• Treemetrics has developed forest measurement technology.
• IIt uses a 3D laser scanner to measure tree straightness and taper.
• It is accurate to within 1.7%.
• Analytic and modelling software tools show the different yields that can be achieved.

When the taoiseach Enda Kenny visited to a Cork-based company last month he was so impressed he waxed lyrical about the business at an official dinner that evening, pledging his support.

The subject of his enthusiasm was Treemetrics, a company established in 2005 by Enda Keane and Garret Mullooly, which is bringing forest measurement and analysis into the 21st century.

To date the potential yield of growing forests has been calculated by a mix of aerial photography and foresters on the ground using callipers to measure the radius of a sample of trees. But, said Mr Keane, trees are so variable within one sample area, let alone several, that an average of 20% of the value of forests worldwide is lost at harvesting.

“When you cut a tree you cut everything and there is a collision of interests from sawmills, pulp mills and pellet mills,” he said. “In some parts of the world sawlogs are seen as a by-product of pulp and, at times, good logs are used for a lower purpose – it’s just a fact of life.

“But customers are going to start to demand serious efficiencies in the forest, particularly with the major strain on the resource from the biomass sector.


“Foresters have lived for too long with poor information,” he added. “In the old world of measurement you didn’t know what you had in terms of the quality and quantity of timber until you actually cut it.

“Our technology, which is accurate to within 1.7% of the actual timber measurement, enables foresters and sawmills to maximise the value of timber by making sure the right mix of logs gets through to the right mills and then connects through the supply chain to specific customers.”

Treemetric’s new measurement system begins with a 3D laser scanner, the result of collaborative research with several European universities with expertise on image processing.

The scanner emits laser pulses, which bounce back from objects in a 30m radius and result in 3D profiles of all the trees within that sample area.

“It’s the first system in the world to measure straightness and taper variation in a stand and this is what determines optimum product breakdown – saw logs, pulp logs and so on,” said Mr Keane. “The system can also recognise branching, dead tree limbs and crowns and can identify different tree species.”

Once the forest is measured, the data is uploaded to Treemetrics’ cloud-based platform. Here the company’s analytic and modelling tools show the different yields that can be achieved, depending on how the tree is cut. The process currently assumes clear felling but it can be adapted for thinning.

Customers using the service are charged €0.30/m³ for the measurement and €0.40 for the forest management optimisation software.

Treemetrics has worked around the globe, amassing data on 11 million trees – “the largest forestry analytics database in the world”. It counts timber fund Greenwood Resources as a customer and so has broached the private sector, but most of its work to date has been with state foresters, such as Coillte in Ireland and the UK Forestry Commission.

Linking technologies

At present Treemetrics’ technology is being used only by the forestry sector but the next step is to make the connection through to the sawmills, linking the optimisation technology of both sectors.

“We’d be bringing lean manufacturing to the wood supply chain and moving our customers up that chain,” said Mr Keane, adding that, ultimately, the sawmills’ customers would be able to feed data back from their warehouses, allowing the sawmills to see what is being sold and what and how much needs to be processed.

He concedes that the success of the system relies on an element of trust. “If the measurement device is trusted, then just one measurement needs to be taken, rather than five different buyers all doing their own,” he said.

If trust is an issue perhaps it’s reassuring to note that the taoiseach isn’t the only one backing Treemetrics.

It has received significant mentoring, advice and “other supports” from IBM, through the latter’s SmartCamp initiative, and has also received support and €600,000 funding from the European Space Agency.

“We can now beam back information on every tree that is being cut in real time and use that data to bring the forestry supply chain into co-operative machining,” said Mr Keane.