Achieving our science and innovation goals

Meeting our targets as set out in our 2017-2022 Statement of Corporate Intent

Impact Area 1: Increase value from plantation forested land

By 2018, improved growth models made available to industry to support better silvicultural management.

All 17 silviculture breeds trials have been assessed. We have empirical evidence of the impacts that genetic improvement and stand density have on stand value. Forest managers have used these results to develop their own productivity and silvicultural strategies.

By 2019, a model conifer species has demonstrated proof of concept achievement of sterility.

Modified plants have been made but not developed through to shoots yet.

By 2019, a phenotyping platform has been used to identify outstanding trees for at least one key trait leading to better site species matching and increased estate-level productivity for at least one end-user.

A whole-forest phenotyping platform was developed and implemented across a major forest. The original phenotyping platform concept was refined to incorporate machine learning methods, and the approach is currently being expanded to additional forests and datasets through our Vision Mātauranga partnership with Lake Taupō and Rotoaira Forest Trusts.

By 2019, next generation genetics will have delivered new trees with an additional 15% genetic gain compared with the average improvement of 2012 deployed genetic seedlots.

Genomic-estimated breeding values (GeBVs) were generated for key traits and non-key traits in three Radiata Pine Breeding Company (RPBC) populations, which will support future selections of material. Scion/RPBC have joined international Conifer SNP consortium to develop cheap, robust genotyping tools (“SNP Chips”). Using this chip, a further 20K individuals will be genotyped in the next 2 years, demonstrating commercial implementation of this technology and resulting GeBVs in the breeding programme. While GeBVs have been estimated, demonstrating the ability to deliver 15% genetic gain, the physical delivery of 15% genetic gain has not yet been achieved, but has been rolled into the ongoing work programme.

By 2020, four biotech tree lines with modified productivity traits are being developed by field trials and reported to stakeholders.

Field trial monitoring and data collection from four lines was carried out.

By 2020, first phase of ecosystem services assessment and evaluation completed and presented to industry.

Scion engaged with key contacts at MPI, Statistics NZ and Australia National University. Day 2 of the Forest Ecosystems forum focused on developing a framework for a New Zealand forestry satellite system that incorporates key ecosystem services.

By 2022, new forest management regimes are adopted by industry to ensure capture of value from forest ecosystem services such as carbon capture and sequestration.

A SLMACC project progressed on new management options for steeplands, exploring transition from clearfell radiata regimes to other lower impact or risk forest types. The team worked with forest companies to identify case study sites for testing theoretical new silvicultural regimes. 

On-going: The Forestry Library, Permanent Sample Plots (National Forest Tree Database) and Tree Genetic Archives remain viable and provide valuable information about the national forestry position for New Zealand.

Permanent Sample Plots (PSP) measurements were completed for the 2017-18 year. Despite some location and forest ownership records being incomplete, data was collected from 150 plots across six species and stored on the PSP database available for Scion projects (subject to forest owner approval).

On-going: The forest sector continues to adopt best practice remote sensing and analytical methodology developed by Scion.

In collaboration with HoloLens app development company Taqtile, we delivered a VR/mixed reality proof of concept for a forestry company, which provided a new perspective and understanding of how mixed reality technology could be used to enhance harvest planning, management practices and crew safety.

Two significant advances were made around use of remotely sensed data within forest inventory and communicated to the forest sector: development, and testing of voxelised metrics from LiDAR data and subsequent implementation in the widely used LAStools. This research showed that voxelised metrics were more accurate than standard LiDAR metrics for predictions of key inventory variables. Secondly, a major study was completed showing that low cost photogrammetric point clouds from satellite are as accurate as standard LiDAR metrics for predictions of key forestry inventory.

Impact Area 2: Increase the resilience of forests to biotic and abiotic risks

By 2018, policy makers and forest growers are accessing Scion’s knowledge of climate change impacts and resultant implications to provide guidance in managing risk and adapting to impacts of climate change.

Scion made a significant submission on the Productivity Commission’s draft low carbon economy report. The billion tree initiative stimulated significant new discussions with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and we have also been involved with a number of Biological Emissions Reference Group projects focussing on trees on farms and their climate benefits.

By 2018, MPI has adopted a validated helicopter spot spraying protocol for pest eradication.

The development of a protocol for helicopter spot spraying is effectively completed. A summary report / protocol outlined the key results and recommendations on implementing this technique during appropriate future incursion responses.

By 2018, Rural Fire Authorities have adopted activity restriction triggers for high fire risk activities and implemented these within their strategic fire management plans.

Stubble burns near Darfield were successfully completed with data collected from nine burns in collaboration with national and international partners. This forms a key part of testing the convective fire spread hypothesis and subsequent development of a new fire spread model based on this theory. If validated this will globally change wildland fire science and deliver significant impact by improving forestry fire risk management processes around the country, including forest fire risk guidelines (being developed by NZ Forest Owners Association) and new preparedness plans (being developed by Fire and Emergency NZ).

By 2018, options to reduce the impact of Phytophthora on radiata pine, kauri and one horticultural species have been identified.

Kauri seed collections from healthy-looking trees in infected areas were completed and seed is germinating in the kauri hygiene facility. Screening trials have shown variation in susceptibility to the kauri pathogen and that result is very promising. Spray trials have indicated that copper can control red needle cast in radiata pine.

By 2018, Scion will have developed new molecular tools, and field tested at least one, to enable early identification resulting in more timely and appropriate response to unwanted forest pests or pathogens.

High-throughput detection assays for Phytophthora pluvialis and P. kernoviae were developed with Slipstream, greatly increasing the efficacy and capability of our research. These assays will be used in inoculum quantification in the coming financial year as well as several other projects.

By 2018, Scion will have developed a dynamic decision support tool that enables rapid screening of potential pest species to improve industry and MPI’s readiness to respond to future unknown incursions.

A primary mathematical/epidemiological model was developed, and a paper published in the ANZIAM Journal. The model is being extended with experimental and field data to introduce environmental and genetic variability. Average seasonal oscillations in spore development and mortality as well as needle health have been predicted from available field monitoring data.

Smartphone app: following extensive stakeholder consultation, a comprehensive software requirements document was tendered. A contractor will be assigned in August to deliver a prototype Android and iPhone app with backend integration with iNaturalist NZ. This will enable vastly improved industry participation to conduct surveillance and join response actions. Additional spinoff programmes via Envirolink funding will ensure regional councils have a tool to manage invasive weeds.

By 2019, options to reduce the impact of Phytophthora on radiata pine, kauri and one horticultural species have been identified.

High-throughput detection assays for Phytophthora pluvialis and P. kernoviae were developed with Slipstream. Early and effective detection greatly increases options for infection impacts.

By 2019, research pathways towards the development and implementation of low spread or sterile genotypes of Douglas-fir have been identified and alternative mechanisms to reduce seed production from existing Douglas-fir stands have been trialled.

Three different constructs designed to engender sterility (and associated controls) were developed and have been transformed into Douglas-fir. Plants transformed with the first of these constructs (male sterility) are now in the GMO glasshouse while others remain in the tissue culture pipeline. Tissue culture techniques were developed for embryogenesis and cryopreservation for Douglas-fir, providing a clear path to deliver transformed lines.

By 2019, new tools have been used for pest detection or targeted spraying in at least one pest eradication or pest management operation.

The development and testing of the Cyborg surveillance system (mobile electroantennogram (EAG)) is continuing with the help of engineering company Infact and colleagues from INRA in France. Version 3.0 of the prototype was completed and five dose response trials validated our anticipated improvements. A noticeable increase in signal strength and sensitivity was observed.

By 2020, Scion will have identified radiata pine germplasm with improved drought resistance.

The genetic variation in plant growth, photosynthetic ability, water use efficiency and drought tolerance among elite radiata pine clones was examined. Needle δ13C was identified as a potential trait for selecting genotypes with improved water efficiency and better growth performance under dry conditions. Such information will be useful for selecting drought tolerant germplasm. A draft publication was written.

On-going: The National Forest Herbarium and the Forest Health Collections and Databases remain viable and provide valuable information on the national forestry position for New Zealand.

2,093 specimens were imaged in 2017-18. All Myrtaceae specimens have now been imaged. To date, 11,716 out of 30,336 specimens (39%) in the collection have been imaged. The database has been actively curated this year. The online website and database had 702 unique page views during the year. An interactive lucid key to wilding pines was also completed.

Impact Area 3: Sustain licence to operate and standards across the forest industry value chain

By 2018, with industry, progress a programme of work focussed on the design and commercialisation of modern harvesting tools, value chain approaches and labour productivity.

The Harvesting Primary Growth Partnership Business Case was accepted by MPI.  Discussions are now underway with Forest Growers Research on the detailed work programme for the “Human Factors” theme and a value optimisation project on super skid sites led by Scion.

By 2019, in partnership with key collaborators, Scion is developing and testing two robot prototypes to be deployed autonomously in the forest to undertake silviculture operations such as pruning and thinning.

FP Innovations have funded a project to be shared between the FPI Wildfire Operations Research Group and Scion to modify the current tree-to-tree machine to cut small diameter (approx.10 cm) black spruce for fire thinning operations.

By 2020, Scion will have implemented a learning review process with key agencies (FISC) designed to develop an understanding of human action(s) in context in order to facilitate the development of a learning culture and to improve organisational and individual resilience in high risk environments (harvesting).

Scion successfully developed and delivered two Maximising Incident Learning Opportunities Workshops to build industry capability to conduct effective learning reviews for working in high-risk environments. Highly positive feedback led to four more workshops in the new financial year with the Forest Industry Safety Council and Worksafe.

By 2018, the benefits and risks of genetic modification research will have been quantified and presented to the forest industry, government and other key stakeholders for an informed decision on its future.

Wider communications undertaken included presentations, industry meetings and site visits. Abstracts prepared for the QMB2018 satellite meeting on Applied Genetic Technologies in which gene editing and public engagement will be a focus.

By 2018, Scion will have supported the forest industry’s licence to operate as FSC certified through research that underpins minimisation of pesticide use in forests, including development of improved tools for managing spread of conifers beyond the forest boundary.

A series of studies examining factors affecting uptake of triclopyr and dicamba were completed and will inform recommendations for boom and spot spraying operations. 

By 2019, Scion and its research partners will have supported the implementation of the National Environmental Standard for plantation forestry.

After development of a prototype for the erodeNZ app and presentation at various conferences, the NZ Forest Owners Association/NZ Farm Forestry Association Joint Resource and Environment Committee decided not to proceed with the app. Following the recent Tolaga Bay and other storm events and resulting debris flows we are discussing the possibility of accelerating this programme with MPI and potentially enlarging it with support from the Forest Growers Levy Trust.

Impact Area 4: Diversify forests and local manufacturing to support regional growth

By 2018, Scion and iwi tangata whenua and other partners will have secured external investment supporting the commercial opportunity associated with Northland tōtara.

Achieved in full with the Northland Tōtara Industry Pilot being formally initiated in May 2018. This included Scion, Te Tai Tokerau Maori Forestry Collective, MPI, Tane’s Tree Trust, Northland Inc. with support from the Provincial Growth Fund.

By 2018, a conceptual framework has been developed for the economic assessment of alternative forestry options, focused on indigenous forestry and Māori land holdings.

Scion, in partnership with Ngāti Porou and Manaaki Whenua, developed a framework to analyse risk and uncertainty of alternative forestry options using ecosystem services with market values in the Waiapu catchment, East Coast. Three planting options were analysed: mānuka for honey, mānuka and later maturing tōtara for timber, or mānuka then tōtara followed by an understory of medicinal kawakawa. Using a 1% discount rate all options were profitable. Such a low discount rate is appropriate in the specific circumstances, with few land-use alternatives in the highly erodible country, the community’s attachment to the land, and desire to provide for future generations.

By 2018, Scion will have developed tools and models for the forest products value chain that will be in use to determine where to intervene in order to maximise benefits from the existing forest resource. This work will have created better connectivity between growers and processors, and between small-scale forest growers.

Scion and its collaborators developed two models that focus on identifying opportunities to improve the forest products value chain. The first, called SEGMOD, focuses on quantifying the economic impact of segregating stand and logs based on their internal wood properties. The second, called Primary Value Chains, focuses on regional value chains. The model was applied in a regional case study to determine the impact of investments in traditional and emerging processing technologies on the optimal use of the forest resource and overall economic returns.  

By 2019, two lines of biotech trees will be harvested and processed to determine their viability as alternative biorefinery feedstock (production of high value chemicals and/or processability for fibre or bioenergy). The investment case will have been presented to potential commercialising partners.

Work slightly delayed owing to biological needs. S-lignin trees were harvested in June, and many facets of future analysis coordinated for top quality publications.  Also, a second line of lignin modified trees was analysed and the presence of the new, active gene was confirmed.

By 2019, Woodscape has been upgraded to reflect both new products and new knowledge developed for current technologies. Assessments have been made to the business case stage, and for the development of a new or substantially enhanced wood manufacturing operation.

The WoodScape model had Monte Carlo risk analysis added to it, as well as calculation of an extended range of financial metrics (IRR and NPV). Additional processing technology options were added (acetylated wood, furfurylated wood and full colour thickness wood) these were used in the development of business cases for the further development of these products.

By 2019, Scion will have provided tools, new plant material (e.g. germplasm) and competitive niche wood products that will increase the confidence of growers of Douglas-fir, eucalypts, cypresses, redwoods and indigenous species to increase plantings of these species by at least 5% over 2014 plantings.

We created, and demonstrated, a software tool that predicts the stiffness of LVL produced from a mix of eucalypt and radiata logs with a known density profile. Also found was that the density of Eucalyptus fastigata veneers needs to be measured to be able to measure stiffness accurately. Value-added chemical modifications did not progress owing to problems with equipment supply.

By 2019, solutions for novel pre drying/drying for three difficult-to-dry species have been identified then trialled at full-dimension material scale to produce dry, check/collapse-free full-size timber. Processing costs have been estimated. The information is being used by a partner company to establish the commercial feasibility of this new approach to drying.

Collapse caused by internal stress is a problem in E. nitens timber. A model created in 2016-17 to predict levels of collapse in boards from measurements made in standing trees was tested by comparing a set of E. nitens trees predicted to collapse with a set thought unlikely to collapse. Similar levels of collapse were seen for both sets. The underlying properties leading to increased collapse are thought to be not well correlated with the measurements taken in the standing trees.

Experimental work from 2016-17 was analysed and showed that dewatering E nitens using supercritical CO2 prior to a short period of oven drying significantly reduced levels of collapse compared to conventional drying from green timber.  Oscillatory treatments had no effect on checking and collapse.

By 2019, at least two regional councils have integrated Scion’s forest economics and ecosystem services approaches into landscape level planning for multiple land uses.

A new research programme proposal ‘Connections Matter’ was submitted to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment but was not successful. 

By 2019, Scion’s information will have contributed to New Zealand’s national and international reporting obligations and the New Zealand Freshwater National Objectives Framework.

The Environmental Fact Sheet series launched in 2017 is proving very popular with forestry stakeholders. Companies and councils are using the sheets widely to provide facts on the various environmental issues. The debris flow sheet is particularly topical. These fact sheets are available from the planted forests portal, the NZ Forest Owners Association and Scion websites. More sheets are intended.

By 2019, Scion is collaborating with Māori organisations to develop forestry options that meet their economic and social aspirations.

Organisations involved in a VM project (Māori and forest management) came together to move the project to developing a business model. Scion is providing technical support in this phase. The indigenous nursery project was boosted by a funding injection from the Government to support regional growth and the Government’s billion tree planting initiative.

By 2020, using adaptive governance approaches, the barriers and obstacles facing Māori in the development and implementation of alternative land uses will have been described and new governance approaches developed and tested with key agencies.

Game-based approaches to support greater awareness of the challenges facing Māori in developing new opportunities were developed and tested with community members and key agency representatives (reps). Feedback was positive, and findings fed back to MPI and other bodies. Regional fora were held with community members, regional council officers, senior politicians and agency reps to map a way forward based on community aspirations. Scion was invited to help shape a future plan in partnership with MPI (and contractors) to guide future action by the Joint Governance Group and ways in which progress may be mapped.

Impact Area 5: Increase the use of wood and fibre products in the built environment

By 2018, Scion will have demonstrated and secured external investment to enable at least one new modified wood product to compete in high-margin market segments.

A patent was drafted for filing on Scion’s novel Furfuryl alcohol modification of timber technology, and a commercialisation strategy formed. A biobased modification technology for use as a wood preservative has completed 2-year field trials. It has performed well to date (i.e. minimal or comparable durability to industry standards) and corrosion of fittings was evaluated to be similar to use of other preservatives. Commercial interest has been expressed.

By 2018, Scion will have produced thermally modified wood samples from at least three species, large enough for market place testing. Durability, stability and structural performance have been assessed and a commercial feasibility explored. The information is being used by an investor company to establish the commercial feasibility of the modified wood process.

Scale up of Cupressus lusitanica thermal modification was delayed until end of the year owing to wood supply difficulty and required kiln upgrade. Property tests have not yet been completed. The properties of lab-scale samples of C. Lusitanica, and tōtara and Eucalyptus nitens were compared. Preliminary commercial feasibility of the thermally modified E. nitens for interior flooring was conducted with a mixed response. A more detailed assessment is in progress.

By 2019, Scion will have progressed a novel wood modification that incorporates some of the key attributes identified in the business cases to a pre-commercial stage.

There seems to be no competitive advantage for full thickness colour only treatment, but there might be a better market proposition for colour and hardness. Although underway, work to improve understanding of the significance of wood emissions from modified wood on indoor air quality was delayed because an international collaboration was not secured. Modified and unmodified samples from four wood species were analysed, and a report is due.

By 2019, Scion, with Building better homes, towns and cities science and industry partners, will have developed a platform to provide better performing, higher amenity built environments in terms of affordability, performance and sustainability. This platform addresses the wider impacts of intensive living on the urban environment.

The Toi Ohomai project, in which Scion is a major partner, was very well received and led to a design meeting where construction and prefab options were put forward. A proposal for the first building acoustic project was completed. The waste water scoping project was completed. Our work introduced a vision of a decentralised, circular economy-based future for New Zealand's urban environment, as a think piece report to this national science challenge. 

Impact Area 6: Manufacture and apply biorefinery products from wood fibre, waste and other materials

By 2018, Scion will have aligned a cluster of organisations (including industry, government and research organisations) to pursue an integrated biorefinery concept (combining bioenergy and bioproducts) and together have developed a joint roadmap.

Interested global players and several New Zealand commercial interests were brought together to understand the concept of a bark biorefinery and its position globally and for New Zealand. A later workshop was held in June with one of the international partners and New Zealand industry.

Under the Bioprocessing Alliance, a proof of concept study showed that low value sawdust can be successfully converted to value-added products such as protein feed and a selective adsorbent with high adsorption capability.

By 2018, a patented technology has been produced at industrial scale and partners have been found for commercial uptake.

Exciting improvements to our bioadhesives formulations were achieved, and licensing discussions held with some big brand companies. Similarly a large range of companies have been approached for interest in Scion’s coatings technologies.

By 2018, at least six new polymeric material products with renewable content have been developed to prototype stage using existing (e.g. extrusion, injection moulding) and emerging technologies (e.g. 3D-printing or electrospinning).

Three techniques were evaluated to produce a bio-polyester nanocomposite, and one progressed for composite production in order to be characterised. Significant improvements on conductivity of Scion’s lignin carbon nanofiber technology was achieved through global partnerships. With partners Waikato and Victoria Universities, we created two novel PhaC sequences. One sequence is not found in nature and represents an entirely new PhaC enzyme that can be engineered for further activity and specificity enhancements. Also, we identified eight enzymes with aromatic substrate specificity that show the production of a polymer-like substance in vitro.

By 2019, at least two of these polymeric material prototypes are incorporated in new product offerings by firms.

We developed a formulation that is being sold by a company for use in 3D printing. Commercial electrospinning trials were undertaken to investigate spinning of lignin combinations and formulations.

By 2019, Scion will have assisted a commercial packaging company to develop boxes with improved performance in coolstores.

A ‘WHITE’ Room test to examine the creep performance of two box types with the same box compression strength test and size but different core material was completed, and results shared with industry.

By 2019, new high performance products (packaging, composites and new compounded materials containing biopolymers) developed by Scion in collaboration with commercial partners are supporting the development of new industries in New Zealand and providing direct revenue to New Zealand.

Offshore evaluation of coating technologies was conducted. A concept was advanced for a niche compound manufacturing company to address risk aversion among New Zealand companies.

By 2020, Scion and commercial partner(s) have developed a viable and New Zealand-specific biorefinery business case based on Scion-developed high-value bioproducts and cost efficient technology platforms for commodity fibres and bioenergy.

A project with VTT on plastic film progressed and now needs further work to become financially viable. A Bioprocessing Alliance project, with Plant and Food Research, commenced to investigate production of wood-based molasses for animal feed.

Impact Area 7: Use more forest biomass to improve New Zealand’s energy security and reduce emissions

By 2018, Scion will have supported a group of firms in one region to develop a value proposition, based on industrial symbiosis using wood energy, outlining the benefits/risks across economic, social and environmental criteria, enabling them to make an informed decision for action.

The project progressed well towards wrap up in September 2018.  A full process model for a site was developed and integrated at least two biorefinery processes into the site model.  A workshop was held with stakeholders on the opportunities from symbiotic use of waste from neighbours’ processes. Planning started for public engagement at end of the programme.

By 2019, Scion will have identified, and reached national alignment, around the Implementation Roadmap for Biofuels in New Zealand. Technology barriers, acceleration options and policy interventions will be identified.

The NZ Biofuels Roadmap documents were launched by theMinister of Energy and Resources in February resulting in good media pick-upand pleasing commercial and government interest. Scion’s profile was raisedsignificantly through subsequent presentations on roadmap modelling, and wegained recognition for capability in climate change mitigation modelling.

By 2020, Scion and commercial partner(s) will have developed a viable and New Zealand specific biorefinery business case based on Scion’s high-value bioproducts and commodity (fibres and bioenergy) platforms.

Several projects made good progress and three manuscripts were published in peer reviewed journals as well as a contribution to a book chapter on PHA bioplastics from organic waste, and drafting of a position paper on a new forestry application for gaseous emissions.