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Custom-Built Mounder Fills Need At Canfor 

Seeking to improve seedling planting sites, Canfor's Hines Creek division got involved in designing the Dual Path Mounder. Initial results have been encouraging. 

By Bill Tice
Copyright 1998. Contact publisher for permission to use. 

For a small group of Albertans, the goal of developing the perfect silviculture mounder is becoming a reality. 

It all started about three years ago when Tim Vinge, a systems development forester at the Canadian Forest Products (Canfor) division in Hines Creek, Alberta, started looking for a better way to do site preparation in boreal forest areas. 

November images "We were looking for a better way to improve our reforestation on boreal mixed-wood sites so we started out with ploughing, then went to an excavator mounding. The problem with these methods is that ploughing was too intrusive visually and excavators were too expensive, so we started developing the Dual Path Mounder," says Vinge. 

The mounder creates a plaing site that is more conducive to seedling establishment and growth. Leslie Proudfoot, Silviculture Forester at Canfor's Hines Creek Division, works with Vinge and deals with the mounds after they have been created. 

"The Dual Path Mounder scoops up mineral soil and inverts it into a mound, doubling the organic layer. This organic layer, which is like the meat in a sandwich, acts as a nutrient for the seedling.   The hole created by the mounder then fills up with water. The water then wicks up into the organic material and is stored. The mineral soil cap provides an elevated site which reduces the ingress of competition from grass and weeds for two to three years, which gives the seedling a good start. The warm soil in the mound encourages good root growth," explains Proudfoot. 

To make the project happen, Vinge got together with Doug DiUman of DiUman Services Ltd., a local contractor who regularly works for Canfor, Mik and Kevin Saruwatari of Qsine, a hydraulic and computer specialist company from Calgary, Allan Pusch of Machine and Product Design Services, also of Calgary, and Carl Zanon, formerly of the Alberta Research Council. 

The team, which got together in 1994, developed a business plan, worked out the design specifications and then started building the mounder in January of 1995. They ran their first field test in September of 1995 and have continued field testing through 1997. 

The 10-tonne machine, which is pulled by a tractor or skidder, will cover one hectare an hour, creating 1,200 to 1,400 mounds per hectare. As the name denotes, each shovel works independently of the other. So far the development and building costs of the mounder have been approximately $500,000. 

Vinge says there are other mounders on the market but they are all medium-sized and do not deal well with frost. "This one is big enough to deal with frost and the heavy clays we have to contend with in the north," says Vinge. 

Developing the machine has been a learning process for the team and they have made modifications to the design along the way. The original hitch allowed the machine to tip so they redesigned the hitches and added a canopy to the machine for protection. Guards were also added to other areas of the machine for further protection. 

Doug Dillman, who was also instrumental in the development of the machine, says "Operating in cold weather has proven to be a challenge. Everything was fine until we got down to -25' Celsius. At that point the computer chip malfunctioned so we had to go back to Calgary for a new computer chip. We've got that one worked out and this winter it should work like a charm." 

Now that all the bugs are worked out, the team is hoping to test the mounder on other sites with different soil conditions. Several tools will be available for the mounder, including a herbicide application system and a spot mixer that provides a mixed mound. 

The design team holds the US and Canadian patent on the mounder, and later this fall will put together a marketing plan which will identify opportunities for the mounder and hopefully a partner to help mass-produce the equipment. 

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