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An Interview with Forestation Engineer Valtteri Merima

Valtteri Merima has made a career as Forestation Engineer and excavator contractor for the last three years.

Valtteri had his first excavator operator experience engineering new forest growth with a Risutec planting machine in Finland. This set him firmly on a path for future career development. Starting with inverted mounding, which is the typical soil cultivation method in the Nordics, Valtteri would later build on this fundamental knowledge to tackle greater challenges in Europe.

The first year was a bit tricky!

The most important thing, however, was to make the employer happy, which Valtteri excelled at. At this time he’s exporting Finnish know-how to Germany having spent the last 3 weeks in Germany, in the Willinge region of Matthias Möller’s company. The original plan was to operate through May, now due to the opportunity that integrated forestation offers the Möller company, Valtteri will be operating through October to capture the additional value. Read on to learn why this was important.

Matthias Möller is a pioneer in German afforestation, with a strong will to invest in future development. In Germany, there was a great need to improve the efficiency of planting work, and after a short study, the right solution was found, namely the Risutec SKB-120 planter.

Success was difficult in the beginning, German conditions seemed difficult to begin with. The terrain is very different from Finland. Long grass and steep slopes make it difficult to work.

The assignment has not been without its challenges, Valtteri explains: “In the beginning of the assignment the working day was a bit splintered – since we were changing compartments often. Now, with more forward planning, we are working around the clock with 12 hour shifts. Working at night is not a problem.”

Thanks to Risutec’s irrigation system, Möller has extended his planting season. “First we were going to stay until May, now it looks like I’m going to stay over the summer.” Merima says that there is enough work to be done.

Extending the season with irrigation is a theme that is repeated with Risutec’s reforestation solutions. Often, trees planted in the dryer season have less competition from weeds and other competing vegetation.

What are your thoughts on operating abroad?

There’s a language barrier to contend with for sure, since contractors don’t speak English in the forestry sector. Germany is suitably culturally similar to Finland, which helped. I’d say that there were no major surprises to operating here, and it’s been a great experience. As I said the German language did offer some challenges initially, but communication got easier over time. There is also great respect for the contractor/entrepreneur in Germany. Germans have a great work ethic.

Did you need to innovate given the circumstances?

German soil cultivation practice is different from Finland, they rake the ground and scrape the spot open and plant in the cavity created. This is sometimes challenging because the soil is hard. It also demands durability from the planting tube and requires precision in choosing the spot. In this sense, of course, the inverted mounding familiar from Finland seems easier.
The local forest inspector has often visited the sites to inspect the quality of the work. I think this highlights the punctuality of the Germans. However, the forest inspector has been satisfied and so have the customers. There has been no comment on the use of the excavator in the forest, although it is a very special sight in German forest management. “Let’s say I’m planting along a jogging route, sometimes joggers stop and check what’s happening in their environment”
Finnish inventions also have a place in digitalizing forest management in Germany. Since the forest inspector’s work can be optimized with the future of ASTA and surveying visits can be reduced in the future.
Merima works with another “apprentice”. Niclas and Waltteri are planting in shift work on the same machine.
The cooperation works, and we quickly reached a common understanding of the rhythm of the work. 
“Niclas is a very nice guy, he knows how to get the job done!”

Maintenance needs throughout your career

The advantage of Risutec’s machines is that you can do a lot of day-to-day machine maintenance yourself.

In terms of maintenance, we’ve been able to handle all the small issues ourselves, the machine has been working well.

A common challenge in Germany is the passage of seedlings through the planting pipes. This is due to the fact that seedlings are not necessarily bred for mechanized afforestation. The seedlings are bushy-branched, and the pot breaks down too easily.