Latin Equipment Norte (LEN) delivers full-tree eucalyptus system in Montería, Colombia. José Carlos Rocha Filho, marketing and commercial manager at LEN, provides an overview of the new harvesting endeavour.
— José Carlos Rocha Filho,
Like many other regions in the country, Córdoba State in northern Colombia has a history of deforestation due to agricultural expansion, cattle ranching and illegal logging. The development of commercial plantations began twenty years ago when the Colombian government, in partnership with private companies, launched an action program to foster foreign investment in several industries, which in turn addressed reforestation and afforestation of many degraded lands. The primary species are fast-growing eucalyptus and high-value teak (Tectona grandis), high demand export products across Europe and Asia.
The program aimed to support a sustainable source of wood for domestic and international markets, creating employment opportunities and contributing to climate change mitigation. The plantations in Montería, Córdoba have emerged as a promising solution to deforestation, while contributing to the local economy by generating approximately 300 jobs. The steady income for local agricultural workers replaces previously sporadic employment.
Growing forestry enterprise
Back in 2008, two Chileans, Luis Enei and Hector Villalobos, who are highly experienced and extremely passionate about the forestry industry, were eager to explore new opportunities beyond their borders. As key authorities at Orion Capital, a Chilean investment firm focused on timber harvest and silviculture projects, the two men set off on a mission seeking new prospects. Attracted by the Colombian government’s action program and granting subsidies, Luis and Hector established Reforestadora del Sinú with financial backing from Megeve Investments. Well-positioned along the Caribbean coast, with favourable climate conditions, Reforestadora del Sinú began to acquire land and commence activities in Montería in 2010.
Reforestadora del Sinú specializes in reforestation and sustainable forestry management. In addition, the company owns and operates a modern high-capacity nursery, producing over 3.5 million seedlings annually through vegetative propagation. Reforestadora del Sinú is actively involved in producing and establishing timber species, including hybrids of Eucalyptus grandis and urophylla. The nursery employs more than 40 people. Forestry manager, Dayana Paola Tobar, points out that 70% of the workforce is comprised of women who are heads of their households.
The 625H skidding in Córdoba. The balanced weight distribution ensures low ground pressure, minimal soil compaction, and excellent traction and stability.
The company established a foundation benefiting more than 1,000 families from local communities by promoting interinstitutional actions. Scholarships, the development of water treatment plants, local road maintenance, sports sponsorships, and medical and sanitary education programs are some of the services and programs offered to the community.
Today, Reforestadora del Sinú manages over 13 000 hectares (32,000 acres) of hybrid Eucalyptus urograndis intended for roundwood and chip export to Europe and Asia. The stands are mostly set on gently sloping terrain with occasional steep inclines reaching up to 35 degrees.
Reforestadora del Sinú’s harvesting team and LEN staff. Mechanization has had a transformative effect on the company’s
workforce, empowering them with valuable operational and managerial expertise.
Hector says that establishing a mechanized harvesting system was a significant advance for the Colombian operations, pointing out, “At this crucial juncture, achieving high output levels at competitive costs with the Tigercat harvesting systems is essential to ensure the success of our project.”
Reforestadora del Sinú’s plantations were originally planned to be clear-felled at seven years, but the initial harvest was delayed by a few years due to the pandemic. “Even starting the harvest during second quarter 2023, we expect to deliver over 50 000 cubic metres for our clients in Europe,” says Luis. “For the following years, we expect to be able to export over 250 000 cubic metres per year.” With a wealth of expertise in steep slope harvesting developed over two decades, Chilean forestry
Overheard: "I saw a real Tigercat machine, like the ones on Youtube."
professionals have honed their craft to perfection. With the advice of LEN’s sister company, Latin Equipment Chile, a Tigercat full-tree eucalyptus harvesting system was proposed.
In March 2023, the full-tree system, comprised of an L855E leveling track feller buncher and a 625H six-wheel skidder, made its way into the eucalyptus stands to start the harvesting season. Transported on a lowboy trailer, the skidder was the first machine to arrive in the community of Valencia, near to the eucalyptus stands. However, driving through the narrow streets posed quite a challenge for the truck driver. We had no choice but to unload the 625H and drive it to the company facility. As we made our way through the town, the sheer magnitude of the machine caught everyone’s eye as it towered over the surrounding cars. It seemed to leave a lasting impression on the locals. Overheard, “I saw a real Tigercat machine, like the ones on YouTube.”
The L855E cutting uphill. The ER boom technology, high productivity and excellent stability on challenging terrain made the
L855E the best solution for this sloping terrain harvesting application.
The Tigercat six-wheel skidders have established a strong reputation for exceptional reliability and productivity in challenging terrain in Chile and Brazil. The machine balance and weight distribution provide low ground pressure, minimal soil compaction, and optimal traction and stability.
Despite being the operators’ first experience driving a skidder, their initial impressions were very positive. The controls are simple, intuitive and user-friendly, which was especially noted by the operators. It supported a seamless learning process, rapidly boosting operator confidence with the new machine.
In addition, the clear visibility, comfortable air ride suspension, and the Turnaround 220° rotating seat were seen as big advantages, minimizing fatigue during long shifts. “These remarkable features stand for unparalleled comfort and advanced ergonomics, contributing positively to the operators’ first experiences and impressions,” says Robert Sandoval, harvesting crew manager.
Edgar Zamarripa, LEN product support, explains that 625H daily maintenance has proven to be more than just convenient. “The H-series sets a new standard in daily service access, providing easier access from the ground. Quicker servicing contributes to reduced downtime, which in turn might boost production.”
The L855E is equipped with a 5300 bunching saw, coupled with a 340° wrist. The high rotation wrist provides excellent control to lay trees parallel to the tracks alongside the machine and in any desirable position with the aim of optimizing the bunch size.
Felipe Gomez, Latin Equipment’s technical expert, explains the advantages of L855E in challenging terrain. “The machine is highly responsive and delivers excellent stability, particularly when you are in the uphill cutting position. Precise boom action and long reach allows the machine to bunch up to six trees in a more advantageous drop spot for skidder operators to grab big bunches and go quickly.”
(L-R) Hector Villalobos, Felipe Gomez and Luis Enei.
Ongoing performance, productivity, and cost assessments up to this point have indicated promising outcomes. The new system has effectively streamlined operations and improved efficiency and safety, resulting in the desired overall cost reduction. Moreover, the mechanization process has had a transformative effect on the company’s workforce, empowering them with valuable operational and managerial knowledge and skills. Notably, these advancements have also yielded substantial social and economic advantages for the local communities within the region.
At LEN, we consistently emphasize the importance of selecting the appropriate equipment and preparing people to handle the systems effectively. At the end of the day, the project’s success and outcomes are directly tied to the equipment and how it is managed. It makes all the difference between delivering an average performance or having outstanding results in any well-run enterprise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
José is a marketing and commercial manager at LEN. Having
his finger on the pulse of the forestry industry all over Ecuador,
Colombia, the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico, he is
responsible for driving business development and delivering
innovative solutions to clients across the region.