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Fast, Accurate, Low Cost and Hand Held NIR Technology to Ascertain Wood Origin and Quality during Logistic Operations

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NIRWOOD (Fast, Accurate, Low Cost and Hand Held NIR Technology to Ascertain Wood Origin and Qualityduring Logistic Operations)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-04-30

Roundwood production in the EU-28 amounts 425 million m³ (EU is the largest producer within the G20). In addition to internal production, EU imports 4.8B€ of timber and other wood products. All this timber has to be transported. Logistics operations and its traceability assurance are a mayor point of weakness for the European Woodworking companies because, once the timber is harvested and loaded, only experts can differentiate some species from other while its origin can only be stablished with complex laboratory analysis. This implies two mayor challenges fakes and illegal logging, which cannot be solved with current available solutions and cause penalties, claims, bad image or even the immediate suspension of authorization to trade.
In fact, illegal logged and traded wood represents 19% of the total wood products imported in the EU, reason why the EC approved the European Timber Regulation (EUTR). This regulation aims at combating this problem and applies to all wood-related products commercialized in the EU, including internal production and imports.
GEA and SPECTRAPPLY have joined their efforts to create NIRWOOD, the first commercial system for on-site identification of quality and origin of wooden products, based in Near-Infrared Technology (NIR). NIRWOOD targets to place in the market a simple (low training or calibration required), accurate (>99% certainty with respect to wood species and 95% with respect to country of origin), fast (<5 sec measurement) and low-cost solution to ascertain wood origin and solve illegal trade and quality fakes.
This will be a strategic tool for those more than 446,000 EU woodworking companies that need to comply with EUTR regulation. The project has received the support from wood trading companies, monitoring organizations (SGS, AENOR, NEPCON), forest certification schemes FSC and PEF & NGOs involved in the fighting against illegal logging.
GEA Forestal has developed a list of the countries involved in the European Union timber trade, both by volume and economical value, and the most common species commercialized in it. Some of these countries were confirmed from the ones previously identified during the Phase 1 but others are new. On the basis of the data obtained from different specialized Internet sources (Table 2) and more than a hundred of personal and phone interviews, GEA prioritized the most common species and geographical origins to be sampled.

We have taken measurements under real conditions using spectrophotometers with different specifications to compare their results. With this aim, GEA Forestal contacted with more than 30 sawmills in Spain to find an agreement of collaboration to allow us to carry on the NIR analyses in their installations. At the end, we could sample in 25 sawmills located in northern and central Spain.

To evaluate the risk of illegal logging in every country, we did a review of their forestry situation, taking into account the reports from different sources, normally non governmental organizations related with environment protection but also official documents from each country. Forestry state policies, degree of corruption, law enforcement, previous environmental denounces, maps of deforestation, international environmental agreements, surface of certified forest, gave this information to try to reach the most risky countries and regions about illegal logging or smuggling. We identified the main companies working in the timber sector in each one of the targeted countries.

At the end, we have a wide list of near 1.070 sawmills around the world that are certified or at least have been certified in the last years, plus a number of local contacts through environmental organizations and institutions. The list includes contact persons, phone numbers and email addresses to start the communication with them and reach agreements of collaboration as soon as the prototype was ready.

Three commercial NIR devices were tested to determine the optimal features of Nirwood Prototype. The spectra obtained during the Test Sampling in sawmills from Spain were treated statistically by Spectrapply’s chemometricians.

A preliminary commercialization plan was designed by GEA during this Task taking the opportunity provided by the contact with a large number of companies and entities involved both in the test sampling and the global data base sampling campaign. Relevant information about the market needs, the distribution channels, the potential of the NIR technology as a dynamic tool for timber analysis, the possible competence and how to overcome it, the type of consumers and the way to reach them, and the realistic budgets to invest in quality control measurements was taken. It improved our SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and started to put in clear our commercial strategy.
NIRWOOD is the first commercial system to identify on-site, the quality and the origin of wooden products thanks to NIR technology in an easy and cost-affordable way. The system can be used by producers (pre-delivery checks) and customers (reception control) and by Authorities in their control function. Table 1 shows the problems that timber traders currently face due to quality and origin frauds. A cheated importer can pay up to 10 times more for a claimed species or a quality that results not to be such and that afterwards, results in problems during the industrialization and engineering of the final wood product, which will probably turn into a demand from the timber trader’s client. On the other side, and due to current EU legislation on forest legality, if timber’s origin is not ensured, the load can be retained, causing economic losses as well as financial penalties (up to €100,000) and/or detention (up to 2 years) penalties in some EU countries2. Current solutions are not immediate, very slow and therefore, very expensive.

NIRWOOD objective is the creation of a huge timber spectral database which will include NIR spectrum from protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as well as most commercial species. Once after the project is finished, we will be updating periodically the database with new species. All data will be treated to create a mathematical algorithm that allows us to identify a certain species and its origin just by scanning its spectrum. This is what we call the NIRWOOD prediction model that will be embedded in a cloud-based platform easy to access by everyone, everywhere. Its accuracy will make possible to ascertain wood species and origin instantly just by using a portable NIR device that scans the timber on-site, avoiding economic losses caused by frauds.
Detecting wood fraud