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Harvesting trees at the push of a button

EU project ROD-PICKER develops automated harvesting machine for energy wood

Fast-growing trees, which are becoming an increasingly important source of renewable energy, are planted on Short Rotation Coppices (SRCs). In order to fulfil the high demand for plant material, the parent tree nurseries must be efficiently harvested and the rods for cutting production sorted and packaged. This however currently involves manual work on a considerable scale. ROD-PICKER, an EU-funded project, is developing an automated harvesting and processing system for SRC parent nurseries which aims to multiply production efficiency.

Bremerhaven, March 2013. Short Rotation Coppices (SRCs), in which fast-growing types of tree such as willows or poplars are cultivated as a bio-energy source, are very efficient biomass production systems with many advantages for the environment. Biological diversity is raised and soil protection and stabilization of the regional climate are improved. The ROD-PICKER project has the task of developing an automated harvesting and processing system for parent tree nurseries, which combines the harvesting, the sorting and packaging of the rods and thus makes the harvesting process more efficient. In order to satisfy the sector's demand economically, cost-efficient harvesting techniques are urgently required here. At present, harvesting, sorting and packaging are however still performed by hand or by self-built prototypes through which demand, above all in the near future, cannot be satisfied.

The method to be developed within ROD-PICKER is expected to result in a harvesting speed which is ten times faster. The target is an automated system for European biomass farmers which will allow an extensive use of SRCs in Europe thanks to time and cost reductions. The prototype to be developed aims to unite all the processes which occur in the course of harvesting and at the same time to be compatible with existing processing and transport equipment. Through the cost-efficient production of cuttings, wood production in the European biomass sector could be increased by 30 % per year, whilst production efficiency could be raised by at least 500 % in comparison to manual harvesting methods. An improved competitiveness amongst European farmers would preserve jobs in rural regions as well as generate new employment in the manufacture, maintenance and operation of the proposed system. Field trials with ROD-PICKER will commence in November 2013 in Dresden.

All the small and medium-sized enterprises participating in the project are operating in the area of manufacture of agricultural harvesting machines and auxiliary equipment, cultivation of energy crops or the biomass production chain. Coordinator of the ROD-PICKER project is Egedal Maskinfabrik A/S from Denmark. The other partners involved in the project are Salixenergi Europa AB from Sweden, Politehnica University of Timisoara from Romania and from Germany Lempe GbR., the Technical University of Dresden and ttz Bremerhaven, which is responsible for research and technological development including scientific coordination. The project is funded as "Research for the benefit of SMEs" within the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union. One of the main objectives of this programme is to strengthen the industrial competitiveness of European SMEs. The project is running from October 2012 to September 2014 and has a total budget of around € 1.700.000, of which about € 1.300.000 is EU funding.

ttz Bremerhaven is an independent research institute and performs application-related research and development. Under the umbrella of ttz Bremerhaven, an international team of experts is working in the fields of food, environment and health.

Contact: Christian Colmer Head of Communication and Media ttz Bremerhaven Fischkai 1 D-27572 Bremerhaven (Germany) Phone: +49 (0)471 48 32 -124 Fax: +49 (0)471 48 32 - 129 ccolmer@ttz-bremerhaven.de

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idw :: 20.03.2013