Will planting ever be mechanized? That´s a question that has been asked by many for the last 50 years. From time to time it seemed that it was not far away, but for different reasons, mechanized planting in the forest never broke through. Is now the time for the final breakthrough?

Mechanized planting – the big challenge

As we wrote in the article Swedish Forestry #3 a while ago, the development of planting machines for the forest started early. In the 80’s there were machines tested, and one of them actually had some success, at least for a while – the Silva Nova.

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The Silva Nova planter at Elmia 1993.

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A young forest planted with a Silva Nova 20 – 25 years ago.

Also, the Bracke planter had some success when it turned up in the early 90’s, but something happened.

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The Bracke P11 planting head.

The walls came down

You have probably heard it before. The planting machines were underway when the iron curtain collapsed. It had been dividing east and west Europe for decades and the eastern citizens had very little chances to cross the borders to the west. But after 1990 there were no walls anymore, and in the west, there were money to be made. E.g. by planting forest.

The eastern people that came over to the west were willing to work hard for less money that the west citizens wanted to do. Most of those who came were actually good at planting in the forest. Suddenly, the interest in mechanized planting was gone.

Times changes

Today the wages in many former east bloc countries are almost at the same level as in the west. The people who came over to the west to stay, now have discovered that there is more money to be made in carpeting, house building, etc., so not so many of them go to the forest anymore. The Covid-19 crisis hasn´t made anything easier when it comes to bringing people over the borders.

We have asked this question before; Is now the time for the machines to take over?

The PlantmaX project

Most likely, 2020 will not be the year of the big breakthrough for mechanized planting in the forest. However, as cheap labor has become more difficult to get, and the Covid-19 situation in addition to that, the machine developers have started to think about the problem – again.

Actually, one new project was already underway. During the autumn of 2019, a prototype of the PlantmaX planter was tested in the forests of mid Sweden. During the winter some adjustments were made and now the machine will be operated by a contractor over the whole season.

So far, this season, 100 hectares and some over 200 000 plants have been planted with the PlantmaX.

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The PlantmaX in action.

The team

The PlantmaX project is a continuation of the old Silva Nova project from the 80’s. The project is a cooperation between five companies: Grangärde Konsult & Innovation, ATEK Arvidsson Teknik, MidiFlex, Alftaprodukter and Grangärde Maskin.

The construction team consists of persons that were involved in the Silva Nova project back in those days, but also younger engineers have been added to the team.

The operator team is staff from the forestry contractor Vallsta Skogsmaskiner AB who will operate the machine this season.

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One of two operator teams at Vallsta Skogsmaskiner. From the left: Lars Nilsson, Niklas Levinson and Daniel Blom. To the far right project manager Joakim Eckerström.

The machine

Base unit:                           EcoLog 574E

Crane:                                 Effer 100 2S

Scarifyer:                            MidiFlex

Width:                                3,09 meters

Length:                             11 meters

Height:                              3,85 meters

Weight:                              24,5 tons

Planting capacity:           Each arm can make one planting attempt every 3 seconds

Planting width:               Each arm could be set in five positions sideward

Plant storage:                  10 000 – 20 000 plants depending on the size of the plants.

Here is a short film clip of the PlantmaX in action

 

Thanks to the guys at Vallsta and to Joakim Eckerström at PlantmaX.

Film and photos: Per Jonsson