Monday, 25 July 2016

Promising results from South Pacific Cocoveneer project

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research's Forestry Research Program Manager, Mr Tony Bartlett, traveled to Fiji last month for an End of Project Review of the Cocoveneer project (FST/2009/062).  

Spindle-less lathe in action.
The four year project 'Development of advanced veneer and other products from coconut wood to enhance livelihoods in South Pacific communities' aimed 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. The project supported economic development in Fiji, Samoa and the Solomon Islands and there has already been some private sector interest in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Partners included the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, SPC, Fiji Department of Forestry, Solomon Islands Ministry of Forestry and Research and Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and was managed by Dr Greg Nolan from the Centre for Sustainable Architecture and Wood (CSAW) at the University of Tasmania. 

The review was conducted by Dr Lex Thomson, who has extensive experience in forestry and agricultural value chains in the Pacific. Dr Thomson and Mr Bartlett attended the project’s final workshop in Suva and also inspected the production of green cocowood veneer at Fiji Forestry’s timber utilization facility at Nasinu. They met with Australian project team members and research partners from Fiji and Samoa and a large delegation from the Solomon Islands led by the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Forestry and Research, Vaeno Vigulu. 

Samples of Cocoveneer.
Mr Bartlett was pleased to report that the project produced many positive results. In spite of a number of unforeseen challenges including the lack of senile coconut palms in Australia for trials and delays due to Cyclone Winston the project team were able to make significant discoveries about the “wood properties” of coconut stems and the processing techniques required to produce quality veneer products. Researchers also investigated uses for the associated waste material from the harvested stems and found the most promising uses to be as fuel or compost for use in agriculture. Although not included in the initial project development, a spindle-less lathe was sourced and installed at the Nasinu facility and local staff were trained to use the equipment.
The project developed and tested a range of innovative products including veneer, laminated veneer lumber, overlay panel, engineered flooring and multi-laminar wood. The products showed a strong potential for commercial use as flooring, linings, some types of joinery surfaces and benchtops. The project team conducted an operational trial of cocoveneer production at the private sector partner - Valebasoga Tropicboards Ltd mill located in Labasa on Vanua Levu. Mr Bartlett considers this to be a very important step in achieving wider adoption of the project’s research and development findings.
The project has an excellent website ( which provides good information about the research and the findings.

By Ruby Gillett, Program Support Office, ACIAR

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