Add forestry to the numerous industries that are making use of big data and data analytics to manage their businesses more effectively.
A growing number of forestry firms are using big data and data analytics to help meet their sustainability goals as well as ensure that they generate a continuous supply of timber, according to an article by SiliconANGLE’s Mike Wheatley.
As Wheatley points out, using predictive analytics isn’t new to the forestry industry. For years, companies have used predictive modeling to forecast the impact of controlled burns, harvesting, and other forest management strategies.
“But until recently it’s been a slow and cumbersome process, involving thousands of man hours spent poring over custom-made spreadsheets, with a lot of guess-work thrown in,” notes Wheatley.
However, as national and international regulations become more stringent, forestry companies are being forced to pay closer attention to forest management and sustainability practices. In the US alone, the federal government administers roughly 251 million acres – or some three-quarters of forests that are publicly owned. At least seven federal laws govern US forests while state laws vary widely.
Brazil, meanwhile, has approved a controversial forest protection law that critics say weakens deforestation codes.
Under the nation’s forest code, which dates back to 1965, landowners are required to conserve a portion of their terrains that are forested, ranging from 20% in some areas to 80% along the Amazon River and those provisions are still in place. However, under the new law landowners will be able to cultivate land closer to hilltops and riverbanks that are particularly vulnerable to erosion if trees are cut down.
In Brazil and other locations, analytics can be used by forestry companies to help evaluate the impact of deforestation in certain types of topographies as well as the anticipated impact on other aspects of the environment.
And the use of data visualization techniques can help forestry leaders to envision the rate of deforestation in certain areas along with the anticipated growth rate and maturity of newer trees that have been planted.
The increasing use of analytics by forestry companies to monitor and achieve sustainability goals has even spawned new business opportunities for industry participants.
Weyerhaeuser has created Weyerhaeuser Solutions, a wholly-owned consulting subsidiary that offers its sustainability expertise to assist energy, mining, manufacturing, and investment companies to develop, manage, and commercialize forest-based products.
For example, Weyerhaeuser uses procurement systems data to help energy companies determine whether they can source biomass from sustainably-managed forests. Weyerhaeuser also works with energy firms to find the most effective ways to set up their supply chains at the greatest efficiency and lowest cost.
The industry has been involved with data for years, dating back at least a few hundred years to the practice of counting trees in Germany, notes Tom Grabowski, president and CEO of The Silvacom Group, a consulting firm that serves the forestry sector.
Thanks to the availability of high-powered analytics, forestry firms today are able to manage yields more effectively while meeting industry regulations and taking the necessary steps to protect the environment.
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