PROF. Martin Ziesak is a professor at the Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL), where he works within the Forest Production group in the Forest Sciences department. Ziesak, who teaches forestry and engineering, is especially interested in new concepts for sustainable – and digitalized – forestry.
Prof. Ziesak, what are you working on these days?
Martin Ziesak My subjects at the university include traditional process engineering, labor studies and forest development. All of them are logically connected and build on each other.
Those are very traditional disciplines. How do you connect them with the digitalization of forestry?
Martin Ziesak When it comes to forestry work, the big picture is very spread out. That’s different from an industrial company, for example, where we know exactly what process step takes place where. In the forest, the challenge is to digitalize specific work steps and work objects in such a way that everyone involved can plan and coordinate smoothly. Some of the sensors needed for this are already in place, but we still need more. The goal should be for the stakeholders who are active in the forest to grasp things automatically. The ultimate goal is to visualize the interconnected activity of data, data streams and stakeholders. We can use well-known concepts from “Industry 4.0” to generate real added value here, across practically every area of forestry.
How open is a highly traditional industry like forestry to these kinds of new approaches and processes?
Martin Ziesak Forestry is highly conservative, and we’re lagging behind a bit compared to Industry 4.0 or what you might think of as “Forestry and Lumber 4.0.” But I think this is still a healthy attitude. People have been taking more of a wait-and-see approach, observing what works in practice and what new developments do in fact yield the added value that was hoped for. On the other hand, the industry faces dramatic change as a result of climate change and the very tense economic situation. That’s why there’s a lot of movement toward new technologies these days.
What applications do you think are leading the pack here?
Martin Ziesak Digitalization in forestry has been underway for decades now. The challenge is to use this pool of data and implement it profitably in new processes and products. That’s why I see it more as a parallel run with multiple things in different dimensions. One task – and this is something I’m working on in the Smart Forestry project, for example – is to set up a clean architecture in which already fully mechanized steps are documented and used in the same way as all traditional tasks performed by hand using power tools. There is a clear development task to be pursued here, and we are tackling it.
Speaking of tasks for the future, where do you think the biggest need for action lies?
Martin Ziesak I’m a little concerned to see that there are a lot of stand-alone solutions being developed right now, generating individual areas of added value that don’t come together into a single big picture. An overarching solution should ideally work independently of the manufacturer and combine the vision of smart processes with smart machines. The industry needs research projects that are relevant from the execution standpoint. Only if we pinpoint the concerns and needs of stakeholders in practice will we be able to do research that really makes sense.
What makes doing research in this field so fascinating to you personally?
Martin Ziesak Even with all its traditional aspects, forestry is an industry with a lot of potential for the future, and one that performs a great social service. Personally, I want to help the industry and open doors to the future.