Newsletter Vol 4
Don’t forget about our 40th event on September 26, 2014!
Join us for our 40th Anniversary Party on September 26th, 2014 from 2-6pm at the KBM office at 349 Mooney Ave. Anniversary Sale - enjoy up to 40% off products at the KBM store!
KBM’s Legacy – Reflections on the Past, Present and Future
By Laird Van Damme, Senior Partner
I just had breakfast on Sunday at the Hoito, a Finnish Club landmark of Thunder Bay, with Herb Bax, the “B” in KBM. Herb founded our company in 1974 and retired in 2007. We enjoyed reminiscing and he shared the sense of satisfaction that comes from leaving a legacy. This year is the firm’s fortieth year and marks my involvement of thirty years (with time off periodically for good behaviour at Lakehead University). Although we did not explore what the legacy was over our breakfast, this article attempts to do just that.
From 1974 to 1987 we ran tree planting operations featuring a mix of college students and First Nations people planting about 4 million trees each year. I remember the skilled carvings of various animals from slash debris rendered by our planters from Webequie. We also cleared power lines and roadways of brush, provided labour services to local tree nurseries and ran small scale logging operations. One year we had 900 people on payroll and our skilled labourers included welders and mechanics. One legacy is providing employment to many people in the Thunder Bay region. On a hot summer day, I was sure to know most people in line at The Beer Store in those early days.
In 1987 we sold our planting equipment to Grant Brodeur of Broland and Wilderness Reforestation. I admire Grant, David Bradley of Outland and Dirk Brinkman of Brinkman Reforestation for sticking with the challenging tree planting business over these many years while we refocused our efforts on mechanical site preparation that began with importing and distributing equipment nationally that was imported from Bracke, Sweden in 1974.
In the 1980s I worked on improving simultaneous site preparation and seeding of jack pine that used less seed than aerial seeding and provided more consistent spacing than aerial seeding and natural regeneration. I think seeded jack pine looks healthier and more natural than planted pine. We reforested about 90,000 hectares using this novel system until we closed that aspect of the business in 2009. Recently I flew over areas we helped to reforest after they were harvested by Abitibi (now Resolute) and Buchanan’s group of companies. These young forests look verdant and healthy. Several forests I have walked through before they were harvested, after we treated them and over the next twenty years of their development. Although the trees obviously have been restored, it was gratifying to see that all of the forest floor vegetation appeared to recover to what was there in the forest at the time of harvest. So there is a forest legacy.
International work was limited to some consulting projects in Ghana and China. In 1991 KBM began operations in Chile and introduced novel biomass harvesting systems. KBM Chile is still running after we sold our interests to the local manager in 2007.
Our motto is “practical innovation” and our partners in innovation include several universities and colleges from across Canada. Our closest partners feature our local institutions, Lakehead University and Confederation College. Other partners include granting agencies like Industry Canada’s IRAP, NSERC and NOHFC, the latter dedicated to Northern Ontario business. We have sponsored many graduate students in their research and thus have legacy of advancing the practice of forestry across many fronts. Many of them became employees and several are now junior partners.
One outgrowth of this partnership was the development of a novel low cost digital aerial photography system to report annual on harvest block area in 2004. IN 2010 we acquired survey grade camera system and in 2013 acquired a LiDAR system, bringing KBM to the leading edge of the geomatics industry in Canada.
What was once a site preparation company serving Northern Ontario’s forest sector is now a multi-dimensional firm servicing many sectors with a core focus on aerial survey, GIS and Geomatics. In forty years we’ve gone from diesel to avgas, iron to composites. Skilled labour has grown from welders to skilled computer scientists. The consulting and aerial survey services that once supported forestry are now used for sustainable development in mining, energy and transportation sectors. Our investment in research and professional development of employees that began as a civic minded duty to support our local University and College with hind sight has been brilliant strategy. The legacy yet to be realized is now up to the third generation of owners and employees.
Attack of the Drones…
KBM’s Hawkeye RQ-84Z2 Uninhabited Aerial System (UAS) has taken its first flight! Also referred to as drones, these aircraft are able to fly at low altitudes and are equipped with wide angle lenses that allows a field of vision of 70 degrees. Recently, the UAV took to the sky to survey chip piles at the local Terrace Bay facility.
KBM specializes in the capture and processing of high resolution imagery and point cloud data, and that’s exactly what the UAV did. UAS offers a novel approach to image acquisition that is suited for small scale, repeat projects (15-20km2) and offers cost and time efficiencies in data collection. The data captured by the UAV was processed to derive a surface elevation model, which was then used to determine a volumetric estimation for each chip pile at the facility. The survey of the chip piles will be conducted on a regular basis allowing the facility to keep an up-to-date inventory of their stock.
For more information or to learn about other practical uses of the UAS, please contact Stephane Audet at 807-345-5445 x 229.
KBM in the News!
In August, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) formally released a report on ecosystem-based management in Canada produced by KBM’s consulting division. The report was commissioned by the CBFA National Working Group and examines the barriers and opportunities to developing and implementing world-leading forestry practices in seven provinces across Canada. It was the result of extensive research and included input from practitioners and environmental non-governmental organizations across the country.
Here is the press release: CBFA Releases Ecosystem-Based Management Report to Sustain Boreal Forest
Here is the report: Status Report on Ecosystem-based Management in Canada
Biofuels and Biodiversity – Setting a Baseline
Existing coal plant conversion to woody biomass burning facilities is predicted to become a major source of energy in North America and continues to grow in Europe. Utilizing residual harvest material for biomass pellet production is an upward trend in the forest product industry. In the spring of 2014, KBM completed a biodiversity study for a woody biomass pellet proposed pellet plant in the southeastern US. Using spatial data and an extensive literature review, the research team investigated the effect of biomass harvesting, in conjunction with conventional harvesting, on biodiversity and soils. This study also included a spatial risk assessment model, which aggregated relevant data sources in a GIS environment and ranked areas to provide a framework for management decision making. Finally, the report provided management and monitoring recommendations to advance best practices for the burgeoning woody biomass industry in North America.
Notes from the Intern’s Desk
By Michael Barten
I began at KBM in late March of 2014 as an NOHFC intern, with no preconceived notion of the company and consulting world. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was eager to put my education to the test and learn as I went.
Fast forward six months and I feel that my development and depth as an environmental professional has been catapulted forward. The myriad of projects I have worked on so far in my time at KBM has been so diverse, that every day brings a new challenge to the table. Working with First Nations communities, branches of government and companies from across North America, it became clear very quickly that KBM is a great place to start my career.
Let’s rewind to the beginning. My first day at KBM started with the usual whirlwind tour of the office, the introductions to all the staff and the (note to self, repeat names as you hear them…) struggle to remember names. But I immediately realized this was a young, motivated and talented group of people. Everyone was friendly, and I never felt out of place.
Fast forward to today. I have just come back from a trip to Lac La Croix First Nation, helped wrap up a project for a company in North Carolina (see above), participated in several other projects that have been engaging and exciting - and changed a tire along the way. I still feel the same now as the day I started, surrounded by motivated, talented people who constantly evolve with whatever job is at hand (although, I can actually remember everyone’s names). I’d say I’m looking forward to the next six months!