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Ronaldo André Soares

Forestry General Manager Hexagon Agriculture Division


The challenges of introduction of technologies

Digitization has already reached the forest. Every day, more and more processes undergo incorporation of software and hardware, producing an infinity of information. Despite having a totally unexplored terrain and with an almost unknown range to acquire new knowledge, we still have some challenges to overcome.

The harvesting area absorbed Scandinavian technology, introducing harvesters, forwarders, skidders and clambunks, leaving behind an activity that used chainsaws, peelers, self-loaders and trucks with low load capacity as a base. When we talk about the implantation of forests, this activity follows the steps of the evolutionary and technological process still of agriculture, which, in turn, is always one step ahead when we talk about innovation.

There are some reasons why this time difference occurs: The short cycle of maturation and commercialization of agricultural products leads to an analysis of investment and results with greater speed. The great interest of agricultural machinery manufacturers in this market, due to the high demand for products. A more vertical management, which often facilitates decision making and speeds up the acquisition and adoption of new technologies, as there are few involved in terms of investment risks. According to the National Federation of Motor Vehicles Distribution (2021), the sale of agricultural machinery was 58,733 units, with an accumulated figure for the last 5 years at 239,094 units. It is estimated that the forestry market represents only between 1% and 3%, which would explain the lack of interest on the part of manufacturers.

Searching for data is already a big challenge. We have less than a dozen large manufacturers in the area and a hundred smaller-scale manufacturers that compete fiercely for the budget of the forestry sector. The large share of the market is concentrated in small manufacturers. Forestry, from planting the forest to harvesting, shares the same problem, regardless of where in the world you are.

Companies are looking to find local solutions, which is the service provider that generally serves the metal-mechanic sector or small implement manufacturers and that are dazzled by this opportunity to expand their business. Motivated by the forestry operation to develop solutions, they usually take a first step through a prototype and, after several trials of mistakes and successes, rarely manage to transform it into a universal commercial product.

Some companies subsidize these processes, both financially and technically, as there is a need for silvicultural technical-scientific operational knowledge to support this development. Although this occurs, we have already observed, over the years, that it is not enough to support this initiative. Therefore, we have a lack of financial resources and, consequently, a technical level of manufacturing and constructive design on the part of these solution providers, which reflects in equipment with a low level of standardization and technology, although every effort and motivation has been used.

The very uncertainties or customized orders of the same company, or neighboring companies with a very similar operational demand, end up dividing this small sector of suppliers even more, competing for the same resource and market. It is not uncommon, in the same company, to find 30 or more pieces of equipment in the operation that, despite having been manufactured by one or two suppliers, have such significant differences between them, so much so that, for the introduction of technology, a change and adaptation is necessary. substantial. This fact increases the costs, takes time and, many times, makes even the implantation in this equipment unfeasible. Easily, it would have been solved with a standardized and technological factory project.

The adaptation of agricultural implements for the forestry sector is not a simple task, as there are characteristics of each sector that determine the robustness, quality, construction engineering and technological level. Among these differences, we can mention the number of hours used per year by equipment, terrain conditions, such as the existence of stumps and waste , topography and outsourcing itself.

In the dynamics of this challenge, we have 4 actors mainly involved:

1. Pulp and wood-derived companies: By their conception, companies in the forestry segment are focused on their final product, allocating most of their resources to this end. One of the factors that can influence this reduction in investments at the beginning of a forestry implementation is, probably, the long cycle, more than 6 years. This long wait for harvest brings up many uncertainties for investors about guarantees of return. Questions that are difficult to answer, depending on variables such as climate, pests and diseases, genetic choice and political and economic situation.

2. Service providers: When we talk about service providers, their core business is also in the goals of implantation and maintenance of forests, not having time, resources or qualified personnel for the development of machines; however, due to the difficulties already exposed, one can see the almost sine qua non need for survival to venture into these paths of development and manufacturing. The result is not always what was expected and, generally, they fall into the same problem as small implement manufacturers.

3. Small implement companies: Small manufacturers, but no less important and enthusiasts of the sector, are truly the mainstay of mechanization and modernization of the forest. Their size and technical capacity are directly linked to the financial support dedicated to them. Although, in recent years, we have seen the entry of new manufacturers, we also see many traditional manufacturers leaving the sector, unmotivated by the lack of investment. Here, we are not only talking about financial resources, but also about technical knowledge. In other parts of the world, such as Europe, United States, Canada, among others, they already commonly use the ISOBUS standard. communication, which allows the integration of tractor and implement regardless of the brand, expanding the collection of data from the operation. The established market, standardized by the large manufacturers of machines and implements in Brazil, has not yet managed to implement ISOBUS massively, due to legislation and factory standardization. So, imagine how late this will occur for small manufacturers.

4. Large agricultural machinery and forest harvesting factories: Large manufacturers, mainly tractors, harvesters and forwarders, try to develop products based on the good results and added values of forest harvesting. However, developing innovative solutions, even with a limited market, is not such an easy task, and this action is insufficient for the much-desired forest 4.0 to happen. What is necessary to understand is that the speed of market demand always runs ahead of investments, and this is aggravated in the time we are living in, in the information age, of the now.

So, what is the solution to overcome these challenges? There is no individual action, nor a simple answer, but we believe that a greater synergy between those involved, specific study groups, universities and specialists with adequate financial and technical resources would find the answer.

Finally, what we can observe is that the technological distance between the agricultural and forestry sectors has been decreasing every year. Part of this is due to the large investments that are taking place in the forestry sector, with new factories and expansion of production. Even the competitiveness in the sector and the availability of information that we have nowadays, in just a click in the palm of our hand, we can verify in any sector or part of the world what is happening in terms of news and innovation, making This contributes a lot to reduce this technological gap between the two sectors, pushing the forestry sector to a new level.