Weekend away in Albany: Growers Day

13 10 2008

Back in 2000 I edited a PDS (Product Disclosure Statement) of an MIS (Managed Investment Scheme) for a company in the business of creating Australian Blue Gum tree farms. I bought a share in that particular offering, knowing that it was speculative and that it would be some 8 to 12 years before I saw any return (if any) on that investment. Since then, the company that set up the tree farm has changed hands several times and ‘my trees’ are now managed by a company in Albany, on the south coast of Western Australia.

This company sends out information each year on their free “Growers Day”—a day where investors like me get updates on our trees, and get taken out to view various aspects of the operations. Everything from pollination, to watching the final wood chip pile being loaded on to a ship bound for the Japanese paper mills. I’d never been before, so this year we decided to go and make a weekend of it.

It was a fascinating day and I learnt a lot. I felt sad when I saw the effects of the harvesting, but was alternately glad too—glad that our incredibly rare native trees were no longer being used for wood chips. (NOTE: These Blue Gums are native to Tasmania and are bred especially for harvesting for wood chips. The land they are planted on is old, cleared pasture land, either leased from farmers or owned by the company. Native forests are not cleared specifically to plant Blue Gums.)

Some of the more interesting parts of the Growers Day:

  • Flower pollen collection and pollination (you too can be Chief Bee, or the Chief Pollinator, if you wish! Or perhaps ‘Flower Emasculator’ is more your preferred job title…)
  • Seed genetics—super mothers and super fathers combine to produce super children.
  • Seed planting and propagation
  • Soil, weather, and other conditions affecting growth rates
  • Risks, such as fire, pests, and diseases
  • Harvesting—where we learned that more costs go into the day a tree is harvested than in its entire life
  • Debarking, chipping and transporting to wood chip stockpiles at the port
  • Loading onto ships bound for Japan for making high grade paper, such as the outer layer of paper used on wine labels
  • Current costs and returns per hectare, and current price per bone-dry tonne

So, will ‘my trees’ give me some return on investment? They should do, but with the current economic climate, who knows. We were assured that prices for wood products don’t fluctuate a lot… but they’ve said that about iron ore too. They aren’t due for harvest until around 2010, so I guess I’ll find out then.

Male parts are removed to leave a scar in the resulting seed pod, pollen is collected from other plants, then deposited onto female part using a small tube which protects female being pollinated by other pollen

Male parts are removed to leave a scar in the resulting seed pod, pollen is collected from other plants, then deposited onto female part using a small tube which protects female being pollinated by other pollen and other pollen-carrying agents such as bees, ants, and birds

A small stand of trees left behind after harvesting

A small stand of trees left behind after harvesting

Jaws of death - cut tree at base, collect 5-10 trees in 'arms' then lay them down ready for the debarking and chipping process

Jaws of death - cut tree at base, collect 5-10 trees in 'arms' then lay them down ready for the debarking and chipping process

Jaws of death - close-up

Jaws of death - close-up

Cut at the base

Cut at the base

Trees awaiting debarking and chipping, and others awaiting death

Trees awaiting debarking and chipping, and others awaiting their fate

Prt of the 100,000 tonne wood chip stockpile

Part of the 100,000 tonne wood chip stockpile


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3 responses

14 10 2008
techcommdood

I was *this* close to asking why the heck you didn’t call me, then I saw it was Albany, Australia. 😉

14 10 2008
Rhonda

Had it been Albany, NY, you’d have heard from me in plenty of time to get the spare room spruced up, another brew made (for you – I don’t drink beer), and to get the tour maps out to show me around! 😉

26 10 2008
Hey Wiii-lll-mmm-aaa! « At Random

[…] 12 10 2008 I had an interesting weekend – some good, some very sad. Will write on that later, perhaps in a day or […]

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