Steepland Harvesting

The Steepland Harvesting programme invested in technologies to improve productivity and worker safety when harvesting on steep slopes.

Key facts

climbmax machine picking up logs on a slope

Programme start: November 2010 
Programme end: June 2017 
Total programme cost: $7.6 million
Crown funding: $3.7 million 
Estimated economic benefits to NZ: $113 million per year by 2019
Commercial partners
: Forest Growers Research Ltd

Programme outcomes

  • Commercialised 7 new harvesting products, including:
    • the ClimbMAX harvester, a winch-assisted machine that can operate safely on steep slopes of up to 45 degrees
    • systems for operating forestry harvesting machines remotely, providing safer working conditions.
  • Prototypes of 7 products, including a robotic tree-to-tree felling machine that doesn’t touch the ground.
  • Encouraged innovation in mechanised harvesting systems across the forest industry (over $80 million invested by industry since 2012).
  • Approximately 165 workers removed from hazardous tree felling and breaking out roles.
  • Reduced cable harvesting costs by 17%.

For more information about the programme's achievements, check the final and post-programme reports.

Outcome logic model

Final programme reports

Post-programme report

Background to the programme

The New Zealand forestry sector and the Ministry for Primary Industries identified steep-country harvesting as an important bottleneck to increasing forestry profitability and worker safety.

The Steepland Harvesting solution

Teleoperation of feller buncher
Remote operation of a feller-buncher from a cabin at Wood Contracting Nelson 2014.

Forest Growers Research brought together research providers, forest owners, and tree harvest companies on a programme to enable safe, efficient harvesting of commercial forestry on steep marginal land.

The programme aimed to:

  • reduce steepland harvesting costs by 25%
  • grow harvest machinery manufacturing in New Zealand to future-proof the sector
  • make harvesting jobs safer.

The centrepiece of the programme was the development of a steep slope, feller–buncher machine which can operate safely and efficiently on steep slopes without endangering workers.

Audit and progress reports

Find out more

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