HOT NEWS BYTES: Innovations and inventions for next level forestry

Enpower CEO James Beatty and Sappi SA CEO Alex Thiel celebrate the solar energy deal that will reduce Sappi’s carbon footprint in South Africa.

Sappi Southern Africa has concluded a milestone 175GWh per annum renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement with Enpower Trading, a NERSA-licensed private electricity trading company, in a move to reduce its carbon footprint.

Sappi’s decision to partner with Enpower Trading aligns with its broader sustainability goals and is a significant move towards attaining its Science Based Target objectives. By implementing this renewable energy solution at its multiple South African operations, it is expected that Sappi SA and Sappi Limited’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions will be reduced by 6% and 4% respectively.

The power supplied to Sappi will be sourced from SolarAfrica Energy’s 1GW Sun Central PV project which is located southeast of De Aar in the Northern Cape.

Power will be supplied as from the end of December 2025. The agreement initiates a first-of-its-kind PPA in which Enpower Trading will supply Sappi with a utility-scale renewable power solution over a five-year period, paving the way for an evolving strategic partnership between Sappi and the trading company.

Trees extract air-borne micro-plastic
Japanese researchers have discovered that trees can extract microplastic particles that drift around in the air we breathe. Professor Miyazaki Akane of Japan Women’s University has found that microplastic particles drifting in the air adhere to the surface of leaves of konara oak trees in Tokyo. More research is needed to gauge the full potential of how trees can serve as terrestrial sinks for airborn microplastics, but it just goes to show that we should never under-estimate the benefits that forests have on our world.
Wooden wind turbine blades

German company Voodin Blade Technology has unveiled the world's first wooden wind turbine blades, which could revolutionise renewable energy technology. These innovative blades, made from sustainable laminated veneer lumber, signal a shift away from traditional fibreglass and carbon fibre blades that are notoriously difficult to recycle.

Voodin Blade Technology CEO Tom Siekmann says that most old turbine blades end up buried or burned. "That's 50 million tonnes of waste by 2050 if we don't act. Our wooden blades make green energy truly green," he said. (Source: Energy Source & Distribution)

Hot, hotter, hottest
February 2024 was apparently the hottest February ever recorded globally. The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service showed that February 2024 was 1.77°C warmer than the pre-industrial average (1850 to 1900) for the month, and 0.81°C above the 1991-2020 average for February.

February temperatures in South Africa were also above normal in the central and eastern parts of the country, about 1°C above the 1991-2020 average and about 2°C above the 1981-2010 average.

Hot February 2024 was the culmination of the hottest 12 months ever recorded — between March 2023 and February 2024 the average temperature was 1.56°C above the pre-industrial average.

Even though the 1.5 degrees C average temperature has been exceeded for the past 12 month period and there is no denying that the climate on earth is getting hotter, it has to continue for 20 years to be regarded as permanent. Earth is expected to officially cross this 1.5 degrees C threshold by the early to mid-2030s. (Source: Daily Maverick)

Tracking logs
Researchers at Fraunhofer IPM are busy developing a camera-based system that makes it possible to reliably trace cut logs back to their source. It uses the unique structures on cut surfaces like a fingerprint, matched with a unique ID stored in a Cloud-based database. This allows the tamper-proof identification of individual logs and trunk sections, even if the timber is mixed up during harvest and processing. This system will provide a fool proof method of tracking timber from forest to sawmill to secondary processing facility, thus meeting EU timber regulations and certification supply chain requirements. (Source: www.ipm.fraunhofer.de / WoodTech)

Re-cycling CCA treated timber
Scientists at Scion are hard at work figuring out how to remove CCA from treated timber at the end of its life, separating it into individual elements which can then be recycled. This is essential for the realisation of a circular economy, as CCA treated timber that has reached the end of its useful life is an environmental hazard unless disposed of in specialist facilities. The elements removed from the timber could be reused in electronics or compound metals. (Source: Scion / Friday Offcuts)

Wood into batteries
New Zealand-based CarbonScape is converting woody biomass like woodchips and sawdust into biographite which is used to manufacture batteries. The R&D behind this innovation is supported by Stora Enso, a leading provider of renewable products in packaging, biomaterials and wood construction. (Source: RNZ/Friday Offcuts)

The ‘cockroach’ drone
Swiss researchers have developed a new drone, inspired by cockroaches, which can push away obstacles – like the leaves and branches of trees - and move past them while in flight. The drone will be used to measure biodiversity in remote areas, including beneath the canopy of forests. The problem the developers encountered was that the drones start vibrating when they brush past flexible branches and vegetation. They found a solution in the body structure of cockroaches, which is streamlined and consists of low-friction material, which gave the drones the ability to navigate inside the forest. The developers also equipped the drone with spatial intelligence throughout its body to help it navigate through dense vegetation. (Source: www.swissinfo.ch)

The drone is streamlined and made up of low-friction material, like a cockroach. (Photo courtesy www.swissinfo.ch)

Robotic micro-factories
ABB Robotics is collaborating with UK-based AUAR to develop robotic micro-factories to build affordable, low energy timber homes. A robot cuts the timber into components and assembles them into units that are transported to site, enabling complete customised homes to be built in a matter of weeks. (Source: ABB Robotics)

Helicopter powered saw
A specially designed tree-trimming saw powered by a helicopter has undertaken its first successful trial in New Zealand. The heli-saw, owned by Lakeview Helicopters in Taupō, was trialled by The Lines Company (TLC) in a forestry block in Kuratau.

In just over an hour the heli-saw successfully trimmed 950 metres of radiata pine along a corridor housing a 33kV network line. Trimmed material was left at the base of the trees, leaving two blocks of trees undamaged from the trimming operation.

Keeping trees clear of powerlines is a big challenge all over the world - including in South Africa - where they can pose a major fire risk. Trimming tall trees by hand is a slow and painstaking business – especially in steep terrain - and the trial showed that the heli-saw technology has great potential to boost productivity.

Trimming edge trees next to powerlines is preferable to felling them, which opens up forestry blocks to wind. (Source: The Lines Company)

The heli-saw is hitched to the helicopter in preparation for the trial. (Photo courtesy of The Lines Company)
The heli-saw in action in New Zealand. (Photo courtesy of The Lines Company)
Trees trimmed by the heli-saw to ensure the safety of the powerline. (Photo courtesy of The Lines Company)

Waratah unleashes new H216 head

Waratah Forestry Equipment has unveiled the H216 - a versatile new two-roller head added to its 200 series lineup. Built for hardwood, the H216 is strong enough to handle the toughest tree forms with accuracy and efficiency. Its simple design with excellent feed power, delimbing, and large cut capacity provide productive tree harvesting.

“The H216 is specially designed for hardwood,” said Brent Fisher, product marketing manager for Waratah. “This head not only provides our customers reliable performance in hardwood but is equally capable of handling softwood, debarking and everything in between.”

Weighing in at 1495 kg (3,296 lb.), this 200 Series head features a two-roller design ideal for hardwood harvesting, late or final thinnings. Floating roller arms allow for superior and easy tree horizontal movement and easy log transport through the head. High performance single or multi-speed options keep timber moving quickly.

The H216 features the efficient SuperCut 100S saw unit with improved auto tensioning and easier servicing. With large sawing capacity, this head can cut logs up to 750 mm (29.5 in.) in diameter, while an optional top saw tackles heavy branching. The delimb arms provide excellent delimbing power across all diameter ranges, while drive wheel options offer maximum traction for crooked wood. The H216 harvester head utilizes the TimberRite™ H-16 control system for optimum head performance, productivity and measuring accuracy.

Durable & versatile

The H216 is built to tackle the toughest, crooked timber to the straightest postwood and everything in between. While also naturally capable in softwood, debarking or multi-tree handling, this head is designed for efficiency and agility in thinning and harvesting applications with quick cycle times.

A heavy-duty main chassis saw box, as well as tilt frame and guarding, provide added protection and reliability. Maintenance is simplified through one position daily servicing and easy open/close hinges on the valve cover.

According to Jules Larsen, Waratah General Manager Distribution and Operations, the H216 will be available from the factory in November this year.

Jules says the head will be well suited for African conditions with its flexibility across many different applications.

Waratah heads are distributed and supported in Southern Africa by Mascor, Forestry Plant & Equipment and Afgri Equipmant.

For more info visit: www.waratah.com

New generation contractor makes his mark

Sabelo Sithole of New Age Forest Solutions.

At just 30-years-old, Sabelo Sithole is at the forefront of a new generation of forestry contractors servicing Mondi South Africa. Sabelo is the Managing Director of New Age Forest Solutions, a new harvesting business launched in 2021, which has secured a five-year harvesting contract for the Zululand area.

Sabelo’s journey in forestry has been deeply connected to Mondi from the start. During high school, he attended Protec, an extra-curricular maths and science programme that gives academic support to under-resourced rural schools. This programme has long been supported by Mondi, and Sabelo rose to the fore as one of his school’s top academic achievers. He was identified as a candidate for the Mondi Bursary Programme and made a successful application in 2012.

“To be honest I didn’t know anything about forestry,” admits Sabelo with a shy smile as he walks through a shady plantation in Zululand. Sabelo stops at the harvesting operation to check in on one of his Hitachi machines, which is cutting through a Eucalyptus compartment with great speed and precision. Here he continues his story…

“The first thing you do after receiving the bursary is go to a Mondi operation for work experience. This lasts a whole year and it’s really tough!” he remembers. “You do everything from general labour to planting, establishment, tending and harvesting … that’s where I started to know about forestry, to experience every different kind of work.”

From there, Sabelo went to study forestry at Nelson Mandela University’s George campus, where he completed a three-year National Diploma in Forestry. After graduating, he joined SiyaQhubeka Forests, and worked as both a harvesting and silviculture forester. It was harvesting that stole his heart.

“I decided to leave SQF and join a harvesting contractor so that I could specialise,” explains Sabelo. “The machines really fascinated me. I spent four and a half years at the harvesting contractor. Then I started my own business.”

Excavator equipped with a Ponsse head busy harvesting for Mondi in Zululand.

Sabelo was always looking for opportunities to grow, and he kept an eye on the regular contracting opportunities being advertised by Mondi and SQF. He began working on a business plan and registered his company New Age Forest Solutions in 2021.

“Working with a contractor helped me understand the business side of forestry. I started my business as the only employee – I was doing everything myself. When I won the Mondi harvesting contract last year, I had to hit the ground running!”

Sabelo takes a look at a stack of freshly cut timber. He is happy with the neatly stripped and stacked logs. The soft-spoken young forester is brand new to business, but he has 10 years of operational experience, which puts him in a good position to guide the company.

“From the moment I made the successful bid on the contract, Mondi Zimele has assisted me every step of the way,” he goes on. “They believed in me and my vision for the business.”

Mondi Zimele, which is Mondi’s enterprise development unit, provided 60% of the start-up funding in the form of a soft loan and helped Sabelo consolidate his business plan so he could apply for further funding.

It took a few months to put a team together and acquire the assets needed to start the work.

In order to meet the contract of 140 000 tonnes per annum, Sabelo needed two harvesters, a forwarder and a loader. He went for Hitachi excavators fitted with Ponsse H7 harvesting heads, a forwarder with a Matriarch grapple and a Bell loader. Once his forestry equipment was in place and his team was mobilized, he commenced work in May last year. It was a dream come true.

The Bell loader, workhorse of the harvesting operation.

The Mondi perspective
Cindy Mji is the Mondi Zimele Business Development Manager responsible for the Zululand area. She has been engaging with Sabelo from the time he won the contract.

“Supporting Mondi contractors has many benefits,” she explains as she sits on the back of a bakkie with Sabelo, while the harvester hums in the distance. “Developing new contractors is important for job creation and economic development, which helps to build healthy communities in the forestry footprint. But it is also crucial that we empower up-and-coming contractors to ensure the sustainability of the supply chain for Mondi,” she explains.

“This is part of Mondi’s broader strategy to develop new contractors in the forestry space. The strategy prioritizes transformation and succession planning. Being a young black forester, Sabelo was the perfect candidate, and he has a bright future in the business,” she concludes.

Sabelo adds that the business development support encourages continuous improvement, growth and development. Cindy has helped him set out short, medium and long term goals that go beyond the scope of the Mondi contract.

Excavator equipped with a Ponsse head busy harvesting for Mondi in Zululand.

“MZ helps you to be a visionary,” Sabelo says with a smile.

“Although we are just beginning our journey, I am very excited and proud of our achievements. We have 20 employees, and four machines running 24/7. That’s 20 families that are benefitting from this work. We are looking to add more employees and grow the business even further.”

Story and photos by Samora Chapman

Bell Equipment appoints Ashley Bell as new CEO

Bell Equipment’s new CEO, Ashley Bell.

Bell Equipment has appointed Ashley Jon Bell (41), grandson of the company's founder Irvine Bell, as the new Group Chief Executive Officer effective from 1 January 2024.

This follows the resignation in July of the outgoing Group CEO, Leon Goosen, who leaves the company after 16 years of service, five and a half spent as Group CEO.

Ashley is well acquainted with the company having served as a non-executive director on the Board since 2015 and has provided valuable input as a member of the Board’s Risk and Sustainability and Social, Ethics, and Transformation committees.

A qualified commercial helicopter pilot, Ashley holds a degree in business management and has previously worked for Bell Equipment after graduating in 2007 assisting with product marketing management of the Bell Articulated Dump Truck and Backhoe Loader ranges. Since then, he has jointly established and managed several successful businesses in various industries.

He co-founded Matriarch Equipment with his brother, Justin Bell in 2009. The company focused on developing innovative equipment - including the Matriarch Fastfell and Skogger - for a wide spectrum of industries and enjoyed notable success in agriculture and forestry due to its ‘customer-centric’ approach and quick turnaround of niche solutions. Bell acquired Matriarch in 2019 as part of its strategy to revitalise its presence in the agriculture and forestry industries and Matriarch products now fall under the Bell brand.

Ashley Bell introduces the Matriarch Skogger to foresters at a Focus on Forestry field day in 2017. It was developed under the Matriarch banner by Ashley and his brother Justin Bell, and is now manufactured and distributed by Bell Equipment.

Gary Bell, non-executive chairman of Bell Equipment, congratulated Ashley on his appointment. “Ashley joins a sizeable team representing the third generation of the Bell family actively engaged in the business and it’s heartening to see the next generation stepping up to play an integral role in the future of the company. Having worked closely with Ashley for several years he has all the personality traits and credentials we need, is well aligned with the Board’s strategy, and is a good fit to lead our experienced management team. I have every confidence that he will build on our family legacy with dedication and a passion for the business. On behalf of the rest of the Board, we congratulate Ashley on his appointment and look forward to working with him in his new role and contributing significantly to our continued success and growth."

Ashley Bell said: “I am fortunate to have grown up in an environment where Bell Equipment has been a central theme, and I am both honoured and excited to step up as Group CEO. I look forward to working with the entire Bell team, supported by our customers and suppliers, to ensure we execute our group strategy and make a positive impact for all stakeholders. I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Board for the trust and confidence they have shown in me taking on this role.”

FOCUS ON FORESTRY 2023

Simon Shackleton (left) of John Deere provides insight into the impressive JD eight-wheeled harvester that was on show at the field day. Operating the harvester for the demo was CMO’s mechanised harvesting instructor Gilbert Khumalo.

New forestry equipment, strategies & insights

The big international forestry brands plus local equipment manufacturers and service providers as well as mulchers, chippers and grinders made their presence felt at the Focus on Forestry 2023 event held in the picturesque KZN midlands in early November. Against the backdrop of the magnificent Karkloof mountains and surrounded by Sappi’s well kept gum and pine plantations, forestry stakeholders gathered from far and wide to see the latest equipment up close and gain some keen insights from dozens of presentations that covered just about every aspect of the forestry business.

There was also a lot of networking, socialising and catching up with old friends on the fringes of the conference, as there has been a long gap since the last Focus event that was held before COVID hit.

The overall message from the conference was that forestry businesses have and will continue to encounter hard times in the form of international trade disruptions, weak economic cycles, logistics bottlenecks, rising input costs, fires and extreme weather events, but at the end of the day forestry is part of the solution for many of the world’s biggest challenges and is on an upwards trajectory.

In his keynote address, Dr Ole Sand, Managing Partner of Criterion Africa Partners (CAP), which has invested millions of dollars in forestry businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, says forestry assets have been and are still undervalued. But the positive impacts forestry makes on the global climate balance, the protection of biodiversity, employment and infrastructure are in the early stages of being recognised, valued and monetized.

(Left to right) Mark Barnado, manager of Sappi’s KZN plantations, Dr Ole Sand of Criterion Africa Partners, who delivered the keynote address, and Michal Brink of CMO.

He said plantations constitute just 3% of global forest area, but account for 47% of global industrial roundwood supply, while natural forestry is already beyond capacity. The demand for industrial roundwood is expected to increase by 600 – 900 million m3 per year by 2050.

Africa is a continent where forestry plays a massive role in providing people with goods and services, but there is a critical need for more efficient and more sustainable management practices.

Population growth in Africa is driving wood demand and unsustainable forest use. The continent accounts for 20% of total global wood consumption and 36% of global fuelwood consumption. However much of Africa’s fuelwood production is unsustainable, said Dr Sand.

He said subsistence agriculture is the biggest driver of global deforestation. In Africa natural forests are harvested beyond capacity, and as a result deforestation and degradation is continuing.

“Fuelwood consumption with charcoal the driver will continue, while new plantation development that is taking place is insignificant.”

In this regard, he says that the private sector is doing a better job managing plantations than the state.

Dr Sand said that the CAP team believes there are only two solutions: scale up smallholder plantation development, and improve efficiencies in charcoal production.

He says the scarce resource in African forestry is knowhow and management capacity – not capital.

“When given the market opportunity, smallholders will respond,” he concluded.

Wayne le Roux of Hintech, proudly South African manufacturers of a range of grabs as well as the Urus cable yarding systems, loaders, loggers and shovel yarders.

Wood replacing fossil fuels

“Everything made from fossil fuels today can be made from a tree tomorrow,” said Brazilian forest engineer Marcos Wichert of Stora Enso.

Intensification of forest management is happening, producing more from less is the objective, while making forests more resilient by:-

• Reducing use of agro-chemicals
• Improving soil health
• Reducing CO2 emissions.

Forestry operations are developing fast with GPS devices on planting tubes and even spades to map each tree, AI thinning selectors on harvesters, remote machine operation and unmanned autonomous timber trucks.

And the new frontier, he suggests, is about gaining a better understanding of the role of beneficial microbes and fungi in the soil. At the end of the day growing anything - including trees – is all about soil health.

Empowering smallholders

Michal Brink of CMO endorsed Dr Sand’s opinion on the role of smallholder tree farmers.

“Future forestry expansion will be driven by smallholders, because the land belongs to communities,” said Michal.

The role of corporates is to serve as anchors to support and empower smallholders.

He says CMO is providing simple, affordable and scaleable solutions to enable smallholders to get their operations certified.

“Empowered smallholders are the vehicle to expansion of sustainable plantation forestry into the future,” he concluded.

ProMac is another proudly SA made logger manufactured in Richards Bay.

Resilient forestry

Independent forester Michael Henson talked about resilient forestry and the fact that reducing the risk of failure is much more than just about site and climate.

He said clones are “impressive when they work, and equally impressive when they fail”, and are a “roll of the dice” as they have a very restricted genetic base and carry a higher biosecurity risk than seeds which are genetically more diverse.

Nelly Ndlovu of Mondi Zimele spoke of the need to do more research into agro-forestry to help small-scale growers to improve their cashflow.

Bongiwe Mafuya of Emabhaceni Development and Nature Solutions described how clearing of alien vegetation in the Eastern Cape has created jobs and improved rangelands and agricultural fields. Further good news for the community is that since the alien plant removal, the local river is flowing freely again.

Philip Hall of Mbombela-based Forestry Plant & Equipment shows off the Summit grapple carriage for high productivity yarding. It even comes with a camera attached so the operator can follow the load safely to the landing.

FPA’s on the edge

Addressing the perennial topic of fires in forestry, Ian Henderson lamented the lack of support for FPAs from the Forestry Department and the fact that only 46% of state owned landholders are members of FPAs, while private sector membership is keeping many FPAs afloat. He suggested small FPAs should join forces to establish bigger, more viable FPAs.

Gideon van Lill of Amathole Forestry explained how they reduced fire damage in their Eastern Cape plantations from 5 894 ha burnt between 1999 to 2004 while it was under Safcol management– to 340 ha burnt between 2005 to 2023 while under Amathole Forests management. The key, he said, was meticulous, detailed risk assessment and a very focused and structured approach to risk reduction. Also improved, co-ordinated involvement of external role players.

Andre Scheepers from Anco Manufacturing displays the new bakkie-sakkie made in SA and equipped with a Husqvarna pump for powerful fast-action firefighting.
Andre Scheepers of Anco Manufacturing talks up the advantages of their 4000 litre high tech firefighting unit which comes complete with all the bells and whistles.
Side-view of the Anco firefighting unit.

PBS trucks

The sudden termination of the highly successful PBS truck pilot project by the Department of Transport in September 2023 - without giving any reasons - has put forestry logistics at the crossroads. The benefits of the PBS timber trucks to growers, to the economy, to the environment and to the safety of road users has been plain to see.

“With freight rail in South Africa failing us, the PBS trucks have saved our lives,” said Francois Oberholzer of Forestry South Africa.

He acknowledged that the ‘Pilot Project’ status of the PBS trucks had to end at some point, and is hopeful that the programme’s termination signalled that the PBS trucks would be absorbed into the legislation so that they can continue to improve the efficiency of road transport.

Francois said that 56% of conventional trucks currently operating on SA’s roads would not pass the PBS safety tests.

Loggers and loaders from Zululand-based Bell Equipment.

Rail

David Taylor of Tailor Rail company expressed his optimism that private sector participation in freight rail in South Africa is coming, but that the stakeholders need to move forward with extreme caution as there are multiple infrastructure and operational challenges.

By the way, 170 metres of cable theft takes place in SA every hour of every day. That is just one of the challenges that freight rail operators will face. Will we see the return of the green uniforms of the Railway Police?

One-pass harvesting

Andrew Cooper of Mondi explained their journey to single-pass harvesting. This has largely been achieved with extensive trial and error and working closely with the manufacturers of harvesting heads.

The aim is to reduce stem processing time, wear and tear on equipment, and stem damage. He reckons that two to four tons of fibre per hectare is lost from excessive stem damage during multiple-pass processing.

The trick is variable pressure control on the rollers which need to be finely tuned to the tree characteristics and conditions at the time of harvesting, coupled with fewer rollers and more knives.

The heads endorsed for one-pass harvesting are:-
• SP 661E
• Waratah H225E
• Log Max E6
• Ponsse H7 Euca

Andrew said that the system balance is critical, and edge trees are a problem for one-pass harvesting.

“The journey to one-pass harvesting is very complicated and difficult to manage, but very worth it in the end,” he said.

Major learning: one size DOES NOT fit all.

Waratah head, mounted on a purpose-built John Deere harvester, is one of the iconic global brands.
New Ponsse head capable of rotating through 360 degrees with members of the local and international Ponsse support team (extreme right) Janne Tarvainen of Ponsse Finland, and second right Chris Odendaal of MTS Parts, principle Ponsse dealer in South Africa, based in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
The Log Max 10000 XT head for extreme heavy duty logging, attached to a Tigercat tracked harvester, distributed and supported in South Africa by AfrEquip.

Biomass processing

Willem van der Merwe of Africa Biomass Company is a pioneer of chipping, mulching, grinding, shredding and billeting everything from post-harvest forestry slash to prunings, bush clearing and alien vegetation reduction in forestry and agriculture.

He says three hectares of cleared alien vegetation gains enough water savings to irrigate one ha of farmland.

Furthermore, 1.7 tons of good quality woodchips has the same energy value as one ton of coal, and reduces the carbon footprint by 95%.

He says markets for processed biomass material need to be found close by, on farms, in factories and in local small towns where more and more opportunities are opening up.

The big Bandit chipper, dubbed the ‘Beast’, reduced medium-sized pine logs to a neat pile of woodchips with effortless ease. It is operated by Africa Biomass Company.
This is the business end of the Bandit chipper …
SA manufactured Wuhlf 960-2 mulcher put through its paces at the field day by Grant Moodley.

Community-focused carbon project

Candice Taylor of the New Forests Company provided insights into a community-focused carbon project in Uganda which will provide small-scale growers with additional income from carbon credits earned in their operations. One of the objectives of the project is to encourage the small growers not to harvest their trees too early before they reach maturity, which is what they tend to do in an effort to boost their cashflow.

She said the project has taken three years to monetize, and will take five years to break even.

“Carbon shouldn’t be your side business – it should be a part of your core business,” she said.

And finally a word of advice: beware of the ‘carbon cowboys’ … so-called expert consultants who charge a fortune when you can do it yourself with a bit of effort. It’s complex, but it’s not rocket science.

Fanie Viljoen (left) and Jacques van der Watt of George-based Novelquip Forestry with one of their pitting attachments.
Jody Ivins of KZN midlands-based LP Engineering with one of their grabs … they also support Ponsse harvesting equipment in the Midlands.

ABC pioneering processors of biomass

Africa Biomass Company (ABC) has been a pioneer in the development of biomass processing such as wood chips, biofuel, and mulch in both the agriculture and forestry industries in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa over the past two decades.

In 2004 Willem van der Merwe, founder, and CEO of Africa Biomass Company, bought a small, specialised tree felling company and used wood chippers to enhance productivity. Over time these services and equipment were used in agriculture, river rehabilitation projects, and lately also forestry, with a focus on biomass to energy and under canopy mulching.

ABC has grown to meet increasing demand for these services and now has nine production teams using the latest biomass processing equipment and techniques to process plantation residue, alien invasive trees, and encroacher bushes.

ABC specialises in providing contracting services in the following core operations: -

Land Preparation
Serrat mulchers have demonstrated their effectiveness as a comprehensive solution for land preparation before replanting. Plantation managers see this as the future of single-step preparation, replacing the previously used herbicides, burning, and manual labour, which were both labour-intensive and had a detrimental impact on the soil conditions.

Under Canopy Mulching and Fire Management
In South Africa, the practice of under canopy mulching is gaining traction as part of an integrated fire management strategy to reduce fuel loads, such as prunings. ABC is excited about the results obtained through multiple trials in various regions using the rugged Serrat mulchers to process fuel load in an efficient, cost-effective, and ecologically beneficial way to the environment. The Serrat forestry mulchers, available as part of ABC’s contracting fleet or to purchase, come in several widths and can process several diameters of material according to the client’s need.

Biomass to Energy
Correctly sourced biomass is environmentally friendly, renewable, abundantly available, and cost-effective fuel that can be combusted as a source of fuel to generate heat for a variety of applications. Typical sustainable sources of biomass are offcuts from sustainably managed commercial plantations, recycled orchard and vineyard residues, and most importantly invasive alien vegetation that is cleared as part of river rehabilitation projects. Harvesting unwanted alien vegetation increases water runoff, decreases the risk of bush fires, and contributes to the restoration of natural vegetation.

ABC is an authorised dealer for Bandit wood chippers, Serrat mulchers, Badger biomass equipment and Dezzi equipment. They are based in Worcester in the Western Cape and have branches in George (W. Cape), Kirkwood (Eastern Cape), Upington (Northern Cape), Parys (Free State), Tzaneen (Limpopo) and Nelspruit (Mpumalanga).

ABC places a high value on customer well-being and after-sales support, and each customer's operations are treated as unique, with custom-tailored solutions.

ABC are Gold Sponsors at this year’s Focus on Forestry Conference taking place at Karkloof in the KZN midlands from 7-9 November, and conference delegates are invited to visit their stand. ABC CEO Willem van der Merwe will address the following topic on Wednesday, 8th November at 11:55: “The latest biomass processing equipment and techniques available to process plantation residue, alien invasive trees, and encroacher bush.”

For more info visit ABC’s website at www.abc.co.za, their YouTube channel at “Africa Biomass Company” or contact the ABC head office at 023 342 1212.

For a full list of new and used equipment for sale, send an email to: info@abc.co.za

Big boost for the bakkie-sakkie

Compact and powerful … the new bakkie sakkie is a result of collaboration between Anco Manufacturing and Husqvarna.

Every land manager knows that early detection and rapid response is the best method for keeping your property safe from wildfires. Often the first person to arrive at a wildfire is a forester or farmer with a ‘bakkie sakkie’ which is able to get close enough to the fire to extinguish it before it gets big, dangerous and out of control.

Those precious few minutes provide a window of opportunity that can make the difference between a minor fire statistic and a major wildfire disaster. It’s at times like this that the forester/farmer wants to know that the bakkie sakkie on the back of his vehicle is armed and loaded and ready to deploy a jet of water with enough velocity to kill the fire quickly and efficiently.

Now two heavy-weight equipment suppliers - Husqvarna and ANCO Manufacturing - have collaborated in an exciting partnership to develop a highly effective, robust and reliable 'Bakkie Sakkie' mobile firefighting unit that is well adapted to combating veld and forest fires.

Ruan van Schalkwyk, Husqvarna's Area Business Manager for Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and the project's pointsman, explains: "The concept is simple yet remarkably ingenious. ANCO designed a water tank engineered to be mounted at the rear of a bakkie (pickup truck). Powered by a robust Husqvarna multi-purpose engine (MPE) and a high-capacity water pump, the result is a mobile firefighting unit that can be rapidly deployed to combat fires, even in the most remote and challenging terrains.”

The key component of this firefighting innovation is the Husqvarna HH 163 MP multi-purpose engine, known for its reliability and robustness. It features a powerful 163cc petrol engine that is durable, water, and rust-resistant, making it ideal for the 'Bakkie Sakkie' unit.

“This engine is built to withstand the harsh conditions often encountered during firefighting,” says Ruan.
One of the standout features of the HH 163 MP is its optimised combustion chamber and air vent, resulting in lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions during operation.

Casper Pieterse, the Operations Manager at ANCO Manufacturing, says that the decision to partner with Husqvarna was an easy one. “The idea for the collaboration originated with Husqvarna South Africa’s Managing Director, Pieter Smuts. When it was presented to us, we recognised the potential of their product powering the ‘Bakkie Sakkie’, offering farmers a game-changing, reliable solution to the very real and ongoing threat of veld fires.”

Anco Manufacturing is a proudly South African company that specialises in the manufacture of a variety of fire fighting units and equipment as well as silviculture equipment used in forestry, such as mechanised boom planters.

By combining the ‘Bakkie Sakkie’ with the HH 163 MP multi-purpose engine that fits snugly on the back of a bakkie, farmers and foresters can respond swiftly and effectively to fires, making all the difference in containing a blaze before it escalates.

“Husqvarna has an impressive reputation for reliability, and we are confident that by combining our manufacturing expertise with Husqvarna’s powerful MPE, we have a dependable resource that will deliver optimal performance when it’s needed most,” adds Casper.

The partnership between Husqvarna and ANCO Manufacturing has positioned both companies as innovators in firefighting technology. Their commitment to creating an effective product that will assist professionals, as well as farmers in their firefighting efforts, showcases their ongoing dedication to finding creative solutions that also maximise safety. The ‘Bakkie Sakkie’ represents a new standard in innovation and another step forward in ensuring that first responders have the tools they need to access and attack fires before they get away.

For more information on the HH 163 MP or to view Husqvarna’s range of products, visit https://www.husqvarna.com/za/

Bell, AFGRI, Husqvarna equipment round-up

The Dipperfox stump crusher in action.

A mid-range spare parts option from Bell with 1 000 hour warranty; a 61 stump/hour Dipperfox stump crusher from AFGRI Equipment; and specialised, super protective new chainsaw trousers from Husqvarna, proudly made in SA …

Bell introduces mid-range BETA Parts
Bell Equipment has launched Bell Equipment Trusted Alternative (BETA) Parts to give its customers a convenient and competitive alternative, endorsed by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), for their older Bell machines or when faced with budget constraints.

Bell Equipment Director of Aftermarket and Logistics, Aldo Mayer, explains: “BETA Parts has been designed to bridge the gap between new Bell Parts, being our premium quality parts designed to OEM specifications and used in production, and Bell ReMan, which are major components that have been remanufactured to meet OEM specification. New Bell Parts and Bell ReMan carry a one-year/unlimited hours warranty while BETA Parts has a six-month/1000-hour warranty.”

At the other end of the scale, Bell Used Parts are also available but do not carry a warranty.

BETA Parts was piloted with starter motors and alternators that were offered to a sample group of customers. They responded positively to the opportunity to be able to buy cheaper parts from Bell, and BETA Parts has now been officially launched and will be expanded to other parts and rolled out throughout South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, followed by the rest of the global dealer network.

“It’s all about giving our customers choices and being able to fully support their needs throughout their Bell ownership experience,” says Aldo.

“BETA Parts is the next best alternative to our premium new Bell Parts, our ‘alpha’ or leading parts brand, and we’re confident that our customers will benefit from being able to buy more cost-effective parts from Bell, especially since they are approved by Bell and carry less risk than other cheaper parts due to their Bell warranty cover.

“Choosing BETA Parts simplifies the purchasing process, offering a one-stop-shop experience that eliminates the need for customers to search and compare prices from multiple suppliers in their quest for savings."

Dipperfox stump crusher logs 61 stumps/hour
The AFGRI focus this month is on the Dipperfox SC600 stump crusher mounted on a Wacker Neuson RT75 excavator. It’s an efficient combination that foresters can use to eliminate stumps in a compartment that needs to be cleared and re-planted. Removing old stumps makes it easier for subsequent mechanised operations to function efficiently, and also improves compartment access for fire-fighting units in case of a wildfire.

The original equipment manufacturers rate the Dipperfox at 60 stumps per hour. The AFGRI team that recently tested the Dipperfox mounted on the Wacker Neuson RT75 in a Eucalyptus compartment, achieved 61 stumps in an hour.

This equipment is supplied and supported by AFGRI Equipment, which has recently established a new branch in Tzaneen servicing the forestry industry. Premium forestry equipment supplied and supported by AFGRI includes John Deere, Waratah heads and ProMac three-wheel loaders.

Wacker Neuson ET75 specs.
• 4 cylinder Yanmar diesel engine developing 35.9 kW
• Variable displacement hydraulic pump delivering 144 litre per minute
• Operating weight 6 800 – 7 300 kg (depending on final configuration)
Dipperfox SC600 stump crusher specs.
• Cutting diameter 600mm
• Hydraulic flow requirements 65 – 150 litres per minute
• Weight 285 kg
Carrier requirements:-
• Excavator size: 6 – 14 tons; Excavator engine power: 35 – 83 kW
• Backhoe loader size: 6 – 8.5 tons; Backhoe loader engine power: 50 – 80 kW
• Skid steer loader size: 2 – 6 tons; Skid steer loader engine power: 40 – 80 kW
• Compact tracked loader size: 2 – 6 tons; Compact tracked loader engine power: 40 – 80 kW

Husqvarna opts for SA-made Chainsaw Trousers for maximum protection
The Husqvarna South Africa team has introduced specialised safety pants for chainsaw operators that provide all round protection from chainsaw-related hazards. The trousers, which are made in South Africa to international standards, are also water resistant, flame retardant and acid repellent.

Studies reveal that just under half of all chainsaw-related injuries target the legs. This is why Husqvarna SA has introduced the chainsaw trousers as an essential addition to their arsenal of protective gear.
Pieter Smuts, Husqvarna South Africa's Managing Director says that the chainsaw pants were a ‘passion project’ for him, and they purposely chose to use local manufacturers. “South Africans are talented, resourceful, innovative and our new chainsaw pants epitomise our faith in the synergy between innovation and local ingenuity," he said.

The Husqvarna chainsaw pants are designed to achieve a perfect balance between providing protection and comfort. Certified Class 1 – 20M/S, they face chainsaw speeds of up to 20 meters per second. Meeting the ISO 11393-2 international standard, Husqvarna Chainsaw Pants assures an unmatched safeguard, catering to both homeowners and professionals in forestry, arboriculture, farming, and the realms of green space management. Tailored sizing, ranging from waist size 77 to 132, weaves a tapestry of custom fit, fusing flexibility and comfort into a seamless union.

Husqvarna Chainsaw Pants are available through certified Husqvarna dealers or can be purchased directly from the official Husqvarna eCommerce site.

Safe DIY tree felling


Winter and early spring are the perfect time for felling trees because all those bare branches make it easier to see what you're doing. But whether you are a seasoned professional or a homeowner, tree felling is a dangerous business that requires proper planning and the right working techniques to make sure it is done safely and effectively.

Charles Henderson, Husqvarna's Tree Professional Business Development Manager, knows a thing or two about this. “Winter is the tree-felling sweet spot. The lack of leaves makes it a breeze for arborists and loggers to assess a tree's health, spot any potential issues and pick the right ones to cut down,” he says. “Homeowners should also take advantage of this opportune time if they need to cut down any trees in their gardens.”

Remember though that the most important part of tree felling is safety first! Whether you're a pro or a first-time tree-feller, Henderson recommends following these six steps to complete the task with confidence.

  1. Start with a Plan
    Before commencing any tree-felling project, it's crucial to plan. Take a close look at the tree's surroundings and identify any potential obstacles that may interfere with the felling process. Consider factors such as the tree's size, shape and proximity to structures or power lines. This assessment will guide you in selecting the right tools and safety equipment needed for the job. For bigger trees, a chainsaw will always be the most efficient and effective tool and it makes post-felling work a lot easier too.
  2. Identify the Felling Direction
    Carefully study the tree and assess the direction in which it naturally leans. Additionally, take note of the wind direction, as this should align with the tree's natural lean to ensure a controlled fall. Clear the area around the tree and in the direction of the intended fall to create a safe working zone.
  3. Trim the Trunk
    Before making the felling cut, it's essential to prune the tree's trunk by removing any branches and twigs up to shoulder height. This will ensure that you have a clean and unobstructed cutting path to enhance the safety and precision of the tree's fall.
  4. Determine the Cutting Technique
    If you are using a chainsaw, the appropriate cutting technique depends on various factors, including the tree's size, slope and the size of your chainsaw bar. There are different cutting methods such as the notch and back cut technique or the plunge cut technique, each suited for specific scenarios. If you're unsure about the best approach, don’t chance it. Get advice from a professional.
  5. Inspect for Rot or Disease
    Inspect the tree's timber and lower part of the trunk for any signs of rot or disease. A weakened or decaying tree can behave unpredictably during felling, posing significant risks. If you detect any structural issues, reconsider felling the tree and consult an arborist for expert advice.
  6. Establish an Escape Route
    Before starting the final cut, make sure you have a clear and safe path of retreat. This path should be at a 45-degree angle away from the direction of the tree's fall. Having a designated escape route is crucial for maintaining your safety during the felling process.
    Henderson reiterates prioritising safety above everything else: “Even with careful planning and preparation, tree removal can be hazardous. If you feel uncertain or uncomfortable with the process, hire a professional with the necessary expertise and equipment.”
    He also emphasizes the need to plant one or two new trees for every tree felled. “This practice is essential for maintaining a balanced and thriving ecosystem. By planting new trees, we can offset the environmental impact of tree removal and ensure a sustainable future, keeping the cycle of tree planting and cutting in harmony.”

For more info visit https://www.husqvarna.com/za/

FORESTRY EQUIPMENT ROUND-UP

The AFGFRI team at the opening of their new branch in Tzaneen.

AFGRI gets into forestry equipment
AFGRI Equipment Construction and Forestry has opened a new branch in Tzaneen, Limpopo province, South Africa. The new branch is equipped to offer a wide range of forestry and agriculture equipment including John Deere harvesters and skidders, Waratah heads, ProMac three-wheel loaders, Dipperfox stump crushers, PALMS trailers as well as big brand construction and agriculture equipment.

AFGRI Equipment has appointed Pieter Bosch as the dedicated forestry marketer for South Africa. Pieter will be based in Tzaneen, overseeing the company's forestry portfolio. His extensive knowledge and expertise will be of great benefit to customers, as well as the AFGRI Equipment team.

Beyond forestry, the branch in Tzaneen also caters to the residential and commercial services sector, construction and agriculture industries by providing the comprehensive John Deere equipment range and AFGRI Equipment services.

AFGRI is a supplier of John Deere forestry and agriculture equipment in SA.

According to AFGRI’s marketing manager, Etienne Meyer, it made perfect sense for AFGRI to take on the supply and backup for John Deere’s forestry equipment in South Africa as there is a 60% parts overlap between John Deere’s agriculture and forestry equipment.

“We know machines, and we know how to keep them running,” commented Etienne.

AFGRI has a big footprint in South Africa with 25 equipment supply and maintenance branches around the country plus 42 retail outlets. Specialised AFGRI forestry equipment hubs are located at Middelburg, Piet Retief and now also Tzaneen.

Contact the AFGRI Tzaneen branch on 071 647 6384 to schedule an appointment or discuss your equipment needs.

Ponsse goes electric
Ponsse has unveiled its new technology concept Ponsse EV1 forwarder. Its fully electric platform is one important step on Ponsse’s journey towards zero-emissions harvesting.

The next step on Ponsse’s radar is to switch to fossil-free steel for the manufacture of their forestry machines.

Ponsse’s EV1 electric forwarder.

To this end Ponsse has joined forces with SSAB, a Nordic and US-based steel company, who will deliver fossil-free steel to the Ponsse factory in Finland, starting in 2026.

This partnership will further solidify Ponsse’s position as a provider of sustainable forest machines and bring SSAB closer to its goal of establishing a fossil-free value chain.

“It’s great to have a reliable partner like Ponsse now joining our fossil-free journey,” said Lotta Ruottinen, Sales Director at SSAB Europe. “Joint efforts are needed to meet the challenging CO2 reduction targets in forest machines. Both companies prioritize sustainable solutions and will strive to make a positive impact on forest machines using SSAB Fossil-free™ steel, fostering innovation while respecting nature.

SSAB plans to revolutionize the entire steelmaking process, and aims to start delivering fossil-free steel to the market at a commercial scale in 2026 and to largely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from their operations in around 2030. SSAB works with iron ore producer LKAB and energy company Vattenfall as part of the HYBRIT initiative to develop a value chain for fossil-free iron and steelmaking, replacing the coking coal traditionally used for iron ore-based steelmaking with fossil-free electricity and hydrogen. This process virtually eliminates carbon dioxide-emissions in steel production.

Ponsse has also unveiled their latest models of the PONSSE Scorpion Giant harvester, the PONSSE Mammoth forwarder and the PONSSE H8 harvester head.

Ponsse forestry equipment is distributed and supported in South Africa by MTS Parts, Piet Retief.

Mechanical tree pruner
Green Projects, based in Lions River in the heart of KZN midlands forestry country, supplies and supports an interesting array of forestry equipment including Logset heads, Stihl saw chains and bars, ProMac cane and forestry loaders, Nokian tyres and Advaligno Patas tree pruners, manufactured in Germany.

ProMac loaders, designed and manufactured in SA.

The ProMac loaders, designed and manufactured in Richards Bay, are popping up all over the place providing stiff competition to the well known Bell loggers. Frank Uzzell of Green Projects reckons they are powerful and efficient machines, and as an experienced forestry equipment fundi he should know.

Green Projects also supplies and supports Logset equipment, manufactured in Finland. The Logset heads are versatile and efficient, and are highly effective tools attached to an excavator or purpose-built harvester.

Frank Uzzell (left) of Green Projects and forestry contractor Justin Lorenz trialling the Logset head in KZN.

The Advaligno Patas is a mechanical tree pruner operated by two people and powered by a tractor. It is attached to the base of a tree, and delimbs it cleanly in seconds. Very useful tool for delimbing pine or Eucalyptus. It can prune up to 15 meters, and in an ideal plantation site can do up to 100 trees in an hour, or so the manufacturers claim.

Frank also supplies an innovative anti-theft device that prevents fuel theft from any vehicle or piece of equipment.

See the tree pruner in action here:

Contact Frank for more info: 082 820 5701.

Chop-em tree fellers goes green
Green is the colour of choice for Chop-em Tree Fellers of Benoni who recently purchased a brand new Sumitomo excavator from ELB Equipment, and promptly had it painted bright green.

Rather than the ordinary yellow finish on most excavators, Chop-em Tree Fellers owner, David Kretzschmar wants his equipment to be easily recognisable in the field as belonging to the specialist arborist business.

Chop-em Tree Fellers’ stylish new excavator.

Having grown up in a tree felling and bush clearing family, David’s first recollections are of riding and sleeping in various types of plant equipment and trucks while his father went about his business. As a result, there is little that he does not know about plant equipment and along with his brothers Malcolm and Karl, can operate any type of machine.

And contrary to popular belief, arborists like David usually do their utmost to save valuable trees through careful pruning, tying, root containment and supporting trees with cables and other techniques, rather than chopping them down. They usually discuss options with customers and try to preserve them - especially indigenous trees. Only as a last resort or if trees are invader species will the axe – or rather the excavator - be brought out.

The Kretzschmar brothers are now planning to ‘green’ their entire fleet of excavators, stump grinders, trucks and saws.