. The next step of the project will require funding from the broader forestry sector.

While there will be opportunities to apply for other sources of Government funding, this will require match funding from the industry as the collection of the data and its analysis will benefit the whole industry. Therefore in time the project team will be seeking funding from stakeholders. This funding will support the collection/inputting of raw data, physical data housing and initial analysis.

At a recent face-to-face meeting held at Forest Research’s Northern Research Station and attended by a wide range of machinery manufacturers, forest managers and harvesting companies, there was unanimous agreement for the project to continue, hence the soon to be released report.

The project will also consider training development on various aspects to ensure the data collected is of the highest quality:

  • Machinery operators on calibration
  • Forest managers on data usage
  • Uploading of data

There will be other outputs of the project such as the standardisation of terms e.g. there are different names given to the same log lengths and diameters; these need to be consistent to ensure the data runs smoothly.

Of course, the data would be subject to commercial confidentiality and GDPR, and individual operator data would not be available to any third party without their permission.

A more detailed report on how the pilot stage can be carried out is due shortly. If you wish to be involved with the project, please contact Richard Hunter.