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Planting for the Future

Planting for the Future – Eoghan Daly reports on the experiences of one Finnish contractor using a proven mechanical means of planting trees.

Planting for the Future – Eoghan Daly reports on the experiences of one Finnish contractor using a proven mechanical means of planting trees.
In planting mechanisation of contrast the forestry lags to all well cycle, of other behind tree the

parts other operations, particularly harvesting.

As an example of what is possible, the father and son team of Reijo and Toni Lainio have enjoyed considerable success with a Hyundai excavator-mounted Risutec planter, achieving a consistent work rate of 220 plants per hour.

Based at Rauma in the west of Finland, the family firm originally focused on general 62 plant hire and constructing forest roads, then in 2007 diversified into tree planting.

Unlike the British Isles, due to adverse winter weather the planting season runs from May to September, occasionally into October if the frost is not severe. Running one machine with multiple shifts of operators, this planting operation is highly productive and has a high earning

potential. It also demonstrates how one-pass mounding and planting can be the basis for a successful small business.

Toni said, “We work with four operators, two of which are my father and myself. One of us is in the forest at all times to have full control over what is happening, and we have trained two other operators to work the multiple shifts with us.

“The machine is working continuously and on the changeover of shift we share machine maintenance. Each pair of operators work for three days per week before handing over to the other pair. Since the season is short, we must do everything possible to make sure we get through the maximum amount of work and insist on high standards at all times.”

We work with four operators, two of which are my father and myself. One of us is in the forest at all times to have full control over what is happening, and we have trained two other operators to work the multiple shifts with us.

Planting Attachment

Having previously run a PM100, the first Risutec planter attachment to be produced, the current PM160 model was bought in 2014 and has been worked extremely hard over the years.

It is currently mounted on its second carrier, a Hyundai 140LCM-9A complete with a high-clearance, heavy-duty undercarriage.

Toni continued, “Risutec have much experience of mechanised tree planting and most important of all is how they are willing to listen and produce exactly what the customer wants. The support they give long after supplying the equipment is also very important and any technical issues are resolved quickly, allowing us to get the most from the machine.”

Working for six years on this high intensity, multi-shift working pattern, the Risutec attachment has demonstrated its high build quality. Compared with similar attachments from other manufacturers, the Risutec design has fewer moving parts, particularly to perform mounding that is the most demanding part of the process.

Saying that, Risutec also offers the option of a movable mounding spade for those that require it.

“The success rate of the crop is much higher than manual planting, which makes it much more attractive to the grower”

Success rates with mechanised planting are said to be greater than manual approaches.

The working principle of the attachment sees the front mounding plate being drawn in towards the excavator to accumulate sufficient material to form a mound. The planter is then rested on top of this material to provide a degree of compaction. The operator presses a single button on one of the excavator’s joysticks to start a fully automated planting process.

A probe at the base of the attachment creates a suitable hole in the mound for the small containerised plants, 160 of which are held in the carousel. As the probe is opened within the mound, a single plant drops down a chute from the carousel and is duly compacted into place.

An amber light on the back face of the attachment signals to the operator that the cycle is complete, and the carousel automatically advances one space to present the next plant.

Although the Risutec is clearly a heavy-duty attachment, it handles the young containerised plants with extreme delicacy.

It is also extremely consistent in terms of placing the plant in the mound and compacting it in.

As Toni confirmed, “Success rates with mechanised planting using this machine are very high. Much of this comes down to proper selection of planting sites and mound formation, and attention to detail is needed at all times. When the right effort is put into the task the success

rate of the crop is much higher than manual planting, which makes it much more attractive to the grower.”

The control, monitoring and management system developed for the Risutec planter clearly plays a key role in this high success rate. This example runs on an early version of the current ASTA system, using a Siemens-based control unit linked to a smart phone to provide the display and a data transfer capability. Providing full access to site maps and planting densities, the system allows the contractor to keep track of work progress and ensure the required stocking rates are achieved.

Risutec Background

In the mid-1990s Jussi Aikala required a clearing head for his compact thinning harvesters. As nothing was available to meet his requirements, he designed and built his own unit. Impressed with its performance, other local forest owners asked him to build one for them. From managing his own forests, Jussi’s product supply workload continued to increase, ultimately leading to the establishment of Risutec in 2004. To develop a sustainable manufacturing business, Jussi diversified into the production of tree-planting equipment, which now accounts for the vast majority of the business.

Based at Nakkila, south-east of Pori in western Finland, the Risutec business model is not to cut, machine and weld metal themselves, but use specialist sub-contractors to perform the work. The small team of eight people develop the products and serve the needs of their customers.

Jussi explained, “We work continually on the development of further improvements to our tree planter range and have put much effort into the control and monitoring systems, which govern the equipment. This is very important as we need to have complete information available for both the user and the client to show the correct planting density is being achieved and site boundaries being observed. In this way, we can show how we are meeting the required standards to establish the future forests “We use a range of sub-contractors, all of which are specialists in their own fields, to manufacture different aspects of the tree planters we produce.

As a company specialising in a niche product, this gives us access to high-level manufacturing and quality workmanship, without having to invest heavily in the necessary equipment and manpower in-house. Instead, it leaves us free to concentrate on developing the product range further in response to our customers’ unique requirements.”

This R&D/customer service approach has allowed Risutec to develop specific tree-planting attachments for different species and far different environments than is found in northern Europe. For example, their SKB planter is proving to be popular in the arid conditions of Spain, complete with an open bucket and a ripper. Principally designed to establish Eucalyptus plantations in challenging conditions, instead of mounding the planter will dig down to a maximum of 90cm and place cocoons containing the young trees. These cocoons will be filled with water from a pump mounted on the base machine, giving the plants every chance of survival. In addition, this type of planter can also deliver a variety of inputs or other compounds at the time of planting.

Jussi concluded, “The possibilities are very great as the planters can perform a range of functions at once and include fertiliser and insecticide application. We also have successfully applied moose and deer repellents with the range of options we offer.”

Hyundai Base Unit

Reijo and Toni Lainio are no strangers to running Hyundai excavators, as there are a number of examples in their wider fleet. The tree planter is carried on a dedicated 140LCM-9A model complete with a heavy-duty, high-clearance undercarriage carrying 800mm-wide triple-grouser track pads, complete with forestry-spec track guards.

To minimise the level of support required in their typically isolated sites, an additional fuel tank has been fitted, as Toni explained, “The machine has a standard fuel tank that holds 240 litres, to which we have added another 250-litre tank. This means it can carry three days fuel based on its 9.0lit/hr consumption, which we are satisfied with even though it is slightly higher than the 8.2 litres per hour of the previous Dash 7 model.”

A lot of thought was also given to where to position a rack on the excavator to hold refills for the carousel, but at the end of the day the only logical place was at the excavator’s rear end. A hydraulically rising rack of shelves was designed and built in house, which hold sufficient stock for 20 hours of multi-shift work. When filled, the rack is elevated to provide the excavator with sufficient slewing clearance over debris on the forest floor.