Scion leads the way with research and innovation to support rural New Zealand’s exciting future
For immediate release
30 November 2022
Research and innovation from Scion will unlock the potential for rural farming communities to embrace new opportunities to prosper following the launch of a roadmap for the forestry and wood processing sector.
Minister for Forestry Hon. Stuart Nash has today unveiled the Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) at Fieldays where 35 organisations, including Scion, are educating visitors about the dynamic sector and technologies that can support farmers to use trees and fibre in new and exciting ways.
Scion chief executive Dr Julian Elder says the ITP aligns with Scion’s expertise and gives impetus to the view that future rural landscapes and communities will include a mix of farming, productive forestry, trees on farms and new manufacturing and processing activities.
“It reinforces the value of Scion’s Strategy for 2030: Right tree, right place, right purpose. Having this formula drive our work has relevance for rural New Zealand where we can apply our innovations and technologies to trees and fibre on farms in new ways and support diversified farming systems.
“We commend Te Uru Rākau - New Zealand Forest Service for the plan, developed in association with many stakeholders. The ITP and our strategy both highlight how there are opportunities for landowners to increase their returns by making the most of new technologies. It also provides a pathway for more high-paying jobs in the regions through the development of new manufacturing sectors.”
With its focus on ‘Right tree, right place, right purpose’ and the circular bioeconomy, Scion’s science and innovation is showcasing how trees can be used to support community resilience and productivity. It’s a programme of work that provides a way for farmers to get a good return from their existing trees and fibre and help preserve the rural way of life treasured by so many farming families across New Zealand.
“Farming and trees will always go hand in hand and the future for rural New Zealand looks incredibly bright,” says Elder. “The opportunity ahead of us is to take advantage of these emerging technologies and take heart from the fact that the right trees, grown in the right place and for the right purpose offer enormous value.”
New Zealand exports around 60 percent of harvested wood as logs for other countries to process and add value. In contrast, the 15 percent exported as value-added wood products return over 40 percent of total export revenue. The ITP charts a course to turn that around.
Increasing New Zealand’s onshore wood processing capability and investment in transforming and developing our domestic woody biomass industry are two target areas identified in the ITP that will drive sector growth, create jobs, and reduce emissions across the economy.
For 75 years, Scion’s research has supported rural New Zealand through the evolution of forestry and timber industries. That research continues today, with new technology from Scion presenting even greater ways to make the most of trees, and to create new manufacturing sectors.
“Our bio-based research is challenging everyone to re-think how we make better use of every inch of the tree, including those grown on pastoral farms alongside other farming activity,” says Elder. “It’s a future where woody biomass processed on site can be used to create high-value products, offering an alternative to products made from fossil fuels.”
With Scion’s focus on research that supports industry to improve productivity and to explore wood-based products for building, biotech and bioenergy, there are opportunities to use this knowledge to accelerate New Zealand’s transition to a more circular bioeconomy, says Elder.
“As well as helping New Zealand meet its net-zero climate change commitments by 2050, this new bioeconomy is a $30 billion economy opportunity.
“It’s this environment that provides a mosaic of activity for regional New Zealand to thrive, through emerging bio-based manufacturing and the creation of high-value products from inputs that we currently consider waste.”
To deliver on this, Scion is leading the development of an approach called ‘Distributed manufacturing', which involves placing small processing units, or mini factories, on or near the sources of available biomass.
Distributed manufacturing is one solution to increase on-shore manufacturing and can play a major role in the tree-based value chain. Essentially, these mini factories can be tailored to process biomass such as wood waste, horticultural and farm shelterbelt thinnings or crop residues into high-value wood-based products, biochemicals or pharmaceuticals.
“Imagine a factory that fits in a shipping container – compact and mobile,” he says. “These can be strategically positioned within a farm or orchard where the waste is created. These factories can perform novel scalable processes such as biochemical conversion, pyrolysis and pulping. The choice of process depends on inputs and the product being made. It’s about the right process for the right product in the right region.
“The work our scientists do every day is totally aligned with the ITP which has created a roadmap to support growth in rural communities, deliver on Māori aspirations, diversify domestic and export markets and generate more value for rural New Zealand,” says Elder.
“This transformation will give us the power to not only reduce waste, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions but also to grow prosperity, jobs and resilience for farmers and rural communities.”