University of León, member of DIGIS3, and Garnica company develop a digital tool for the poplar industry

The rector of the University of León (ULE) Juan Francisco García Marín has visited the facilities of the Garnica company in Valencia de Don Juan, accompanied by the researchers of the DRACONES Research GroupFlor Álvarez Taboada and Fernando Castedo, and the company's Forestry Manage, Carlos Álvarez Cuevas. 

Within the European DIGIS3, project, the University of León (ULE), through the DRACONES Research Group at the Ponferrada Campus, is developing with the Garnica company a proof of concept to transfer the Populus3D tool to the forestry industry, which will allow to digitalize part of its production processes. The aim of this collaboration is to test a working method to make the inventory of standing timber in commercial plantations of poplar clones operational and to provide a faster, more economically feasible, complete and objective option than the current manual methods. 

Populus3D is based on the use of 3D data taken with a mobile laser scanner, which captures dense point clouds that reconstruct each of the standing trees in detail, creating a digital twin (a digital copy) of the poplar plantation in which variables such as the total wood volume of each tree, its height, diameter, or timber volume can be accurately calculated to obtain logs with certain characteristics set by the industry. In addition to adjusting the procedure and validating it with wood volume measurements in the field, this university-industry collaboration involves monitoring and analyzing the results with the company. This is a pioneering initiative at the national level in the poplar sector and it is expected that this proof of concept, framed within the so-called Smart Forestry, will be completed in October 2023 in its first phase, and will continue in 2024 with its validation on poplar trees with varying characteristics.

Ejemplo de chopera digitalizada con el escáner láser de mano, con cada uno de los árboles individualizados
Example of a poplar tree digitized with the handheld laser scanner, with each tree separately identified.

During this morning's visit of the Rector of the University of León (ULE), Juan Francisco García Marín, and the researchers from the DRACONES group to the facilities, the initial results of this collaboration were analyzed, showing the potential of using handheld or backpack laser scanners for the inventory of poplar trees in production, and their possible usefulness for estimating the volume of stock in the factory's timber yard was explored. 

In addition, within the framework of the DIGIS3 project collaboration, in September 2023, the DRACONES group will organize an advanced workshop for the Garnica company on the 3D technologies available for the quantification and estimation of the volume of standing poplar timber. This workshop will include classroom training (fundamentals, case studies, data processing and analysis), as well as data collection in the field with remote sensing sensors, such as the mobile laser scanner. This type of training is planned to continue during 2024 and 2025, to further the use of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in poplar tree monitoring.

Digital twin of the poplar tree, showing the trajectory followed by the handheld scanner.

Since 2022, researchers from the School of Agricultural and Forestry Engineering at the Ponferrada Campus have been collaborating with Garnica on several projects to transfer knowledge to the poplar value chain, such as the free poplar growth and production simulator Chopo4D, or the AppPopuli and AppPopuli+ applications, which enable the sending of reports about damage to poplar trees from mobile phones and the identification of the cause of damage using only photographs from mobile phones.

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