Media release – Tuesday 30 June 2020

MOUNT GAMBIER DEVELOPS LEADING EDGE FORESTRY RESEARCH

Remote sensing measurement of trees, drones to identify koala populations and automated forest fire detection methods are just some of the notable research projects positioning the Green Triangle as a leader in forest industry innovation.

For the past two years Forest Research Mount Gambier at the University of South Australia (UniSA), supported by industry and research partners, have been leading research in these trailblazing projects which are transforming the way the forest sector does business.

Funded by the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) with support from the South Australian and Tasmanian State Governments and industry, the forestry research initiative is helping to future-proof the industry while creating new jobs.

Dr Jim O’Hehir, a forester with more than three decades of experience in the Green Triangle, is managing the NIFPI projects on behalf of UniSA, which have been driven and guided by the needs of industry.

“From worker safety, plantation resource assessment and biosecurity, our program is broad and bold and has an overall focus on transforming the industry, making it more sustainable for future generations,” he said.

“All of our projects have been designed and influenced by the needs of industry, creating new innovations to solve problems, provide efficiency gains, improve workforce safety and reduce industry risk.

“Above all, this work is designed to support and grow the sector, creating new techniques and work practices that will build the Green Triangle’s growing profile as a global forestry leader.”

Current work includes the use of artificial intelligence in mill work site vests to assess when a staff member has come too close to machinery. Both visual and sound sensors are used to protect the staff member from the risk of injury.

Working with two saw milling companies, prototypes have been developed using AI learning systems with researchers currently learning how to manage low-light and dusty environments which are usually present in a milling workspace and can impact the technology sensors.

Another project includes using drone technology to identify koalas in blue gum plantations. Researchers are using the unmanned aerial vehicles aided by multi spectral sensors and real time processing systems to more efficiently and safely find koalas. This technology will improve sustainable harvesting operations but also be useful after a bushfire event to rescue injured wildlife.

Fire towers have long been a prominent asset in protecting the Green Triangle community during the summer fire season, however their future may be replaced or supported by new fire detection methods being trialled by NIFPI.

For example, cube satellite constellations have the ability to detect a fire within 10 minutes and make notifications within 20 minutes. This technology may be aided in the future by cameras on fire towers whilst investigation continues into alternative suppression scenarios including firefighting resources to formulate a combined modelling system.

Dr O’Hehir said the dedicated research team was implementing cutting-edge technology in each of the projects which had the power to completely transform how the sector operated.

“These are really exciting projects which will reshape the industry. We are attracting some amazing minds to help future-proof the forestry and milling sector,” he said.

To learn more about NIFPI visit https://nifpi.org.au/