Tech immerses customers in sustainable forestry

24 February 2021

More than ever, the timber sector needs to communicate the benefits of sustainable forest management – Södra is doing it in virtual 3D, writes sales director Nigel Buckley-Ryan

One of our core aims at Södra is to increase people’s knowledge of the forest, the positive climate effects it gives, and how it should be managed sustainably. Technology is helping us do just that.

Take the recent launch of our 360° virtual reality (VR) experience. This enables us to educate the industry on the timber process, and bring the Swedish forest closer to home for our UK audience – especially valuable given current travel restrictions.

The VR provides close encounters with forest-owners and experts, and users of forest products as they go about their lives, surrounded by renewable wood-based materials. Users can move from forest into interactive modern living space or townscape, where sustainable uses of wood – from paper products to textiles, energy and construction materials – are featured.

The experience can be accessed on screen or with a VR headset, and users can make discoveries and find answers to questions through its intuitive functionality.

It’s our hope that customers benefit from this innovative new way to explore Södra’s world – from the sights and sounds of our members’ forests to its use in everyday life. Meanwhile, our customers’ customers, in other words, consumers of forest products, can take a journey down the value chain, learn about sustainable forestry with its multiple positive impacts on their daily lives, and feel positive about purchasing decisions involving wood.

More generally, Södra is continually driving innovation in sawn timber through technological advancements. For example, we’re participating in several research projects to explore the potential of wood, both for competence building and to find new solutions.

We also play an active role in the Swedish Centre for Timber Construction and Housing (CBBT), our overall objective being to promote timber as a construction material, timber in combination with other materials and timber building systems.

On a practical, day-to-day basis, our forest consultants are utilising technology to improve forest management. For example, drones enable us to see how much forest our forest-owners have and where their boundaries are.

They also save so much time, allowing us to quickly identify areas of storm damage and accurately map the forest. We can easily see small marshes and water holes, trees that we want to grow and protect, where we need to put the timber once it’s harvested and whether roads are suitable for heavy machinery and trucks.

This footage can also be incorporated into a smart device and overlaid onto a forest plan showing (amongst other things) how much wood is below, the percentage of different species of trees, how old the wood is and what the suggested plans are for the future.

This is all vital, because as pressure on the world’s finite resources continues to intensify, it’s our duty as timber suppliers to strike a balance between meeting the needs of our customers and protecting the planet. Good forest management is the main way to address this, and technology is the best tool to ensure we’re successful.  

Nigel Buckley-Ryan