Next Generation Forestry with AFRIDS and Op Tracker

Lim Geomatics Inc.’s latest innovation for AFRIDS™, the Cost-Planning Module, could save Millar Western Forest Products Ltd. (MWFP) big money. “We’re talking millions of dollars,” says Chad St.Amand, a GIS analyst with the Alberta-based company, which harvests 2.5 million cubic metres of timber every year.

“It was quite an eye-opener for me,” he says. “I can see why the directors and higher-up managers have been asking for this tool for quite some time.”

This new AFRIDS™ module allows forest managers to upload information from any number of harvest blocks and quickly calculate the most profitable way to get different types of wood out of the forest, directed to the right mill and out to the consumer.

“We can send timber from harvest blocks to the Fox Creek mill and it’s going to cost X amount of dollars, or we can send the same timber to the Whitecourt mill and it’s going to cost Y amount,” says St.Amand. “That quick cost comparison and understanding that cause and effect is a huge value that Millar Western, and others, are going to see.”

St.Amand explains that AFRIDS™ can also help address the complex issue of balancing harvest operations with protected caribou habitat in northwestern Alberta. Accurately calculating the cost value of setting aside certain areas of forest could help conservationists and foresters work together to find the optimal balance between habitat protection and a robust forest industry.

MWFP has been using AFRIDS™ actively for about a year. If you take a tour around the woodlands office, says St.Amand, you’ll see how almost every desk has the web application up and running on a second monitor. “It just sits there because you can go and look at something really quick,” he says.

AFRIDS™ unlocks the power of LiDAR data and imagery with an easy-to-use interface that’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection.

Lim Geomatics helped St.Amand do the necessary modelling and analysis for 2.5 million hectares of land in northwestern Alberta to create an advanced forest inventory from LiDAR data. Digital imagery and forest inventory metrics—all those critical statistics and information that tell a detailed story about a harvest block—are accessible in AFRIDS™ and at the fingertips of the whole team.

AFRIDS™ unlocks the power of LiDAR data and imagery with an easy-to-use interface that’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection. “For a planner it’s huge. For operations staff it’s huge. For our contractors it’s going to be huge as the application is rolled out for their use,” says St.Amand, who has spent most of his 20-year career figuring out how LiDAR data can improve efficiency for forestry operations.

St.Amand was based in Ontario before coming to Alberta in the spring of 2015. He gives the example of an Ontario sawmill that was forced to shut down in the early 2000s. It was a difficult time for the industry as a whole, but a miscalculation based on traditional approaches to estimating average stem diameter dealt the fatal blow. “The mill was designed to handle large diameter wood but was delivered a lot of small wood so it ran inefficiently and ended up closing,” says St.Amand.

The company that ran the mill had LiDAR data for the harvest blocks, but no one had known how to put it to use. St.Amand was curious if LiDAR could have saved the day so he crunched the numbers years later. He discovered that the data would have given the mill managers a much more accurate stem diameter from the get go and could have saved the mill. Today, the site has been remediated and no trace of the bustling wood-production facility remains.

MWFP is also working with Lim Geomatics’s Op Tracker™ software, which brings the power of LiDAR data and advanced forest inventories into the cabs of harvesting equipment. The company has about 20 devices spread out across various field operations.

“We’ve been asking for this for years.” That’s the first reaction St.Amand gets from machine operators when he installs the tablets that run Op Tracker™ into the cabs of feller bunchers.

Op Tracker™ provides a bird’s eye view of the area using digital imagery...Operators and managers can see exactly what’s been harvested as soon as its uploaded to the web application.

Machine operators can only see about 50 feet around them when they’re in the thick of an Alberta forest. Everything else disappears into the foliage. You can’t tell if there’s a creek ahead, a steep slope, a swamp or hectares of harvestable wood. Op Tracker™ provides a bird’s eye view of the area using digital imagery, LiDAR data and the forest inventory metrics built into AFRIDS™. The software also tracks and timestamps the machine’s position.

The light bulb has gone off on Op Tracker™ for some of MWFP’s harvest contractors. The software uploads information when connected to the internet. Operators and managers can see exactly what’s been harvested as soon as its uploaded to the web application. “Instead of having an operator estimate that they’re 50 per cent done or 20 per cent done, you can see what’s going on in the block as it’s being cut,” says St. Amand.

As this new stream of data is collected from MWFP’s Op Tracker™ devices, St.Amand is designing a new value product to showcase block by block, operator by operator, where a harvest block ranks in terms of cost and productivity. How efficiently an area gets harvested is tied to such factors as topography, size of the wood and block layout.

Intensive planning is an integral aspect of successful forestry operations. Companies have to meet their commitments to mills on the one hand and act as responsible stewards of a natural resource on the other. AFRIDS™ and Op Tracker™ are user-friendly tools that unlock the power of LiDAR point clouds and geospatial information at every stage of the planning and decision-making process.

Millar Western, a company with a century of forestry experience, and Lim Geomatics, an innovative technology firm, are working together to transform one of Canada’s most storied industries.

"This new AFRIDS™ module allows forest managers to upload information from any number of harvest blocks and quickly calculate the most profitable way to get different types of wood out of the forest, directed to the right mill and out to the consumer."

Next Generation Forestry with AFRIDS and Op Tracker

Lim Geomatics Inc.’s latest innovation for AFRIDS™, the Cost-Planning Module, could save Millar Western Forest Products Ltd. (MWFP) big money. “We’re talking millions of dollars,” says Chad St.Amand, a GIS analyst with the Alberta-based company, which harvests 2.5 million cubic metres of timber every year.

“It was quite an eye-opener for me,” he says. “I can see why the directors and higher-up managers have been asking for this tool for quite some time.”

This new AFRIDS™ module allows forest managers to upload information from any number of harvest blocks and quickly calculate the most profitable way to get different types of wood out of the forest, directed to the right mill and out to the consumer.

“We can send timber from harvest blocks to the Fox Creek mill and it’s going to cost X amount of dollars, or we can send the same timber to the Whitecourt mill and it’s going to cost Y amount,” says St.Amand. “That quick cost comparison and understanding that cause and effect is a huge value that Millar Western, and others, are going to see.”

St.Amand explains that AFRIDS™ can also help address the complex issue of balancing harvest operations with protected caribou habitat in northwestern Alberta. Accurately calculating the cost value of setting aside certain areas of forest could help conservationists and foresters work together to find the optimal balance between habitat protection and a robust forest industry.

MWFP has been using AFRIDS™ actively for about a year. If you take a tour around the woodlands office, says St.Amand, you’ll see how almost every desk has the web application up and running on a second monitor. “It just sits there because you can go and look at something really quick,” he says.

AFRIDS™ unlocks the power of LiDAR data and imagery with an easy-to-use interface that’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection.

Lim Geomatics helped St.Amand do the necessary modelling and analysis for 2.5 million hectares of land in northwestern Alberta to create an advanced forest inventory from LiDAR data. Digital imagery and forest inventory metrics—all those critical statistics and information that tell a detailed story about a harvest block—are accessible in AFRIDS™ and at the fingertips of the whole team.

AFRIDS™ unlocks the power of LiDAR data and imagery with an easy-to-use interface that’s accessible anywhere with an internet connection. “For a planner it’s huge. For operations staff it’s huge. For our contractors it’s going to be huge as the application is rolled out for their use,” says St.Amand, who has spent most of his 20-year career figuring out how LiDAR data can improve efficiency for forestry operations.

St.Amand was based in Ontario before coming to Alberta in the spring of 2015. He gives the example of an Ontario sawmill that was forced to shut down in the early 2000s. It was a difficult time for the industry as a whole, but a miscalculation based on traditional approaches to estimating average stem diameter dealt the fatal blow. “The mill was designed to handle large diameter wood but was delivered a lot of small wood so it ran inefficiently and ended up closing,” says St.Amand.

The company that ran the mill had LiDAR data for the harvest blocks, but no one had known how to put it to use. St.Amand was curious if LiDAR could have saved the day so he crunched the numbers years later. He discovered that the data would have given the mill managers a much more accurate stem diameter from the get go and could have saved the mill. Today, the site has been remediated and no trace of the bustling wood-production facility remains.

MWFP is also working with Lim Geomatics’s Op Tracker™ software, which brings the power of LiDAR data and advanced forest inventories into the cabs of harvesting equipment. The company has about 20 devices spread out across various field operations.

“We’ve been asking for this for years.” That’s the first reaction St.Amand gets from machine operators when he installs the tablets that run Op Tracker™ into the cabs of feller bunchers.

Op Tracker™ provides a bird’s eye view of the area using digital imagery... Operators and managers can see exactly what’s been harvested as soon as its uploaded to the web application.

Machine operators can only see about 50 feet around them when they’re in the thick of an Alberta forest. Everything else disappears into the foliage. You can’t tell if there’s a creek ahead, a steep slope, a swamp or hectares of harvestable wood. Op Tracker™ provides a bird’s eye view of the area using digital imagery, LiDAR data and the forest inventory metrics built into AFRIDS™. The software also tracks and timestamps the machine’s position.

The light bulb has gone off on Op Tracker™ for some of MWFP’s harvest contractors. The software uploads information when connected to the internet. Operators and managers can see exactly what’s been harvested as soon as its uploaded to the web application. “Instead of having an operator estimate that they’re 50 per cent done or 20 per cent done, you can see what’s going on in the block as it’s being cut,” says St. Amand.

As this new stream of data is collected from MWFP’s Op Tracker™ devices, St.Amand is designing a new value product to showcase block by block, operator by operator, where a harvest block ranks in terms of cost and productivity. How efficiently an area gets harvested is tied to such factors as topography, size of the wood and block layout.

Intensive planning is an integral aspect of successful forestry operations. Companies have to meet their commitments to mills on the one hand and act as responsible stewards of a natural resource on the other. AFRIDS™ and Op Tracker™ are user-friendly tools that unlock the power of LiDAR point clouds and geospatial information at every stage of the planning and decision-making process.

Millar Western, a company with a century of forestry experience, and Lim Geomatics, an innovative technology firm, are working together to transform one of Canada’s most storied industries.

"This new AFRIDS™ module allows forest managers to upload information from any number of harvest blocks and quickly calculate the most profitable way to get different types of wood out of the forest, directed to the right mill and out to the consumer."

Founded in 2006, Lim Geomatics is an industry-leading GIS software development company. With offices in Calgary and Ottawa, Canada, we specialize in building web and mobile applications powered by the ArcGIS mapping platform.

Lim Geomatics is an Esri business partner:

.