RFID Talk Blog

More on RFID use in the forestry sector

A lot of readers contacted me for more details about last week’s story on tagging Koa trees in Hawaii. Now that Darrell Fox, COO at Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, has returned from the remote Koa plantation in on the slopes of Mauna Kea, I was able to get some answers about tagging methods.

As for how the tags are applied to the Koa trees, Fox says tags are actually embedded in tree stakes when seedlings are still in the nursery, rather than boring holes into the trees. The tree stakes are attached to the tree’s root ball in the nursery, and grows into the root structure. When the tree is old enough to be field planted, the RFID portion of the stake is just above ground level.  The firm is using UHF tags from Confidex with a 20 foot read range.

When the Koa trees reach chest height in several years, HLM will write a new tag with duplicate EPC code info and tag that tree at chest height. This time, the encapsulated tag will be placed on the outer bark on the tree surface. “We don’t want to read a tag through 12 inches of lumber,” says Fox.

Numerous use cases are developing for RFID in the forestry sector. In countries where illegal logging is common, trees are being tagged with RFID by drilling a hole and burying the tag in the tree. If those trees show up at the logging mill, officials know they are from an illegal logging operation.

Fox actually got the idea to tag Koa trees from the Precision Forestry Division at Oregon State. The group embraced RFID for a botanical walkway on campus that features a variety of historic trees. The university used to print out brochures about the trees for visitors taking tours. Now, RFID tags embedded in the trees communicate information to handheld readers that are passed out to visitors at the botanical walk.

RFID is also providing a big boost to the sustainable housing movement. As more home owners request green home construction, the logging industry can use RFID to prove that wood products were produced from sustainable forests and possess a proven chain of custody. Groups like the Forestry Stewardship Council are promoting ecologically sound forestry practices, and many home builders are required to use certified forest products.

“The green housing movement has been the biggest push for forest certification programs,” says Fox. “By using RFID technology from seedling to grave, it allows us to comply with any future forest certification requirements and to provide a sustainable product people can cont on.”

Lastly, RFID is aiding in sustainable forestry in the Pacific Northwest and in parts of South America where helicopter logging is common. In this case, workers in the forest tag specific trees selected to be harvested or thinned in heavy forests. By using active RFID tags, heli-pilots are able to locate the tree from the air, drop in labor and machinery to cut the tree, and haul it off through the air. Helicopter logging is very low-impact and avoids building logging roads and damaging delicate soil structures.

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