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  • Writer's pictureWayne Mulligan

Forestry Re-think; A must

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

There is so much talk about slash, land destabilisation, and damage. And for good reasons. These issues are real and are perpetuated in the current model adopted by NZ forestry and regulators. Let’s be clear, this is not the first slash wash-down rodeo and it will not be the last in NZ. We have a mismatch between policy, practice, and policing. It is time for a rethink - or is it a 'tree-think'?

Let's just for a minute stop the blame game and consider another reality. Slash is not the problem. Slash, is merely a symptom of a forestry business model that has operated for 60+ years, dominated now by the linear export of trees with offshore incentives, that has resulted in over 60% of our forestry exported as ‘raw’ or ‘wet fibre’ logs. In 2021 that’s equivalent to 22 million cubic tonnes.

It needs a redesign. And here is the opportunity. You need a new mindset and different players who are involved in different markets. The key is to redesign the forestry sector to meet new end-user market requirements. Refer to Mull on This #1 - where NZ Bio Forestry is designing in Taiwan biochemical adhesives and biomaterials to target the refining,micro-processing, and semi-conductor markets. That is for use in your cellphone, smartphone, laptop, desktop, or car. At the moment the bulk of NZ's forestry log exports goes to a few countries for commodity use as construction, panels, and boxing. Now think of the size and volume of markets that can be served through high-technology products. That is vastly different, potentially providing up to 80 times the return in monetary terms.

If we want to change the value and career opportunities of the forestry industry, then we need to change markets. This is exactly what NZ Bio Forestry focuses on. We have been working on designing solutions for new market segments in chemistry, materials, and energy. This radically shifts the economics, is environmentally superior, and is culturally brand smart, for Aotearoa-NZ.

Linking International Knowledge and Indigenous Knowledge

Let me introduce our director, Dr. Yin Fah Kam (YF). (Click here for bio). He is a leading Applied Scientist and director at NZ Bio Forestry. YF is Singapore based and deeply knowledgeable in systems thinking circular models and complex loop systems. He believes that Māori have a significant role to play in re-balancing economic and environmental economics. Moreover, he is steadfast in NZ Bio Forestry's quest to accelerate Asia Pacific to be the 'Kainga", the regional home of new green innovation built on biotechnology. This technology is about supporting and augmenting the existing NZ forestry, wood manufacturing, and petro/chemical sectors to be more sustainable in renewables as well as creating IP in non-fossil-based chemicals, energy, and materials.

Dr. Yin Fah Kam (YF) explains.

Carl Sagan*, an American astronomer, astrobiologist and science communicator once said - “We humans look rather different from a tree. Without a doubt we perceive the world differently than a tree does. But down deep, at the molecular heart of life, the trees and we are essentially identical”.

Therefore, as much as we take care of ourselves, we must accord the same kind of respect to Trees. Traditional Chemistry is about gaining a deeper understanding of things because it focuses on the physical and chemical properties of matter. This discipline gives us a basic understanding of how one can transform matter from one form into another.

By re-thinking Chemistry as BioChemistry, we can gain a better insight into how biological processes interact with Chemistry. BioChemistry is about gaining a deeper understanding of the composition of living things including the steps and processes that they take to transform matter during the complex process called Life. Often, Biochemists will use the Chemist's toolkit in order to identify and investigate those molecules. Exploring the BioChemistry of forests is an important step in understanding the molecular structures of trees and plants that could benefit Mankind.

In short, BioChemistry provides us with a powerful new tool to explore Life and its complexities. Adopting a Forest-based Circular Bio-economy by stitching well-established businesses will provide a practical and commercial approach to how to derive the many benefits for Mankind in the most sustainable way.

Importantly, what YF talks about is akin to the Māori worldview of the interconnected relationship between humans, forestry, and life. There are several accounts in Māori (like all cultures) about the creation story. In Māori, most speak of Tane (deity of the forest) creating the first woman from the earth to beget man. The Creation of Man | NZETC ( This is simply provided not for a debate but a reference to new ways of thinking.

Treemendous Video # Three - Values and Vision

NZ Bio Forestry is pleased to release our latest Treemendous video from our library. Click here to view You can see the others on our website. As mentioned we plan to have around 10 short videos for your viewing.

Innovation Grows Here

Innovation from forestry is not new, therefore it is worth mentioning several other NZ companies doing innovative products and IP from forestry and forestry bio-actives;

Arepa, pine bioactive in their drinks.

Biogold's Pine Pollen, natural health and wellbeing.

Port Blakely, NZ natural essential oils.

Futrity Bioventures, smart use of lignin and bio-materials.

OJI Fibre Solutions, circular economy and use of fibre for energy and biomaterials.

Plentyful, reimaging plastics and PHA

Ngā mihi

Wayne Mulligan - CEO, NZ Bio Forestry

PS: Our next Mull on This will have a commentary from Dr. Vivienne Hunt, who is leading our future technology workforce and one that wants to see more women in biotech.

* Correction made on 31 January, Carl Sagan was not a Noble Prize winner originally stated. Apologies for this error.
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Thanks for this Wayne. Great read. Systems Dynamics is an excellent mindset for designing marketing systems that can successfully capture value. Unfortunately, this country has a growth mentality (listen to any politician  or corporate - growth will fix everything) which is keeping productivity low and more people poor. Capturing every last cent of value from production has to be the future. Fingers crossed for change. Keep up the awesome work mate. Cheers, Jim 👍👏😁

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