The Edge

timber bridgesFacilitating the design and implementation of timber bridges for resource roads

Over the past years, FPInnovations has initiated projects aimed at reducing the effects of climate changes on access roads to timber resources. Among these projects is the evaluation of the use of advanced wood-based solutions to construct innovative timber bridges, which are considered as green infrastructure, as a way to mitigate the impact on forest resources.

There is a long history of timber being used in resource road bridges. However, those timber structures are gradually being replaced with steel and concrete bridges.

In order to mitigate this trend, FPInnovations has initiated a two-year project, funded by the province of British Columbia (through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development). This project focuses on the use of timber-concrete composite (TCC) for the bridge deck.

The timber-concrete composite system in this study consists of two distinct layers made of timber and concrete joined together by shear connectors, with concrete being the top layer, therefore exploiting the best properties of both materials. A TCC system can be a cost-competitive solution for longer span surfaces needed in bridge components since the two materials would be used efficiently to utilize their inherent mechanical properties.

timber bridgesPhase 1 of the project consisted of testing the decks, which were fabricated at FPInnovations from available green, unincised, and untreated Hem-Fir lumber. This enabled certain concepts to be quickly identified and refined. Phase 2, which included green but treated and incised lumber, allowed for a more accurate assessment of the concept. So far, the tests have shown sufficient capacity to pursue more costly cyclic and environmental exposure tests.

Since the deck is built entirely with commercially available components using existing fabrication facilities (i.e. no further capital investment), the potential is high for subsequently developing an all-timber resource road bridge concept involving timber girders. Efforts are underway to evaluate high capacity glulam girders to support the decks; this will be followed by identifying and prioritizing potential code changes, assessing the supply chain with regard to training needs, and compatibility with existing capabilities.

Lastly, additional laboratory testing supplemented with data from in-situ monitoring will be used to support code changes that will enable broader acceptance of the concepts.

Eventually, an all-timber bridge utilizing more advanced technologies will regain its position as a viable material for bridges, leading to an improved environmental footprint in resource roads.

To learn more about this project, please contact Conroy Lum from FPInnovations’ Building System team [email protected].

Drones and safety in forest operationsDrones and safety in forest operations

The exploration of the potential use of drones in forestry operations has made it possible to identify two main categories: one relating to visual inspection (planning, supervision, monitoring, control, etc.) and the other in inventory and measurement (height, volume, area, etc.).

In connection with the first category, FPInnovations researchers experimented with the use of drones as a safety control tool in mountainous tree-felling operations. These operations took place on the west coast of British Columbia, where tree-felling on steep coastal slopes poses a significant challenge to worker safety.

This operation is carried out manually and the loggers must follow very strict safety rules. Regular inspections are conducted to ensure that these rules are properly enforced. For the purposes of the study, a drone was used, in addition to the usual control measures, for continuous safety monitoring and for risk identification throughout the operations. The objective of the study was to examine the benefits and costs associated with using drones in this compliance exercise.

timber bridgesView from above

The DJI Inspire 1 drone model was chosen for its retractable landing mechanism that doesn’t obstruct the camera, as well as for its image quality, its ease of use and its affordability. It has a flight time of 15 minutes per battery when used up to 30 per cent of its charge.

In the case of tree-felling operations, a thorough examination of the notches and back-cuts (felling cuts) on the stumps was added to the basic control rules. Since an inappropriate cut can be recognized by an experienced supervisor and the stumps were geo-referenced, the action could be linked to the logger. In this way, if signs of unsafe tree felling were found on the stump or if risks were detected, the logger could be immediately informed of corrective actions to be taken.

For skidding, compliance with safety rules could be checked systematically and more quickly, without having to travel to the site and be exposed to potential injuries nor interrupt operations.

Other advantages

Although drone technology was used in these tests to assist in the audit process, it also made it possible to identify other benefits, including:

1. The reduction of walking time in the field and the associated risks of stumbling

2. An increase in tasks to be performed over the same period of time

3. Increased same-day monitoring and feedback

4. Daily monitoring of progress at the site

5. Identification and location of hazards (stubs, escarpments, screes, landslides, etc.) in hard-to-reach areas.

Technical support

In terms of technical assistance, a drone can also be useful in transporting small repair equipment (nuts and bolts) for example, as well as in inspecting felling areas for logs left behind during skidding, or specifying skidding guidelines based on a visual assessment of stacks and fibre characteristics.

Monitoring and control

In supervisors’ day-to-day performance of their tasks in the field, the use of a drone has increased efficiency, for instance, by cutting down on the time related to sometimes unnecessary walking. Georeferenced aerial photos have proven to be very much appreciated for reporting purposes. More frequent monitoring of work, at lesser cost, and without having to interrupt production activities, is a significant advantage.

In conclusion, as drone technology becomes more accessible, affordable, reliable and easy to use, its use is likely to become more and more widespread in the forest industry.

The tests conducted in B.C., as a complement to steep slope safety control practices, have demonstrated many other potential uses to improve the operations of the contractor involved.

Alberta’s BRIMS biomass search tool is now live and available for use by anyone, especially those looking for biomass to plan their business investments.

For more information, please contact FPInnovations.

Reducing climate change and environmental impacts of forest operationsReducing climate change and environmental impacts of forest operations

The continuing changes to climatic conditions in Canada are anticipated to have a significant impact on the Canadian forest industry. Actions must be taken now to ensure negative impacts can be mitigated.

FPInnovations has now launched, under the funding of NRCan’s Transformative Technology Program, a program aimed at developing and implementing tools to reduce the impact of climate change on forest operations and management.

Furthering the understanding of fuel consumption and GHG emissions of off-road equipment is an aspect of forest operations that requires increased attention. Since the cost of fuel is an important consideration in using off-road equipment, it’s to the advantage of all equipment owners to get the best out of this inevitable expense.

It’s important to understand how work habits and operational factors have an impact on fuel consumption. One of the FPInnovations projects targeted the reduction of energy intensity in forest operations and included testing of energy intensity reduction technologies or operating practices, continued determination of the effect on energy intensity of operational parameters, and the building of a web-based tool to help estimate GHG impact on operations. Tests were performed on different forest machines, allowing for the identification of potential improvements.

As an example, tests with a swing machine using three different power level settings (economy, power, and high performance) and equipped with a danglehead processor, showed a linear increase in both productivity (up to 15 per cent) and energy intensity (12 per cent). These findings have been published in Info Notes available to our members.

In addition, GHG emissions from actual machines have been compiled and added to our web-based machine tracking tool FPTrak, now online. It allows the reporting of engine control module fuel consumption and GHG for fleets using FPTrak, and can similarly be used to estimate GHG emissions for fleets industry-wide.

Given the significance that resource roads have on economic and social well-being, there is another project aimed at understanding the implications of climate change in order to adapt roads and infrastructure to its impacts. Adaptation is a relatively new concept and there currently exists very little information that identifies adaptation practices, assesses performance and recommends implementation practices that allow for mainstreaming of adaptation for resource roads. In support of this, FPInnovations has been evaluating the application of the Public Infrastructure Engineering Vulnerability Committee (PIEVC) protocol to assess the risks and vulnerabilities to climate change through case studies in British Columbia, produced a report and workshops on water management on winter roads and has begun to deliver outreach activities such as webinars.

Representatives from BioCarbon Engineering (right) were on hand to answer a variety of questions from industry, government and silvicultural services representatives at the recent CWFC Hondo drone seeding demonstration.

More information can be obtained by contacting Mark Partington ([email protected]), Senior Researcher in FPInnovations’ Roads & Infrastructure group.

Alberta launches powerful online tool to easily and quickly find multiple biomass resourcesAlberta launches powerful online tool to easily and quickly find multiple biomass resources


Alberta has rolled out a powerful new online biomass search tool called BRIMS.

It provides potential bioenergy and bioproduct investors with a centralized, publicly available, online, spatial data warehouse where they can easily tap into the location of potential biomass sources in the province.

After several years in development by Alberta Innovates and its service provider, Silvacom, the Bio-Resource Information Management System (BRIMS) went live in January, and all are welcome to give it a try at

“The BRIMS data framework provides a comprehensive platform for collating inventories from forestry, agriculture and municipal sectors,” says John Peters, Director of Energy & Environment at Silvacom. “It lowers the effort profile for potential investors to explore economic opportunities in the province.”

He adds that the framework is designed to allow the user to drill down into specific biomass pools such as crop types, tree components such as branches, tops, bark and more, mill residues, and municipal solid waste categories. The framework can also be expanded upon in future to capture new and emerging bio-resource feedstock such as energy crop plantations, hemp production, etc.

Launching the BRIMS tool—described as unique within Canada and among the best of its kind in the world—is an important milestone for Alberta in its quest to achieve greater economic diversification.

“Our investment in the BRIMS application demonstrates our commitment to diversifying the economy by providing businesses and government access to data that will both support sound investment decisions and help build a greener Alberta,” says Laura Kilcrease, Alberta Innovates CEO.

Alberta Innovates works with its partners to diversify Alberta’s economy, improve environmental performance and enhance the well-being of Albertans through research and innovation.

BRIMS is already proving its worth as a tool that regions within the province can use to effectively develop their economies by marketing the resource potential within their regions from information derived from the BRIMS data.

“We have seen a tremendous uptake of the BRIMS application, with industry players leveraging it to identify opportunities,” says Peters. “We have also seen multiple examples of communities within Alberta using it as an economic development tool.”

In addition to providing regions and communities with a powerful new marketing tool, the nature of BRIMS as a centralized repository of information about ecosystems services and other land-use information makes it a valuable tool for policymakers to more easily make informed decisions.

“They can incorporate those ecosystem service values into their decision-making with respect to any kind of land-use decision,” says Peters.

The BRIMS tool also helps individual biomass producers and potential producers to identify diversification options developing locally, thereby helping to de-risk their production endeavors.

The data provided by BRIMS is described as ‘best available’ in that it presents empirically-based data of what is actually on the ground as opposed to predictive data. So investors are working with real numbers. Also, the BRIMS dataset will be updated regularly and new datasets will be added as they become available.

Peters says that it provides a user-friendly portal to conduct scenario analysis on various opportunities of biomass and ecosystem services. It daylights provincial and regional opportunities that investors can apply to their unique technological and economic business models to quickly identify the right fit based on both locations and scale.

One unique and valuable feature available through BRIMS is that it also provides information about the quality and components of that biomass source, including energy potential and lignocellulosic structure.

Other spatial data in the system can help drive investment by allowing users to locate nearby facilities, transportation networks, and other potential sources of biomass.

“BRIMS’ outputs provide a foundation for further supply chain analysis that take into consideration ownerships, allocation, environment and other logistics,” says Peters.

Among the resources tapped to develop BRIMS was an enhanced forest inventory dataset in the Comprehensive Automated Land Inventory (CALI) developed by Silvacom in co-operation with seven forest companies. It also taps into the best available inventories from crop insurance data, agriculture production statistics, annual landfill reports and other provincial inventory datasets.

Founded by Tom Grabowski and Bob Morton, two graduates from the University of Alberta, Silvacom has an excellent reputation for providing land-base consulting and software solutions to industry and government since 1983.

“This was an exciting opportunity for Silvacom that leveraged many resources from multiple business units within the company, including our resource analysts, application developers and communication teams,” says Peters.

He adds that a big part of the success and credit for the BRIMS launch is owed to teams from Alberta Innovates, the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) and the Alberta Biodiversity 
Monitoring Institute (ABMI).

Alberta's BRIMS biomass search tool is now live and available for use by anyone, especially those looking for biomass to plan their business investments.

For more information, contact Carol Bettac, Executive Director of Emerging Opportunities and Strategic Alliances, at [email protected].

CWFC evaluates drone seeding potentialCWFC evaluates drone seeding potential as Canadian industry introduced to cutting edge technology


Is drone seeding technology accurate enough and cost-effective to be useful to the Canadian forest industry in its silviculture practices alongside manual tree planting and broadcast seeding?

That’s the question that the Technology Development and Transfer team at the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) has set out to answer as part of its mandate. The goal is to test this technology for accuracy and precision in depth and placement of seed pods, as prescribed by CWFC. The introduction and testing of this developing technology is being conducted in co-operation with Canadian Forest Service research scientists.

The first-ever North American demonstration and trial of a drone seeding unit, featuring drone seeding technology developed by United Kingdom-based BioCarbon Engineering, recently took place at the CWFC Technical Development Site at the Ellerslie Research Farm in Edmonton and a jackpine, white spruce, aspen blowdown site leased and logged by Vanderwell Contractors (1971) Ltd near Hondo, Alberta. It is slated for manual planting this year and the test location was not site prepared.

The CWFC Hondo test site is a 200 metre by 250 metre rectangle. It was drone-seeded to recommended microsite locations based on pre-seeding high resolution photography data supplied by CWFC to BioCarbon Engineering.

CWFC manually planted several pods in microsites within the study area as a control. Their responses will be compared to responses from seeds in pods fired by the drone for germination success and then growth response.

Several industry, government and silvicultural services representatives were on hand to witness this demonstration, showing considerable interest as to whether drone seeding has a future in Canada.

Dr. Lauren Fletcher, BioCarbon Engineering owner, who was on site during the demonstration, emphasized that the company is only now evaluating this drone seeding technology’s potential in Canadian reforestation and he has a realistic, short term expectation.

“This is not a replacement (for manual tree planters),” he says. “It is a tool for use in the right situation.”

Essentially how the technology works is that a geo-referencing file is prepared in advance that establishes the parameters of where the drone will ultimately fire seed pods into a designated area. This is downloaded into the drone’s computer to establish its flight path as well as seeding frequency and location.

Seed pods are prepared in advance. They contain a prescribed number of seeds secured from reputable sources typically used by forestry clients, and several species can be placed in each pod. For example, the Hondo pods consisted of two jackpine seeds and two white spruce seeds. The seeds are mixed into a media recipe supplied by the client and loaded into the pods. The pods consist of a biodegradable material that breaks down when it comes into contact with water.

Once on site, seed pods are loaded into the drone’s holding container, which at present can hold 400 pods. A pilot launches the drone, which interprets the geo-referencing data that has been downloaded into its computer module, and it begins to fire pods into the ground accordingly.

Overall, industry representatives who witnessed this demonstration were excited by what this emerging technology could offer in terms of silviculture services both in the near term and long term.

After witnessing the drone in action, there was no expectation by anyone that this technology was on the cusp of replacing thousands of manual tree planters.

However, most remarked that they could see potential application on sites where it is difficult or impossible for tree planters to access. They also saw its potential use in situations where a return trip to a manually planted site was required as a remediation measure to attempt to improve germination and growth response to meet government specifications. They also mentioned potential application where experience has shown that it is difficult to achieve regeneration, such as on rehabilitated access roads.

Also, if the current trend of higher demand for tree planters at a time when it is becoming more and more difficult to hire tree planters continues, industry could envision a future where drone seeding could become a viable and valuable alternative to manual tree planting, especially as the technology evolves. Derek Sidders, CWFC Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer, says that CWFC is willing to work with technology providers to help advance this technology and address any gaps so that it works to industry’s expectations.

Representatives from BioCarbon Engineering (right) were on hand to answer a variety of questions from industry, government and silvicultural services representatives at the recent CWFC Hondo drone seeding demonstration.

For more information about this CWFC technology demonstration and evaluation, contact Derek Sidders, CWFC Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer, at [email protected].

Logging and Sawmilling Journal
May/June 2018

On the Cover:
Rod Dillman Contracting crews were recently harvesting wildfire-blackened timber in the south Cariboo region of British Columbia. The fire-ravaged timber is the legacy from B.C.’s worst forest wild fire season, in 2017. Read about how they are approaching the salvage logging in this issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal, beginning on page 20 (Cover photo courtesy of Southstar Equipment).


Spotlight: First Nations and forestry partnership
A new training program in B.C.—adopted from Ontario—hopes to help make a difference for First Nations youth, and the forest industry.

Big yarder investment
B.C.’s Western Forest Products has invested in logging equipment big-time recently, with the purchase of a LC650 grapple yarder from T-Mar Industries.

Australian Salvage Logging
Two Australian entrepreneurs have mastered a means of harvesting still-standing drowned forests from the bottom of hydro lakes in the Australian island state of Tasmania, and it involves some pretty interesting equipment.

Harvesting B.C.’s fire-ravaged forests
Rod Dillman Contracting is now tackling harvesting fire-salvage timber in the Cariboo region, one of the areas hit by B.C.’s worst forest fire season, when more than 12,000 square kilometres was burned by megafires.

Veteran sawyer chooses veteran mill equipment
When it came to setting up his own business, veteran sawyer Gary Francis decided to opt for decades of mill manufacturing experience, and purchased a TimberKing band mill—and it’s now at the centre of the business, known simply as … Gary’s Mill.

New and Noted at the Interior Logging Association’s 60th
We take a look at the new products that were one of the highlights of the 60th annual Interior Logging Association Conference and Trade Show, held in Kamloops in May.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and FPInnovations.

The Last Word
The Softwood Lumber Board may have a low key approach, but it has delivered some very solid results, says Jim Stirling.


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