Joint efforts will provide Level 4 Autonomy for natural resource sector roads
Robotic Research, LLC (rr.ai), a global leader in Automated Driving Systems (ADS), and FPInnovations, a Canadian private non-profit research and development center, announced on May 12 their collaboration to develop an off-road truck platooning system for the forest industry.
This partnership will combine Robotic Research’s proven expertise as a global leader in self-driving technology with FPInnovations’ knowledge in forestry and transportation to adapt the truck platooning technology to off-highway environments.
The multi-year project aims at accelerating the adoption of off-road automated-vehicle (AV) technology to improve safety and address an acute labour shortage, thereby improving the quality and viability of rural jobs where natural resources are located. Looking to the future, a successful project would not only benefit Canada’s forest industry, but other Canadian sectors such as mining and natural resources in northern Canada.
Robotic Research, with a history of other groundbreaking projects, including the development of the Xcelsior AV—North America’s first automated heavy-duty transit bus—announced with New Flyer this year, will create unmanned convoys of Class 8, ADS-enabled trucks that follow a driver in a lead vehicle. The project will adapt existing technology to challenging Canadian conditions such as four-season weather and operations on off-pavement roads, particularly for resource roads in continental and polar climates.
“We are extremely proud to have been selected by FPInnovations and believe this project is a transformative model of how ADS can aid industries, like forestry, operating in perilous conditions or facing workforce shortages.” said Alberto Lacaze, President, Robotic Research. “The unmanned truck convoys work in concert with commercial drivers to enhance their efficiency, while also protecting their safety.”
In Phase I, truck convoys will be put through safety trials that mimic the routes from harvesting sites to sawmills. Once the system is proven to be secure, FPInnovations will run trials on actual resource roads, known to be challenging because of dust, sharp curves, and steep slopes.
“We are very pleased to partner with Robotic Research whose leading-edge expertise in the commercial on-road and defense transportation will greatly benefit Canada’s natural resource sectors and help address an acute labor shortage,” stated Stéphane Renou, President and CEO, FPInnovations.
For more information about this project, please contact Jonathan Lethbridge at [email protected]
ABOUT ROBOTIC RESEARCH
Robotic Research is U.S.-based, global leader in localization, autonomy, and robotic technology transforming the way we move. Founded in 2002, the company has been a trusted technology partner to the public and private sector for nearly 20 years. From people to platforms, at home or overseas, Robotic Research is driven to make the way you move smarter, safer, and more efficient. To learn more about Robotic Research, visit www.rr.ai.
FPInnovations is a private not-for-profit research and development centre with professional researchers who create solutions in support of the Canadian forest sector’s global competitiveness. It is ideally positioned to perform state-of-the-art research, develop advanced technologies, and deliver innovative solutions to complex problems for every area of the sector’s value chain, from forest operations to consumer and industrial products. Its R&D laboratories are located in Quebec City, Montreal, and Vancouver, and it has technology-transfer offices across Canada. To learn more about FPInnovations, visit web.fpinnovations.ca.
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
Private enterprise and specifically Indigenous companies and communities have begun the timely uptake of technologies developed by the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and Canadian Forest Service branches of Natural Resources Canada to establish plantations featuring fast-growing hybrid poplar and select aspen clones.
Their business endeavors are taking advantage of the federal government’s ‘Growing Canada’s Forests’ program. It aims to plant an additional two billion trees over 10 years as part of a broader approach to nature-based climate solutions.
The technology developed by CWFC, described as high-yield afforestation or planting fast-growing trees on non-traditional lands, has undergone the full scientific rigors of site mapping for best clonal selection, development of optimum plantation designs for high performance and survival, best-practice planting methods, vegetation control timing and methodologies, harvesting options, and data collection for public consumption and technology transfer.
The goals of this CWFC research and demonstration program over the past two decades has been to create natural options for carbon sequestration and to develop alternate fibre sources to benefit both the forest and energy sectors.
Derek Sidders, Program Manager, Technology and Development and Transfer at CWFC, says that CWFC’s technology has been embraced by a large partnership of Alberta First Nations to implement this technology in a way that will deliver multiple benefits.
The name of the enterprise is First Indigenous Biomass Future Inc. It goes by the name of FIND Biomass. Melissa Minks is President and CEO and a member of Alberta’s Swan River First Nation while company COO is Albert Klyne. He is a member of the Métis community in Kinuso, Alberta.
Over the past five years, FIND Biomass has applied for and received funding under the federal government’s Indigenous Forestry Initiative (IFI). This support program aims to develop forestry-related activity that could contribute to Canada’s economy and environment, while also providing stability to First Nations communities by providing jobs and training in diverse and valuable skill sets.
FIND Biomass used its funds to learn about and implement fast-growing tree plantation vegetative propagation techniques with guidance provided by the CWFC Technology and Development Group. They worked in close collaboration with CWFC to identify proper plant material and to organize the timely harvesting of one-year old dormant vegetative cuttings. These were then processed in controlled conditions and stored for the establishment of field plantations.
Over the past year, FIND Biomass in collaboration with the Swan River First Nation community located on the south side of Slave Lake, Alberta, has used the several hundred thousand cuttings that they have collected to establish nursery/stool beds on a First Nation member’s land.
“They have also developed and trained several supervisors and field staff to assist with the maintenance and management of the nursery,” says Sidders.
In speculation of opportunities with several energy and other First Nations communities, Sidders adds that FIND Biomass has produced, packaged, and created suitable storage facilities for 150,000 plants which are available to establish large-scale, fast-growing, tree plantations this spring.
“This will potentially establish them as a community and industry supplier for services related to fast-growing, high-yield afforestation plantations,” says Sidders.
Preliminary plantation establishment is planned for the Prairie provinces and primarily in central Alberta where the vegetative cuttings of the hybrid poplar clones being used by FIND Biomass are scientifically-proven as suitable. There are partnership lands available for this afforestation endeavor.
Minks says that the biggest attraction to embracing this fast-growing tree plantation technology is the opportunity to help out and work with Indigenous communities. It offers such benefits as employment and training for multiple careers paths in silviculture and the environment.
“There is a real push for First Nations to become more involved in the forestry industry, and to have this technology available, that will really spearhead that involvement,” she says.
Klyne says what FIND Biomass really appreciates is the fast-growing aspect of the CWFC technology where they will be able to see the results of their endeavor for carbon sequestration and wood fibre production over a fairly short time frame.
Minks adds that federal government support, both the funding and mentoring offered by CWFC, has been critical for managing some of the risk in rolling out this new technology.
“The support from Derek and CWFC has been amazing,” she says.
“We definitely would not have been able to do it without their assistance,” Klyne adds. “Their expertise was invaluable because there was so much to learn to successfully move toward establishing these plantations.”
For more information about CWFC’s fast-growing tree technology, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected].
On the Cover:
New Brunswick logger Marco Caron knows that business success in harvest contracting depends on basics: a well-motivated team, keen business skills and good equipment. In that last area, Caron’s harvesting equipment includes two Ponsse Scorpions. In fact, Caron was so impressed with his 2017 Scorpion harvester that he added a second 2018 Scorpion model to his operation. (Cover photo by George Fullerton).
Big things are happening at GreenFirst Forest Products—the company has bought six sawmills in Ontario and Quebec from Rayonier. We get the scoop on what’s going on at the company, with an interview with its new CEO—and lumber industry veteran—Rick Doman.
New sawmill investments by Resolute Forest Products
A look at recent sawmill investments by Resolute Forest Products, as it works hard to generate more production in super-hot lumber markets.
Innovative logger meets innovative iron
VanNatta Brothers Logging is seeing solid success with the first Quadco 4400 (QB4400) feller head in North America, which is now manufactured in B.C.
New Hampshire mill gets new Canadian technology
The upgrade of the Milan Lumber sawmill involved a fair bit of Canadian mill equipment, including i-DNA species identification technology from Autolog.
Delivering gains at Downie Timber
Downie Timber of Revelstoke, B.C., is investing to upgrade its edger line with USNR’s BioVision technology, to deliver the utmost in recovery, with New West Mill Installations as the contractor assigned to deliver the finished product during challenging COVID times.
Successful logging formula
New Brunswick logger Marco Caron’s formula for business success includes family involvement, solid equipment operators, and logging iron that delivers day-in, day-out in the bush.
Tech Update: Dry Kiln Suppliers
We take a look at the new features and technology among Dry Kiln Suppliers in this issue.
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 (CWFC) and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
In spite of the COVID-19 virus, the forest industry is buckling down and—as it always has—is getting the job done, says Jim Stirling.