For sure, this is not a production ready machine, but a comprehensive concept machine for testing. The tests that we carry out within the project consortium are a necessary step towards the building of such a machine in the future, says Rolf Björheden, test supervisor and researcher at the Swedish Forest Research Institute, Skogforsk. Forest harvesting necessitates heavy terrain-transport of timber. This entails risk of rutting and soil compaction. Therefore, sensitive soils have traditionally been logged in winter, on frozen ground. But with ever milder winters and higher standards of environmental performance, forestry needs a low impact forwarder that can economically transport the wood to the nearest road with little risk of damage to the forest floor.
The field trials of general technical properties and practical forwarding with the new low impact forwarder are being carried out by Skogforsk and Swedish forest consultancy Konstholmen AB and will provide important input for the construction of a commercial tracked forwarder. If the OnTrack concept can be successfully developed into a competitive machine, it will establish a new environmental standard in forest operations, encouraging others to follow. Customers in forestry are as demanding as the conditions. Although many problems remain to be solved, I feel confident that the commercial version of the heavy-duty rubber track system together with our well-proven forwarder will shorten the way to a finished and functional product, says Kalle Einola, R&D Manager at Finnish machine manufacturer Ponsse Plc. At PRINOTH, we are proud to be part of the development of technologies for the emerging bioeconomy. Cost-efficient and low impact harvesting of forest biomass from sensitive areas are an important contribution, says Alessandro Ferrari, Vice Sales President at PRINOTH’s Tracked Utility Vehicles’ division.
After the initial test in Sweden, the OnTrack forwarder will be touring extensively for tests under various conditions and prerequisites. Finnish peatland logging will be tested by Metsäteho, traction tests and steep terrain manoeuvrability will be checked by NIBIO and Owren SA in Norway. In Latvia, SILAVA oversees tests on sensitive mineral soils while KWF in Germany will check the OnTrack concept on sensitive brown soils. OnTrack is a joint effort aiming to reduce the footprint of forestry through research, says Rasmus Astrup, Research Director at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, NIBIO, and coordinator for the OnTrack project.
Facts about OnTrack
In the EU Horizon 2020 Innovation Action OnTrack, forest research institutes of five major forest countries have joined forces with forest machine manufacturer Ponsse Plc and tracked utility vehicle manufacturer PRINOTH. Merging well-proven technologies from two different sectors, the goal is to construct a gentle giant, smooth on the ground and on the operator, but powerful enough to maintain and – on soft grounds - to improve forwarding capacity. The project, started in September 2016 and will continue over a two-year period.