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Thursday 8 December 2016

Virtual harvester set to transform forestry training

Declan O'Brien

Published 17/11/2016 | 15:00

Junior Minister Andrew Doyle pictured with the forestry simulator and (ll-r) John Kelly Principal ,Teagasc Agricultural College, Ballyhaise alongside Marianne Lyons and Arthur Kearns from the college's forestry department
Junior Minister Andrew Doyle pictured with the forestry simulator and (ll-r) John Kelly Principal ,Teagasc Agricultural College, Ballyhaise alongside Marianne Lyons and Arthur Kearns from the college's forestry department

Cutting-edge simulation technology is being harnessed by Teagasc to deliver an innovative course for trainee forestry staff.

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The programme at Ballyhaise College in Cavan uses simulators to train drivers of specialised forwarder and harvester equipment used in the forestry sector.

The simulator is designed to mirror the layout of a harvester or forwarder cab, with joysticks on the armrests controlling the functions of the boom and grab/harvester head.

The remaining controls are also modelled on those of actual machines.

The 'harvester' is located in a virtual forest, with trainee's on-screen viewing matching those of an actual machine operator.

The simulator allows the trainees to stack timber, load and unload vehicles, and harvest trees.

The Ballyhaise course is a joint initiative between the forestry industry and Teagasc and follows a COFORD report which noted the absence of a structured training programme for forestry machine operators.

Marianne Lyons of Teagasc Ballyhaise said the course was of practical benefit for the industry as it allowed students to train in a controlled environment.

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The forestry lecturer pointed out that few forestry companies could afford to allow trainees to operate machinery worth in excess of €300,000.

However, the simulator enables trainees to get invaluable machine time without the risk of damaging expensive equipment.

"For those who do have a bent for the work, practice on the simulator enables trainees to become comfortable with the controls of the modern harvester," Lyons said.

The simulator has proven a bit hit with forestry students, with Lyons explaining that they often practice on the device in the evenings and between classes.

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