Södra Ädla is a new partner of Nordic Forestry Automation (NFA). The company develops next-generation operator support systems for forest machines based on sensor technology from autonomous vehicles and AI algorithms. The investment is done together with Sveaskog and Almi Invest Syd and comprises a total of SEK 10 million.
Thinning a forest involves constant decision-making about which, and how many, trees to harvest in order to best promote the various values of the forest. How the thinning operation is carried out is important for the long-term development of the forest, but is usually done manually and based on the experience of each individual operator. To make the thinning task easier, Nordic Forestry Automation (NFA) has developed an AI-based system to continuously support the operator in forest management decisions.
The company started in 2021 based on the founders’ research work on self-driving vehicles and AI algorithms. The founders met during their PhD studies through the national Swedish research initiative Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP). NFA recently received investment capital of SEK 10 million from Södra’s investment company Södra Ädla, Sveaskog and Almi Invest.
“Forest thinning is a craft that requires 100-percent focus and takes several years to master. The total cognitive load is comparable to that of a fighter pilot. Sensor-based operator support provides better conditions for operators and forest owners to promote forest values. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue developing this technology together with our new partners,” said Lars Svensson, CEO of NFA.
Investment to accelerate development
By supporting the operator, the NFA system makes harvesting more cost-efficient, which improves profitability for forest owners. In addition, the technology creates new opportunities for local forest adaptations, and enables systematic and cost-efficient execution of alternative forest management methods that promote biodiversity and carbon storage.
The new investment will enable NFA to further accelerate the pace of its development. In 2022 and 2023, the system was tested in pilot projects with SCA and Sveaskog and in the autumn of 2023, the company will start rolling out preseries products with Södra, Sveaskog and SCA.
“The investment and close collaboration with forest companies means that we can deploy the systems at an early stage and continue working closely with the operators. This is absolutely essential for building systems that can make a real difference out in the forest – for both operators and forest owners,” said Lars Svensson.
Better opportunities for forest owners
NFA’s operator support can be retrofitted to any type of forest harvester and supports operators in forest management decisions. The system measures, positions and classifies all trees around the machine automatically and in real time. It also gives the position of the machine and cutting head with centimetre accuracy. Data on each individual tree is continuously collected and delivered to the forest owner together with a report, enabling increased transparency, quality assurance of the harvesting and new opportunities for forest owners to apply alternative methods of management.
This factor and an improved work environment for machine operators are some of the reasons for Södra Ädla’s investment.
“We are delighted with our investment in NFA. The company’s AI-based operator support is a good example of the business models and technology that Södra Ädla wants, and intends, to invest in. The technology makes thinning easier and more precise, and enables a wider range of forestry measures. The technology also makes thinning easier for operators, which could eventually attract more contractors and forest machine operators to the industry. NFA’s technology generates direct value for forest estates and we are looking forward to contributing to the company’s development,” said Erik Bengtson, Investment Manager for Södra Ädla.
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Södra was founded in 1938 on the idea that we are stronger together. We are now the largest forest-owner association in Sweden, with 52,000 family forest owners as members. Together, Södra’s members own a world-leading industry that processes forest raw material into renewable products such as pulp, timber, building systems, liquid bioproducts and energy. About 3,300 people are employed in our forest industry and in 2022, Södra generated sales of SEK 33 billion. Our products are exported all over the world and together, we are contributing to a more natural way of living. Rooted in the forest, we grow the future.