Tornator is the third-largest forest owner in Finland, with about 600,000 hectares (23,000 square miles) of forestland.
One of the most important aspects of managing forests for sale or harvest is having detailed, accurate information about those forests. Within what most people would simply call ‘a forest’ are various sections that comprise multiple tree species, age ranges and sizes, and density.
Forestland is separated into ‘stand compartments’ – 2-3 hectare sections of forest with homogenous growth conditions and tree species. And the most efficient way to assess a forest is to have solid information on each individual compartment – information such as the dominant species type, the basal area, and the average diameter, length or age of the trees. And, of course, the compartment must be mapped as precisely as possible.
Traditionally, forestry workers gathered this information with pencil stubs and small notebooks. But data errors could creep in, and the process took a lot of time.
Portable computers changed that, and here Tornator had two main considerations: ruggedness and battery life. Because the work is performed outdoors throughout the year, the conditions range from sweltering heat in the summer to freezing cold in the winter, plus the constant moisture of the rainy seasons. And with no chance to recharge the computer, a long battery life is essential.
Tornator settled on the Nautiz X3 and X5 rugged devices from Handheld Group. Both are compact, highly portable, feature-rich devices built to withstand harsh environments. They come with high-speed 806 MHz XScale processors, 256MB of RAM (SDRAM on the X3) and 512MB of Flash storage.
They run the Windows Mobile operating system – 6.1 for the X5 and 6.5 Professional for the X3 – and include integrated GPS, Bluetooth and a three-megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash. They communicate via cellular or wireless LAN, and both have all-day Lithium-ion batteries. Their IP65 rating means they’re impervious to dust and highly resistant to water, and they’re also able to operate in extreme temperatures and withstand drops.
Tornator then loaded them with its own customised TornaMaasto software, giving field workers all they need to do their jobs better.
Harnessing technology streamlines the process
Once a worker has reached an area needing assessment, the Nautiz GPRS connection is used to download current, delimited data from Tornator’s central system. Then the worker uses the TornaMaasto application to collect and enter proper data on location, species, size, density and other considerations. TornaMaasto has a mobile map feature, so both paper maps and paper data-entry forms are replaced by the handheld.
The Nautiz device also provides precise location information. For mapping purposes, the users need accurate GPS functionality to track where they have been; each data entry has its own location point. This is also used to manage the borders of the compartment within the central system.
Data on each compartment helps Tornator create a clear plan for future harvesting, as well as planting new stands and tending seedlings. And using the streamlined hardware-software system produces far more accurate data in far less time, eliminating errors and increasing efficiency.
‘We need the information to run our business, which is wood production and the sale of cutting rights,’ says Mika Rieppo, IT manager at Tornator. ‘Without accurate forest resource data we wouldn’t even know what our forest is worth, and which sections are best suited for selling the cutting rights.’