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Staff members looking at a ipad that has gps mapped mounds

We are currently trialing an off-the-shelf GPS to find out whether it can help further increase timber quality by improving a key stage of tree planting. The excavator-mounted GPS device will be assessed during ground preparation work across forests in Dumfries and Galloway.

Our team hopes this new system will help deliver consistent mounding spacing, ensuring a uniform establishment and ultimately better timber quality.

Martin Price, our Forest Management Officer in the region said:

“We’re using more and more technology in forestry, and it has the potential to transform how we do things.

The agriculture industry has integrated GPS into lots of day-to-day systems with incredible results, but forestry involves more complex systems with additional terrain, soil issues and variable crops."

Martin explained that finding the right technology to solve a problem can take time, but we’re always trialing new approaches somewhere on our estate.

The Molplant excavator has been installed with a Risutec Asta system, comprising a GPS sensor above the bucket and the system box and interface tablet within the cab. The system enables the operator to map cultivation locations, drains and tracks, with the tablet displaying the area and linear work completed and mounding density.

The front of a yellow digger with gps installed

Martin believes the system could deliver a range of benefits for FLS practice.

He said that establishing a conifer woodland requires consistency, planting trees with enough space so they can grow optimally but with uniformity to ensure good timber quality.

“Operators gauge mounding pattern and density through experience and both they and FLS rely on using plots to monitor output and ensure quality. This still boils down to installing plots with tape and a stick. This could be over hectares of land," said Martin.

“The GPS maps the mounding locations and calculates the mound density, all while providing a real-time summary to the operator allowing them to monitor their work as they progress.”

The operator can then download a PDF or GIS file that show us exactly what’s been done.

If the trial is successful and we can roll this out nationally, Martin says it will represent a valuable new tool that supports contract management and frees staff to concentrate on other areas of operational delivery and supervision.