Overview Objectives

In the Pacific there is an expanding regional and international market for wood veneers and composite wood products. As access to the traditional resources for these products (particularly tropical rainforests) is now constrained, the significant volume of wood held in around 120,000 hectares of senile coconut plantations in the Pacific islands becomes an increasingly attractive alternative resource. This project aims to develop the technologies, processes and expertise to produce high quality veneer and complementary soil conditioning products from senile coconut stems and thereby enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

The project aims to enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities by developing the technologies, processes and expertise required to produce high quality veneer from senile coconut stems and utilise the residues produced. A summary of the key activities is included below:
Value chain analysis
The project team has met with Pacific Agribusinees Research for Development Initiative (PARDI) to introduce the project and discuss the value chain from stem harvesting through the veneer export and EWP product manufacture. The value chain has been mapped with process and outputs identified and confirmed with PARDI (objective 1.1).
Market assessment
Coconut veneer samples have been dressed, packaged, and surveys have been prepared for market assessment. Market assessment material has been circulated to end users interested in the appearance product market: furniture makers, interior designers, and architects (objective 1.1).
Stakeholder engagement
A kick-off inception meeting was held in Suva, Fiji in July 2012 (objective 1.3) with stakeholders present from the project’s Partner Countries (PCs). Stakeholders represented industry, government, and NGOs from the three PCs; Fiji, Samoa, and Solomon Islands.
Cocowood.net website has been updated. The website hosts information relating to the current cocoveneer project (objective 1.3) including videos of presentations from the inception meeting July 2012 and other activities. Information relating to the previous cocowood project Improving value and marketability of coconut wood (FST/2004/054) is also available at Cocowood.net.
Lathe equipment suite procurement
The project team conducted a desk study into options for procuring a spindleless lathe for the project (objective 3.1). Probable suppliers for the lathe were identified in Malaysia and China and visited in person to discuss technical issues relating to possible lathe modification, procurement options, and to view the lathes in operation. The lathe has been ordered from Malaysia (May ‘13) for delivery to QDAFF in Queensland.
Regional peeling trials
Potential sites for regional peeling trials in Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Taveuni have been visited and key contacts have been established (objective 3.2). An initial visual survey of infrastructure present has been carried out with video recorded of the facilities at each site.
Assessment of the transportability of the spindleless lathes has begun by collecting precedents for the lathes successfully working in remote and rural locations with minimal infrastructure.
Veneer peeling trials
Discs of coconut stem have been sourced from a representative site in Taveuni, Fiji for veneer peeling trials using micro-lathes at ENSAM in France (objective 2.1). Micro-lathes are heavily instrumented allowing peeling parameters to be investigated and defined based on observed behaviour and measured machine response (objective 4.1). Results from the trials will be used to define peeling parameters used in full-scale trials (objective 4.2). Initial results suggest: pre-conditioning (steaming/hot water bath) of the stems is critical; blade settings will be significantly different from those anticipated to recover high quality veneer from normal wood.
Coconut stems have been sourced from within Australia for the first full scale peeling trial that is to be hosted in Queensland, Australia (objective 4.2). The stems are not as dense as those found in senile palms in the project’s PCs and therefore an alternative source of material has been sought - stems cored into tubes and imported (to Australia) from Fiji. Procurement of the first batch of hollow stems is underway (May ‘13).
Residue use
The project team is working with TT Taveuni and the SPC soil health programme leader to develop a specification for biochar and investigate other possible residue uses such as mulching, pelletising, and using the sugary stem core directly as a growing medium (objective 6.1). A biochar producer has been engaged in Australia to produce biochar from the residue from experimental peeling Trial 2. The biochar will be shipped to Taveuni for use in taro growing trials (objective 6.2).
Summary
The technical challenges anticipated in the project proposal are having an impact on progress. However, technical challenges are being overcome and no significant overall delay is anticipated.

The project aims to enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities by developing the technologies, processes and expertise required to produce high quality veneer from senile coconut stems and utilise the residues produced. A summary of the key activities is included below:
Market assessment
Market assessment of appearance and structural product users has been completed through a combination of questionnaires and interviews. Data has been compiled and an initial proposal for viable products to trial manufacture has been developed (objective 1.1). A detailed proposal for trial products will be developed once representative coconut veneer has successfully been peeled.
Value chain analysis
Initial information from peeling trials, and residue uses has been collected to commence population of the mapped value chain. Detailed information on likely veneer recovery and quality has been delayed due to technical issues arising in the peeling trials (objective 1.2).
Stakeholder engagement
Project annual meeting was held in Suva, Fiji in August 2013 (objective 1.3) with stakeholders present from the project’s Partner Countries (PCs).
A project update was published through the Secretariat of the Pacific Communities (SPC) Land Resources Division newsletter.
Lathe equipment suite procurement
A lathe has been procured from a Malaysian machinery manufacturer with previous experience in peeling juvenile coconut. The lathe has been modified at Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (QDAFF) to 1) enable a higher level of operator and veneer quality control, and 2) to upgrade electrical, hydraulic and guarding systems to meet Australian standards. A veneer clipper was procured from the same manufacturer.
The lathe and supporting equipment manufactured in Australia will be shipped to Fiji in June 2014 for installation at Fijian Timber Utilisation Division in Nasinu as an experimental veneer recovery facility (objective 3.1).
Regional peeling trials
Key contacts have been established for regional peeling trials in Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Taveuni (objective 3.2). A detailed survey is being undertaken with collaborator and industry groups to determine the technical and organisational infrastructure capability in the regions and costs associated with a regional trial.
Qualitative assessment of the transportability of the spindleless lathe equipment suite has been carried out throughout the process of procuring the lathe suite for the Fijian Timber Utilisation Division (TUD), packing and shipping the equipment.
Veneer peeling trials
Coconut stems were sourced from within Australia for the first full scale peeling trial in Queensland (objective 4.2). The stems were not as dense as senile palms in the project’s partner countries and therefore hollow stems were imported from Fiji to Australia. Veneer was recovered from the outer portion of the stems but the forces exerted on the stem from the lathe meant that the stem collapsed and veneer recovered cannot be considered representative. Several methods of infilling the hollow stems were trialled with little effected on the stem collapse under peeling.
Peeling on the modified lathe in Queensland was limited because suitable coconut stems could not be supplied to QDAFF. Therefore detailed lathe calibration trials and veneer recovery trials will take place in Fiji once the newly modified lathe has been commissioned. Peeling Trials 2 and 3 (objectives 4.2 and 4.3) will be combined to complete lathe calibration and recover veneer for product assembly in an extended Fiji-based peeling trial.
Assemble and test product suite
The challenges faced in sourcing representative coconut stems to peel in the Australian based peeling trials have led to delay in obtaining veneer for product assembly and testing (objective 5). Veneer will be recovered from an extended trial in Fiji late 2014.

The project aims to enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities by developing the technologies, processes and expertise required to produce high quality veneer from senile coconut stems and utilise the residues produced. The challenges of establishing a reliable equipment base in Fiji have been overcome and the product trial sequence has been realigned. The harvesting protocol and residue work is proceeding close to the original schedule. Currently, there is no impact anticipated on the overall project completion date. Progress on key activities is shown below:
Market assessment
The initial market assessment of probable product was revised after review of the qualities of veneer recovered in Trial 3. In particular, the structural assessment of veneer recovered indicated relatively low MOE. The revision has given more weighting towards appearance applications, especially those where hardness, environmental credentials or tourist appeal are key performance requirements. A revised test product suite has been determined.
Value chain analysis
Information from peeling trials and residue uses was collected for the mapped value chain. Regional transport, labour and services costs were compiled. Larger scale collection of harvesting and processing costs, and veneer grade recoveries is scheduled for June 2015.
Stakeholder engagement
The project annual meeting was held in Suva, Fiji in August 2014 (objective 1.3) with stakeholders present from the partner countries. Veneer processing demonstrations and project briefings were provided to Fijian Departments of Forestry and Agriculture staff. Regional update briefings in Solomon Islands, Samoa, and Fiji are scheduled for April 2015. The Cocowood.net Internet site was updated with videos of the veneer processing trial and subsequent product development work.
Harvesting Protocols
Options and considerations for selection, felling, log-handling and site rehabilitation have been developed and presented for both small and large-scale operations. The different scales address a likely future need for either partial harvest or complete plantation clearance (objective 2.1).
Veneer processing equipment suite procurement
The Malaysian-built lathe was modified at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ facility, and shipped with associated equipment to Fiji in June 2014. After some upgrading work at the Fijian Timber Utilisation Division’s facility at Nasinu, the veneer processing equipment suite was installed and commissioned as an experimental veneer processing facility (objective 3.1). Demonstration peeling was conducted.
Regional peeling trials
The cost of moving the veneer processing equipment suite to regional trial sites in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Taveuni (objective 3.2) were collected. Logistics of the move and associated training were assessed. A report with options assessment, risk analysis and preliminary costs was presented at the 2014 Annual meeting and subject to collaborator review. The report’s findings are due for in-field validation in April 2015.
Veneer processing trials
Initial peeling trials of billets from Australian and dense imported Fijian hollowed coconut logs proved unsuccessful (Trial 2). The density of the Australian sourced material was too low to represent a Pacific resource while the imported stems, hollowed out to satisfy quarantine requirements, collapsed under the pressure generated during peeling, even when refilled. Further veneering trials were postponed until after the veneer processing equipment installation in Fiji. Commissioning of the veneer processing equipment and peeling trial 3.1 (objectives 4.2 and 4.3) were conducted in August 2014, with the resultant veneer dried and returned to QDAF’s Salisbury facility. The compact industrial peeling trial 4 (objective 4.4) and a follow-up TUD peeling trial (Trail 3.2) are scheduled for June, 2015.
Assemble and test product suite
Veneers recovered from the August 2014 trial were visually graded, and assessed for colour, density and MOE. The volume of veneer and the qualities recovered were insufficient to allow detailed product manufacture. Instead they were used to establish some fundamental compression/pressing characteristics. Given the uniqueness of the coconut resource, this information is critical to guide the future product manufacturing protocols. The veneers were sorted and characterised in four density groups: greater than 800 kg/m3, 800-600, 600-400, and less than 400 kg/m3. While this showed a general relationship between colour and density, the correlation is insufficient for a suitable grading method. Prepared samples have undergone a series of compression tests with varying compression loads, with and without adhesives. The outputs will guide future product manufacture trials and also optimal lathe configurations.
Residue use
In addition to the mushroom growing trial, processed coconut chips were used as a growing medium in standard corn and pea propagation trials with reasonable success. Coconut stem chips from Fiji were pyrolised into three differing biochars in Australia and analysed. A portion was used in a field trial on Taveuni with Tei Tei Taveuni while Fiji Department of Agriculture officers are to use the remainder in a plot trial in Savusavu (objective 6.2). Industry in Fiji and Samoa has expressed interest in larger scale coconut composting trials. A residue composting trial is scheduled to follow industrial peeling trials in Labasa, Fiji in June 2015. Discussions in Samoa are ongoing.

Project ID
FST/2009/062
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
University of Tasmania, Australia
Project Leader
Associate Professor Gregory Nolan
Email
gregory.nolan@utas.edu.au
Phone
03 6324 4478
Fax
03 6324 4088
Collaborating Institutions
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia
Department of Forestry, Fiji
Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Fiji
Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment, Samoa
Ministry of Forestry, Solomon Islands
Project Budget
$1,200,003.00
Start Date
01/05/2012
Finish Date
30/04/2016
Extension Start Date
01/05/2016
Extension Finish Date
30/06/2016
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Mr Tony Bartlett