Biomass is increasingly being seen as an important energy resource for Europe. However, due to sustainability requirements the biomass which can be harvested from European forests has only a limited growth potential. Therefore, the political focus has changed to the production of fast growing wooden biomass (Short-Rotation-Coppice (SRC) or Short-Rotation-Plantations (SRPs) on agricultural lands in Europe. In parallel, the economic situation for European farmers deteriorated constantly during the last decade because of increasing cost pressures on agricultural products. Short-Rotation-Plantations are a very promising alternative source of income by cultivating fast growing tree-species as a source for bioenergy or other purposes with multifunctional characteristics. SRCs are highly efficient biomass production systems with additional environmental contributions such as biodiversity, soil protection and local climate. In order to reach the political climate protection targets Europe would need more than 4,2 million hectares of Short-Rotation-Plantations in 2030. To cover the corresponding demand of planting material approximately 1,410 hectare of parent tree nurseries have to be harvested each year. Harvesting on these areas is carried out during the winter months only and is characterized by a high degree of manual work at present. Automatic and cost-efficient harvesting techniques for SRC cuttings are urgently needed to meet the future demand economically. Based on this background the SME proposers are planning to develop, construct and test an automatic harvesting and sorting system for SRC cuttings. The system should be able to combine the harvesting (cutting), sorting and packaging of the SRC cuttings.
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