Innovation in steep slope harvesting

April 13, 2015


Steep slope harvesting innovations on show.

Harvesting operations in steeper terrain have seen exponential growth in the last few years. Of course with growth comes innovation. The need to get wood off steeper terrain has led to purpose-built steep terrain harvesting systems.  New gear has come from the larger equipment suppliers but much of the innovation is coming from contractors working together with local engineering companies.

The move by both forest owners and contractors to increase mechanisation on steeper country, the desire to increase productivity and the requirement to improve safety have all lead to significant advances in the forest.

Grapple-equipped hauler carriages, enhanced log grapple control systems, tethered “winch assist” machines and new wheeled and tracked self-levelling cab harvesters are all being used by contractors in countries like New Zealand, Australia and South America.  New innovations in steep slope harvesting will be showcased by leading international companies like Tigercat, John Deere, Caterpillar and SouthStar Equipment, at HarvestTECH 2015, taking place in Rotorua, New Zealand, on 24-25 June.

Robotics, automation and remote controlled mechanical tree felling are also being developed, the idea being to keep the operators out of harm’s way, with operational trials with a local contractor (a world first) already well underway.  Some of the European technology often thought of as been too light for local conditions, viewed with recent tours of New Zealand contractors to Austria and Italy is now also been employed (a Koller 602H Yarder) in local forests for the first time this year.


The compact version of the Falcon Forestry Claw is already been used by a customer in Chile, 40 tonne shovel yarders are being rolled out for the first time in Chile as well as Alpine grapple carriages.  Full cut-to-length operations using wheeled processors and loaded forwarders are working on some very steep slopes, all tethered by cables.

In addition to new harvesting machines, an array of GPS, data management, mapping and communications systems have been developed to assist with worker safety around hauler and steep slope operations over the last two years. New products that can better utilise harvesting data have been developed and rolled out.  Interpine, a New Zealand based forest consulting and data Management Company together with an Australian company ForestPHD for example have developed a new cloud based product to assist forestry companies and contractors interrogate data collected from mechanized cut to length harvesting operations.

Irish company TreeMetrics’ real time monitoring system (touched on in the Wood Flow Logistics event in 2014) is able to transmit information through two way communications and GPRS every two minutes on harvester machine position and log information to the user – the forest owner, manager, machine owner and harvesting manager.  In return, the cut file can be monitored, updated and fed back to the harvester leading to significant gains with machine operator performance.  Larger operational trials on this system are currently underway with the Irish forestry company, Coillte with results expected to be reported on at HarvestTECH 2015.

Interest in the HarvestTECH 2015 event is already very high.  It’s again expected to be one of the largest gatherings in this region of forestry managers and harvesting contractors.  It will be held in Rotorua, New Zealand on 24-25 June. Registrations are now live and the technology programme for the two-day event can be seen on the event website:

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