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Chilean Company on the Cutting Edge

Jorge Victoria talks to Carlos Barrenechea Gutiérrez, operations manager at Agrifor Doña Isidora, to find out more about the various initiatives the company has implemented, such as the intensive use of telematics, and the training and inclusion of women in its workforce.

— Jorge Victoria

Sociedad Agrícola y Forestal Doña Isidora was founded in 1999 by forestry engineer Vasco Bustos. He named the company Doña Isidora after one of his daughters. Today, the company, based in Concepción, Chile has 165 employees operating from Talca in the north to Valdivia in the south. The company produces 950 000 cubic metres per year using the full-tree harvesting method.

At the helm of operations is Carlos Barrenechea, a forestry engineer from the Instituto Virginio Gómez, who also holds a master’s degree from the University of Santiago de Chile. Carlos joined Doña Isidora in 2002 as an assistant to the operations supervisors. As his experience grew, he realized that it was vital to adapt to the rapid changes in the forestry industry. He has been committed to innovation ever since. “Companies have a duty to modify their strategy and how they provide their services, and I understood that we had to be part of that change,” Carlos explains.

Years ago, the harvesting systems were quite traditional and much more labour-intensive. Gradually, mechanization came to play a more important role and the company adapted to changes in the market in search of greater efficiency and improved safety for its workers. “The reality of our company today is radically different from what it was ten or fifteen years ago. Today, technology has taken on a leading role, not only as a tool to support planning, but also for the execution and control of operations. The evolution has fundamentally involved looking for ways to align with the requirements that today’s world imposes.”

This includes aligning with the requirements of the clients. To this end, the use of management, loyalty and administration tools provides the company with consistent quality. And this differentiation becomes key when it comes to sustaining long-term relationships with its customers. “We are constantly seeking to differentiate the company in every area, from the smallest to the most strategic processes, and naturally, to always position ourselves among the best in terms of how we are perceived,” says Carlos.

The technological tools that Agrifor Doña Isidora has implemented include digital mapping, satellite imaging and simulation models, among others. Telematics is also an extremely important tool for the company. It allows constant monitoring of equipment and a much more detailed understanding of issues including machine health, location, productivity and operational efficiency. In short, the implementation of these technologies has allowed the company to carry out increasingly detailed operational planning.

To process the large amount of data it collects, Doña Isidora has implemented an operational control platform managed by a technical department whose mission is to seek continuous improvement. “You must have a technical department that is up to the task; not only professionals in terms of their academic training, but also with the understanding that it is necessary to seek improvements on a daily basis. That means you must have a team that is very well trained, that knows the technical tools, and has the acumen to be able to correlate information,” says Carlos.

The Tigercat difference

Agrifor Doña Isidora’s relationship with Tigercat began in 2012 with the implementation of a mid-slope contract, where the company opted for a configuration (unique in Chile at the time) consisting of an LS855 shovel logger together with the (since discontinued) 615 six-wheel skidder. Today, the company has a total of eleven Tigercat machines, including three feller bunchers, four skidders, three shovel loggers and a harvester. “Today, Tigercat makes up a third of our fleet and the machinery is primarily intended for those applications that require extremely reliable equipment with good, sustained performance over the long term,” comments Carlos.

Agrifor Doña Isidora’s operators work eleven-hour shifts, so the ergonomics of the equipment is crucial. Carlos stresses that the technical design of Tigercat machines is another important factor that impacts productivity levels. “In the case of the shovel, for example, the weight distribution, together with the design of the hydraulic system, lead to a much higher performance than other equipment we have used. And this is obviously good news for the operators, because they achieve better productivity levels with less effort, and at the same time this helps the whole harvesting chain.”


— Carlos Barrenechea

Carlos explains it is the relationship between the customer, the dealer and the manufacturer that makes all the difference. “In our opinion, the main advantage arises from the direct relationship with the factory. The equipment is technically of a very high standard. There are design variables that differentiate them. Even more so in the sixwheel skidders, where they are world leaders. The shovel is an extraordinary product. However, it is the warmth, the demonstration of mutual trust and the way Tigercat deals with contingencies and problems that make all the difference.”

A world of information

Agrifor Doña Isidora has found telematics to be an essential digital tool for improving the management of operations and providing a basis for better decision-making. In addition, it has proven to be a tool that bridges the gap between the operational and administrative bases. Carlos points out that, for Doña Isidora, all the information provided by telematics is relevant and valuable. Knowing real-time information about the condition of the equipment, receiving failure alerts, and seeing fuel and lubricant levels, has allowed the company to improve its maintenance processes and reduce the likelihood of significant failures. In that sense, the company’s ability to react is improved.

“Nowadays, if you receive a fault code, you can go to the service manual or consult with the technical-mechanical team, and immediately know what the problem is. You can find out what the possible causes are, and you apply the service protocol. This leads to a much quicker response time, and a more precise diagnosis. So, for the operator and the maintenance staff, it’s a tremendous tool.”
The company has an operational control platform where a large amount of data from equipment and operations are collected and processed. “Today, thanks to telematics, we have objective information on the performance of each of the operators on each of our machines. We can obtain performance reports differentiated by morning and afternoon. We can find out in which conditions a certain performance level in terms of fuel consumption is achieved compared to others. In other words, this level of detail is what allows us to determine what our true costs are and determines performance expectations for a certain machine or configuration.” Carlos explains that the historical data provided by telematics also allows his team to generate harvesting simulation models that help them to anticipate potential problems for new sites.

Another important aspect is geo positioning. By having access to information about the routes a machine takes, its operator, and the time of day, Doña Isidora can quickly implement changes to improve productivity. “We have detected that there are operators who tend to concentrate their movements in fewer areas than in others. We have detected that there are operators who use the rotating seat of the machine with a higher level of intensity than others, and this can be seen graphically because they trace different routes. And by controlling that, we have seen changes in productivity.” In addition, the company can ensure that it doesn’t impact areas that enjoy a special level of protection under Chilean environmental legislation.
Carlos says that, although Doña Isidora makes good use of telematics, it has not yet exploited its full potential. He estimates that the company takes advantage of just 30% of the potential that telematics provides. “There is a lot of information available, and in the first half of next year we’d like to have a model in place that allows us to automatically retrieve information from telematics and use it to feed our operational control platform. We’d like to have much more detailed metrics, by operator, by shift, by workday and within the day, to establish when the curves start to decline and why, and to be able to work on that. There’s a world of information out there.”

Academia Isidora

To address the problem of an aging workforce and the lack of training and interest in forestry seen in the younger generation, Agrifor Doña Isidora launched the Academia Isidora in 2022. This training initiative started as a pilot program that resulted in the training of 58 young forestry workers between the ages of 21 and 24. The academy was made possible thanks to the participation of CMPC, a Doña Isidora client. Latin Equipment and Tigercat provided operator instructors for the learning process.

The program consisted of both theoretical and practical components – 160 hours in the classroom, and 350 operational hours. Graduate performance reached 40% of standard productivity. Employability surveys showed figures in the order of 80%. Of the total number of graduates, around 15% are currently working at Agrifor Doña Isidora. “With this initiative, our aim was to contribute to the rejuvenation of the labour market as well as professionalizing it, and also to contribute to the market by implementing models that can be replicated by companies or related institutions,” adds Carlos.

Carlos argues that one of the main deficiencies in the Chilean market is the lack of formal training opportunities focused on harvesting or forestry activities. “The learning process is implemented by each of the companies with whatever resources they have, but in a rather inorganic, unstructured way. The competitiveness of the world market, the problems of recent years, COVID, the fact that companies are appearing in the Brazilian and Asian markets with very high pulp production, and with very high levels of productivity, means the Chilean market must seek ways to improve its overall productivity. The training of its workers is a key element, and there are no formal bodies doing this. Therefore, the initiative that we carried out was a contribution, albeit a humble one.”


Carlos believes in training. It improves safety and develops operators that are better informed about the company’s purpose and care for the environment. In addition, Carlos strongly believes women are important to the future of the industry. He remembers travelling to Uruguay ten years ago, where he saw female harvester operators and truck drivers working, something that was very unusual in Chile at that time. With this in mind, Agrifor Doña Isidora established a clear and concrete policy aimed at attracting women to the industry and encouraging them to join the company. “Levels of female unemployment are extremely high, and at the same time, the performance evaluation of the roles performed by women in many cases exceeds the performance of men. Therefore, it is a mistake not to consider them. Besides, it’s a global trend,” says Carlos.
The Academia Isidora played a very important role in the process of training and incorporating female staff into the company. The initiative required that there should be 20% female students. By 2023, the percentage of women in the company reached 8% in roles ranging from processor and loader operators, to mechanics, administrative and operational control roles. This year, the company plans to reach 15% female staff.

It is clear that Agrifor Doña Isidora is a company that is committed to innovation. The company’s ongoing focus is on implementing cutting edge technology to optimize its operations. I ask Carlos what challenges he faces. He replies that the challenge is to eliminate all probability of human error from the flow of information – to be able to absolutely trust the information that the machinery delivers, to eliminate analog inputs and achieve greater accuracy in the information that is managed. “One of the projects we have, thanks to telematics, is to automate all the data input to our control systems. We’re already working with Tigercat to automate information retrieval. And then we will have everything to do with the machine, absolutely everything. Today, telematics is an absolute requirement for the purchase of any asset. We can’t conceive the purchase of any machine at any price that doesn’t have telematics.”