A review of current mechanical & robotic tree pruning equipment

This desktop review report provides an overview of current and emerging mechanical and robotic tree pruning equipment for use in plantation forest management. Recently, increased interest has been expressed by plantation forest managers in the potential economic use of mechanical or robotic tree pruning systems to do pruning either for bushfire risk management or improved resource value. The RD&E sector has expressed interest in both importing and testing specific commercial solutions, or the design and development of specific solutions for Australia. However, before committing an RD&E investment in this space, an independent international review of the state of the technology in use, or development for mechanical or robotic tree pruning is requested. 

This technical review is supported by a literature review on the development and application of mechanical and robotic tree pruning. 


Final Report - PRC522-2021


Evaluating and modelling radiata pine wood quality in the Murray valley region (PNC325-1314)

There is increasing pressure to boost plantation productivity in radiata pine.  It is critical, however, where gains are achieved, that wood quality is maintained.  The main options available to forest managers to increase productivity are genetic improvement and silvicultural adjustments, but they still lack tools by which to understand potential quality implications, particularly of the latter.  At the same time, processors are recognising the enormous importance of understanding and managing the variability in the incoming timber resource to optimise their operations.

To this end, a new model (eCambium) was developed in an FWPA-funded project to predict wood properties and stand growth and productivity from inputs of weather data, site characteristics and silviculture. However, despite the success of the model to date, it has not been widely tested outside a relatively limited range of site types and conditions.  

Furthermore, the existing software was designed as a prototype for industry testing, and a number of enhancements are needed to make the software sufficiently powerful and useful as an operational decision support tool (DST). 

This project (PNC325-1314) was designed to robustly test and enhance eCambium in the context of a comprehensive assessment of P. radiata resource quality in the Murray Valley region, one of the largest areas of softwood plantations in Australia.  

The key objective being to test eCambium predictions, at multiple scales, based on detailed measurements of wood properties within the context of a comprehensive assessment of radiata pine resource quality in the Murray Valley region.

Project Report 


Lifting farm gate profits: the role of natural capital accounts (RRD030-1617)

The objective of the Rural Research for Development and Profit program is to lift farm gate profitability of primary producers across Australia, by investing in emerging tools and technologies, strengthening the path to adoption and fostering new collaborations. This project targeted the program objective of better management of natural resources to improve certainty of supply, sustainably develop new production areas and improve the resilience of existing production to potential future shocks associated with factors such as climate change. 

The project tested the application of natural capital accounting in three primary industries: cotton, fisheries and forestry. Natural capital accounting measuring stocks of ecosystem assets, their changes through time and the flow of ecosystem services from these ecosystem assets. The ‘invisibility’ of these stocks and flows constrains the capacity for industries to measure and report their environmental performance and track against financial performance. Initially we hypothesised that natural capital accounting could increase farm gate profitability via three pathways: 

 • increased sustainability credentials and access to premium markets,

discounted finance associated with reduced natural capital risk,

improved capacity to engage in emerging environmental markets.


The primary objectives of the project were to:

develop detailed conceptual models of the relationships between natural capital and the industries

use these conceptual models to define the scope and objectives of natural capital accounts

trial the application of natural capital accounting.



This work was supported by funding provided to FWPA by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE), via the Rural R&D for Profit program (16-03-003).

Re-measurement of lower-rainfall farm forestry species in Victoria to improve genetic quality & establishment: A report on Establishment Techniques, Sawlog Species Comparison & E. cladocalyx Progeny Trials in south-west Victoria after eighteen years.

This report documents the results from three trials in the Lismore area of Western Victoria that were established in 2002-2003 to improve knowledge of growth rates and species suitability for farm forestry plantings on lower rainfall sites in Victoria. 

They include a trial of establishment techniques, a sawlog species comparison and a progeny trial for Eucalyptus cladocalyx (Sugar Gum).

The E. cladocalyx progeny trial is particularly significant and can provide a principal source of improved seed for this species which demonstrably has a lot to contribute to the development of lower rainfall sawlog and biomass production. 

This report was commissioned to capture the results of the studies and provide guidance for new initiatives to re-integrate woody vegetation into farming landscapes and contribute to new directions in production of wood and wood energy in these landscapes. 



Lifting farmgate profitability through high value modular agroforestry (RRD401-1516)

This project aimed to increase the number and area of trees on farms in configurations that will promote increased farm gate profitability. The objective was to demonstrate that trees can be a profitable component of farming systems, such that farmers will be keen to establish them based on their merits. The intention is that this will lead to a natural scaling up, and avoid the necessity for direct government investment in as many tree plantings. The establishment of more trees in the landscape will lead to much greater returns of both the public and private benefits of tree planting.

The methods that this project adopted were:

(1) conducting a review of agroforestry options to better understand the economic and biophysical basis for the range of benefits that targeted agroforestry systems can offer for farm enterprises,

(2) Understanding farmer motivations around tree planting, and the barriers to adoption through applied social science, 

(3) Experimentation to fill critical gaps, including 

     a. understanding the shelter benefits of windbreaks on wind speed, microclimate and pasture productivity, 

     b. exploring the opportunity for Tasmanian manuka to be used as an agroforestry species, and 

     c. better understanding the influence of woodland patches on microclimate and windspeed

(4) Integration of biophysical and economic information using the Imagine bioeconomic model to bring the multiple benefits of agroforestry systems into a single balance sheet to explore the impacts of different configurations, and rotations on the range of benefits that accrue to the farm bottom line, focusing on the 4 case study sites in Tasmania

The project has produced a number of publicly available outputs, including two CSIRO reports, 5 published papers and more on the way, 3 conference presentations, and 6 fact sheets (see Appendix 1.1 for details). In addition to this, project members have contributed to at least 7 field days and fora on agroforestry with farmers, and established 4 key experiments in the northern and southern midlands of Tasmania which have been a nucleus for activity and interest in the project findings and implications for farm enterprises. 



This work was supported by funding provided to FWPA by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE), via the Rural R&D for Profit program (15-02-029).

Improving productivity of the private native forest resource in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales (PNC379-1516)

Private native forests across Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) are an important source of domestic timber supply upon which the Australian hardwood timber industry depends. 

The aim of this project was to generate new information for the timber industry and landholders on the timber producing potential of private native forests in southern Queensland and northern NSW.  Specifically, the project aimed to determine: 

(i) the spatial extent and condition of the private native forest resource and establish a framework for ongoing inventory; 

(ii) the influence of forest management (i.e. thinning regimes) on tree growth rates, carbon stocks and ecological attributes; and (iii) the potential return on investment associated with silvicultural management.



Next Generation Forest Plantation Investment

The main objective of this project was to develop new approaches to integrating trees for commercial harvest within rural landscapes that deliver on-farm and wider economic, environmental and social benefits while also supporting profitable, resilient, publicly-supported high value regional industries.

The Next Generation Forest Plantation Investment Project (VNC423 -1617) was driven by the need for increased resources for timber processors in regional Australia and for more trees in Australian rural landscapes for environmental and social outcomes. The project has recognised that there are clear economic, social and political limits to the purchase of large areas of agricultural land for plantations. 

The Project was focussed on two key regions: Colac-Otway and Gippsland and three research streams. 

The study aimed to realise the following goals:

1. Understand the land base and the needs and experiences of landowners, industry and the investment community 

2. Learn from past experiences to design more sustainable investment models

3. Develop a process to design and test new models for planted forest investment

4. Drive long-term change to position the sector to access new capital and land through partnerships


Additional to this whole of project FWPA Final Report a range of reports specific to each of the project outputs can also be found on the below link.



Link All reports  

University of Melbourne webpage

The Prize


The 2020 National University Wood Challenge is looking to support teams of students and academics to come up with new ideas of how we can use wood in innovative ways.

The prize will provide support to up to four small teams to bring their innovative, novel or untested ideas for new products to life, through the; building of a prototype, creating or testing their ideas using Australian wood fibre.

The project applications will be assessed by a panel of judges who will award up to four University teams as finalists in the Challenge.  The finalists will be awarded with;

·         A $20 000 prize to create, build or test your idea and to create a 2 min video of your idea and journey as a finalist.

·         The opportunity to showcase your video to the forest industry at the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) 2020 Winter dinner in June 2020.

In June, the efforts of the finalists will be judged and an overall winner will be awarded the 2020 National University Wood Challenge Award and $10 000 to continue to develop their product.

Your team

The prize is a ‘team’ award, and each team must be affiliated with an Australian University in Australia. 

Each team must have at least one member of the University’s Academic staff and at least one student (PhD candidates are considered students).

Teams can have up to five people. Teams must be from the same University.

There is no limit to the number of submissions per University and academics and students can be part of more than one team.


Enhanced forest inventory practice using immersive visualisation and measurement of dense point cloud data

The aim of this project was to provide Australian commercial forest growers and forest service providers with knowledge of and access to a VR-based visualization software application. 

The project enabling 3D immersive remote assessments of individual trees using dense point cloud data. The primary  question or measure that defined the project is whether forestry field operators could successfully undertake tree stem assessments using forest point clouds data in an immersive VR environment?

The data employed in this project has been separately acquired using both laser scanning and photogrammetry techniques and using a mix University of South Australia projects (FWPA PNC326-131 and PNC377-1516). 

The VR software application is available for public use and testing. 

Please contact Dr. Winyu Chinthammit (winyu.chinthammit@utas.edu.au) to obtain the download link to the software.



Production Forest Methodologies for the Emissions Reduction Fund

This FWPA funded project, entitled Production Forest Methodologies for the Emissions Reduction Fund (PNC354-1415), sought to capture opportunities under ERF for forest managers and wood processors in both the native forest and plantation sectors through the development of a suite of GHG reduction methodologies including through: 

  1. Carbon sequestration in long-rotation plantations;
  2. Carbon sequestration through the retention of plantations established on economically marginal sites which are under threat of conversion into agricultural lands;
  3. Carbon storage in harvested wood products (HWPs);
  4. Use of biomass from forest harvest operations and wood processing facilities to generate bioenergy;
  5. Increasing carbon stocks in forests through enhanced forest management; and
  6. Reduced emissions through bushfire prevention.

Summaries of the actual methods development of the project are provided, along with observations of the process, recommendations and Future Opportunities.

Findings report: