Sharing data to boost BC forest industry

Boosting BC Forest Industry Through Supercluster Model & Sharing Data

Sharing data to boost BC forest industry

Incorporating the supercluster model to energize the BC forestry sector without creating competition

Superclusters have been making news this past year as the next wave in energizing economic development.  Through investment and innovation, fostering stronger connections and inspiring fresh partnerships, industries are looking at collaboration to enhance, expand and innovate their respective industries.

The supercluster philosophy is being encouraged in the forestry sector as well.  Tech experts are espousing the potential of the supercluster model on the sector, where information and data sharing between competing businesses and research facilities could very well help grow the industry, rather than exacerbate competition.

In April, Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster Consortium was at the Council of Forest Industries Convention in Prince George to share how superclusters can help forestry and other resource industries.

Intense innovation hubs, superclusters are supported by regional economies that develop faster due to  the close relationships between businesses, big and small, and integral partnerships with post-secondary and other research institutions.

The sector is embracing technology – utilizing drones, satellite imaging, and ground surveys – to better understand BC forests.  Sharing the information has the potential to lead to better forest management which includes understanding how insect infestations, such as the devastating pine beetle, spread and identifying potential hotspots for wildfires.

“Our intention is to use digital technology as a means to really drive the accelerated growth of our resource industries and also some of the other industries that are predominant here in British Columbia,” digital technology supercluster co-chair Bill Tam told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

BC forest industry data

NASA imagery shows how the Elephant Hill wildfire in 2017 affected forests. (NASA)

“The idea was to really design a framework where you can encourage collaboration across companies, not just in the same sector, but actually across different industry sectors,” he said.

“It’s really to unlock the power of data and digital technology so we can achieve better economic, social and even human outcomes.”

According to Tam, for all the data that is collected world-wide each day, less than 0.5 per cent of it is being used for economic development.

At first blush, many would assume that competing businesses would be hard-pressed to collaborate or share their research and data.  Not necessarily true, says Tam.

“Many resource companies will tell you that the basis by which they’re competing is generally not about the data they’re collecting, it’s generally about how they’re interpreting the information and how they’re applying the strategies that they’re actually taking to market,” he said.

BC forest industry boosted by sharing data

Researchers used drones to learn about wildfire behaviours in the Alex Fraser Research Forest near Williams Lake, B.C. (UBC/FYBR)

According to Tam, it’s to the sector’s peril if they reject the supercluster model with the province in danger of sliding further behind their competition globally.

“I think that’s one of the driving forces for why we’re pushing for this supercluster to be truly collaborative and successful.”

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