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about 1 year ago

Hackathon Problem Statements & Kickoff


We are please to share the official problem statements for the 2020 Future of Forestry Hackathon.

The forest economy is vital to New England but the industry has been slow to adopt technology to allow it to stay competitive against other forestry markets. In a region once dependent on paper mills it is clear that we must ask what does a post-paper regional forest economy look like? Where is there opportunity for innovation that will not only be embraced by the industry but also create more value across the industry.


Problem Statement Background
How can environmental and geospatial data be used to evaluate potential logging margins to ensure they are commensurate to the financial risk associated with harvesting wood? Reliable margins in logging can be challenging to come due to unforeseen environmental factors. In many cases, market value of the harvested wood doesn’t reflect the time and risk associated with the harvest for specific trees. Whether the most valuable trees are two miles in through dense forest requiring significant time and fuel or the tree is on steep slope making it very dangerous or challenging to harvest, the market pricing doesn’t reflect these factors, nor do loggers have the tools to do this evaluation.
What tech tools could strengthen relationships between small wood suppliers in northern New England and the performance the building industry, which is increasingly interested in local sourcing of wood for climate benefits? The performance build/design community (US Green Building Council, Passivhaus movement and others) is seeking to shorten supply chains and avoid materials with a high embodied carbon content (such as concrete, steel and aluminum). Some of their needs are already being met by traditional building supply stores. (For example, some of the plywood and most of the pine boards, pine pattern siding and spruce-fir dimensional lumber sold in New England is grown in New England.) Robust, small-scale relationships exist for local wood supply from small local mills, but most operators are utterly swamped by demand. And, the lack of marketing capacity and retail options are serious bottlenecks. But more of their needs could be met by small and medium-sized sawmills if stronger linkages could be forged. Products produced by these mills include northern white cedar (for shingles, clapboards, decking, and trim) and hemlock (pressure-treated lumber for landscaping timbers, sign posts and deck framing). But many of these mills lack the staff or expertise to reach beyond local markets and may even view on-line markets with suspicion as tools for increasing competition among suppliers and driving down prices.
How can technology be used to change perception of the broader public around the use of wood products as a renewable resource and highlight the benefits sustainable harvesting? In New England, and specifically Vermont, there are many opportunities to expand the use of wood products and create a more resilient local economy in the process. The regulatory environment and environmental concerns (some warranted) hinder the ability of these markets to grow. Whether it is locally sourced wood heat in wood pellets, manufactured architectural materials like mass timber or wood fiber Insulation, all of these products are renewable and store carbon and are grown right here in VT. How can we change public perception so that these locally sourced materials can be best utilized.


During the kickoff meeting our speaker will dig into these statement further, providing more context and answering your questions as they come up. If you have any questions in the mean time please let us know!


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