Russell's Report: Update from Future Forests Research

I welcome the opportunity of providing a regular update on Future Forests Research (FFR) for the readers of Wood Matters. Forestry is heavily based on science and innovation, and the research that is the foundation of our forest industry today is recognised internationally. However to improve our competitiveness with other wood producers and to grow market share for wood against competing products, we must continue to innovate. The wool industry is a good example of what happens when an industry stops investing in its future and loses contact with its customers.

PF Olsen has a strong commitment to innovation and the value of doing this in a collaborative way. Our location within the PF Olsen office in Rotorua allows us to keep in contact with our customers in industry and their needs and enables PF Olsen staff to be aware of our research programmes and to be early adopters of research outcomes.

Future Forests Research (www.ffr.co.nz) is an industry-controlled company established collaboratively by the forestry sector and Scion to improve the engagement between industry and research. Its objective is to raise the profitability and sustainability of the forestry sector by delivering research outcomes that are relevant to industry, are world class, and deliver value to FFR investors.

Our research programmes are organised under four themes -

  • Radiata Management,
  • Environment & Social,
  • Diverse Species and
  • Harvesting & Logistics.

Each of our themes is led by a Theme Leader and a Technical Steering Team comprising a good balance of industry and science skills. A real success with this approach has been shaping the direction of research programmes, focusing on the outputs required by industry and increasing the amount of buy-in by industry members to the programme.


One example of the value of the research is the benchmarking of harvesting operations by FFR across member organisations. This enables those companies in the Harvesting Theme to benchmark the productivity of their harvesting operations with other companies on a fully confidential basis. This is of considerable value to forest managers, but also to forest investors who can use this to assess the performance of their forest managers, and has already been used for this purpose by some members of this theme.

A second example of the value of the research is the development of a new forest inventory system called Timberline. This involves automated tree counting from satellite or aerial imagery and transect sampling, instead of the conventional bounded plot system. The system is currently undergoing operational trials by four companies, including PF Olsen. Earlier trials have demonstrated potential cost savings of between 25% and 35% over current inventory methods.

In future updates I will highlight other FFR developments of interest to forest owners and readers of Wood Matters.