New digital innovations challenge previous working methods in Swedish forestry, and contribute to a more sustainable society. Digitalisation also means increased access to more up-to-date raw data, which will play a major role in future eco-labels – and in the long run in political decisions too.
Support systems that help minimise damage from storms, fires or a major outbreak of spruce bark beetles, scans that allow a log to be processed more efficiently, or a forestry plan that is automatically updated – these are just a few examples of the benefits of digitalisation. Increased digitalisation also means more opportunities to collect fresh information in very many different areas.
Linda Eriksson is the forest policy spokesperson at Swedish Forest Industries and leads the Forest Committee at Swedish Forest Industries, which is a reference group for Mistra Digital Forest. Despite many advances, she sees that there is still much to explore:
– Compared with other countries, Sweden is well ahead in digitalisation, but the forest industry is tradition-heavy, and there is still a lot of development left. Mistra Digital Forest has an important role to play here.
Sustainable development is usually described as standing on three legs – economy, environment and social issues.
– In that context, it is exciting to see that there is so much to be gained in forestry, says Linda Eriksson, giving concrete examples of how the three different parts of sustainable development can be applied:
Digitalisation can support us in becoming even more efficient, and consequently also more economical. With new technology, we can protect the environment by producing soil moisture maps to avoid ground damage, for example. Similarly, the daily life of those who work in the forest can be improved if new innovations make it possible to avoid activities that cause unnecessary bodily wear and tear, which is a social aspect. I can see that it is possible to create profits in every area of forestry through digitalisation, which is something that benefits the whole society.
To succeed, it is important to have programmes like Mistra Digital Forest – where academia, industry and institutes collaborate, says Linda Eriksson.
It’s a real strength when more people are involved, and when the projects are close to reality. Of course, basic research is needed but it is also important to get the research results out into practical forestry.
Digitalisation also means increased access to qualitative and fresh raw data. This benefits research, but it also benefits the work of developing new eco-labels that is currently underway in the EU.
– I see many opportunities with increased digitalisation. It will increase transparency and will mean that we can rely on the information we receive being updated. The system could be more robust, says Kai-Yee Thim, expert at Swedish Forest Industries in product safety issues for pulp and paper. She also leads the Forest Industries’ Product Committee, which since the autumn of 2021 has been one of Mistra Digital Foret’s reference groups.
There are currently many eco-labels measuring different things, such as how much carbon dioxide a person contributes based on their lifestyle.
The quantity of eco-labels eventually becomes problematic, as the labels have different meanings. At the moment it can be difficult for the recipient to know what the label stands for and what it really means. Better raw data can make future eco-labels clearer and more transparent for everyone involved – both for product developers and for consumers. It has to be right from the beginning, says Kai-Yee Thim.
Many product-related decisions are also expected from the EU during 2022.
– We strive for sustainable consumption. This is where the forest, as a renewable raw material, can contribute a lot. With the help of digitalisation, detailed information about the forest and processes in the value chain that accompanies the product becomes possible. It is a prerequisite for us to be able to evaluate the end products, compare them with each other, and classify them environmentally in the right way, says Kai-Yee Thim.