Besten (eng. the BEAST) system consists of driverless harvester controlled remotely from one or two forwarders (timber couriers). It was orginally invented in 2002. In 2006, Forestry Research Institute of Sweden (Skogforsk) conducted first research about the BEAST. The results were very promising. However, up to the present day, the system has not received expected attention and it is not commonly used by forest operators around the globe. What has happened with the forest Beast between 2006 and now? Did it die, has gone metamorphose, or live in the shadow of better forest beasts?
Beast was invented by Jan Carlsson and Christera Lenartsson in 2002, who establised company called Fiberpack. In 2009, Gremo AB bought the system, and changed it name to Gremo RH106.
Beast system consist of two forwarders and driveless (unmanned) harvester. Although the harvester is without a driver, one of the forwarder operators has to control it all the way. While the first forwarder operator is driving in the same time harvester (remotely) and its own forwarder, the second one, in the same time, is unloading the timber at the roadside. Later, two forwarders change their places. The Beast remains in the same place, where the last operator left it. The optimal distance from harvesting site to the road for the Beast is 300-400 meteres. Such distance gurantee that Besten works continuously without any stops in the work.
First research on the forest Beast
In March 2006, Skogforsk was analyzing the driverless harvester with two timber couriers. That time, results showed reduction of fuel consumption by 20-40 percent, and total costs by 15-20% compared to a traditional two-machine (harvester-forwarder) system. Moreover, system had advantages in working, wood processing and lead times. Overall, the results were very promising.
In the very low site quality G15 (in Sweden it means that after 100 years the top high of spruce trees is 15 meters) the productivity, measured by volume harvested, of the Beast was 30 m3 per hour. It gave an average cost of 50-55 SEK/m3 (around 5-6 USD/m3).
The Beast in action
Movie below presents the unmanned Beast system (that time Gremo had only 3 systems like that in whole Sweden) in action. I was able to see it on my own eyes in Sweden in 2009. Instead of crane equipped in harvesting head, we can observe a crane facilitated to excavate tree stumps (looks very spectacular). Check it out!
Movie credit: Rafal Chudy
- Weight of the Best: 19 tons
- Width: 3.1 m
- Height: 3.4 m
- Engine: John Deer 8.1 – 185 kW
- Length of the crane: 9 m
- Driving computer system: Dasa-system
Södra tests the Beast
One of the Beast systems was bought by Södra in 2009. After half year of tests, Södra concluded that Besten system was not so profitable as expected. System had many technical problems.
Isabelle Bergkvist, from Skogforsk, had different opinion:
“Harvesting sites in Småland (southern Sweden) are too small for the Beast. Forests in southern Sweden are not adequate for Besten. This can be main reason why the direct loading from harvester to forwarder is not so profitable, as expected. In addition, it is hard to evaluate prototype just after 2 yeaers, when for example harvester system has been tested over last 30 years. I think that harvesting sites in Norrland are much better suited for Besten. Nevertheless, the idea of direct loading is very attractive, for instance, in terms of costs reduction”
Uncertain future for the forest Beast
In May 2016, Martin Bredenfeld (CEO of Gremo) said:
“Gremo is coming back to its roots, after recent financial problems. Our roots are connected to light harversters and forwarders up to 10 tons, with focus on thinnnings. We have many orders to realize in coming future from countries such as Germany, Poland, and Austria. Our two newest products are harvester 1050H iand forwarder 1050F”
It seems that Gremo system failed and the idea with two machines has been abandoned. However, the forest Beast did not die. It simply transformed into new, more efficient forest machines.
Nevertheless, it looks that the idea of direct loading has not been abandoned. Recently, I read the article where Sveaskog (Sweden’s largest forest owner) is testing machine, which combines harvester with forwarder into one.
You can find translate a webpage via Google translate and find photos here: New machine harvester and forwarder in one operation
Sources from Skogforsk:
Besten med virkeskurir – ett innovativt och lovande drivningssystem
Translation from Swedish: Tadeusz Ciura
Main photo: Rafal Chudy