The Forestry and Biotechnology Institute at the University of Pretoria has for many years been at the forefront of research on the forestry sector. Professor Bernard Slippers, director at FABI, spoke to Leon Louw.

FABI building at the University of Pretoria in Gauteng. Photo by Repository UP

FABI building at the University of Pretoria in Gauteng. Photo by Repository UP

According to Prof Slippers, director at FABI, FABI is an inter-disciplinary post-graduate and research institute. “It links departments and units ranging from Genetics and Entomology to Soil Science, Chemistry, and other Agriculture and Forest Biotechnology disciplines. In the last few years, we have also increasingly interacted with Engineering and Computer Science,” Prof Slippers tells Timber IQ during an interview.

“Across forestry and agriculture, we increasingly use data science and sensing technologies as an essential part of our research. These are becoming important tools in the measurement of trends and in the decisions made in industry too.

“The Institute used to be housed linked primarily to the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Although this is still the case today, it is now hosted within the Innovation Africa@UP platform, which is shared between Faculties, and increasingly in our case with the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment, and IT.

The Institute is more than 23 years old and has a long historical link with the forestry industry. The University of the Free State’s Tree Protection Cooperative Programme (TPCP) formed the foundation for the establishment of FABI. “The TPCP is a cooperative that links all the major forestry companies in South Africa and through organisations such as Forestry South Africa also links with and serves small growers. Government is also represented on the board and we engage with them on a continuous basis. So, it really connects research, policy, and the industry and with that capacity development,” says Prof Slippers.

For more on this article, read our June/July issue of Timber iQ.