Energy from the forest

The wood chipping service run by Atte Pesonen delivers wood chips for burning at local power plants. Pesonen started up this business alongside his own strawberry farm.

On a day in December, we are in Parolannummi, in Hämeenlinna, South Finland. Here, in the middle of the forest, is Atte Pesonen's worksite for today.

Now driving past me in his Valtra tractor, the 24-year-old Atte founded his wood chipping company Haketuspalvelu Pesonen in 2008. The tractor is towing a chipper, Pesonen's most valuable tool.

We finally arrive at the cutting area, where the trees were cut down some time ago. On site, large piles of twigs and other wood residue are left over from the logging. This residue is processed into wood chips, generating Finnish bioenergy.

I am riding with Pesonen's business partner, who drives a truck to collect the wood chips made from the wood residue. Pesonen works in close cooperation with local haulage entrepreneurs. Several trucks are now driving around the site, carrying transport containers.

The tractor, with its chipper, and the truck are driven one after the other next to a huge pile of twigs standing on the roadside. The piles of twigs have been covered with paper in order to keep them dry.

The 24-year-old Atte Pesonen already has been an entrepreneur for three years.

The tractor shovel starts feeding the twigs into the chipper's mouth. Creating an enormous din, the chipper shreds the twigs into chips at an amazing speed. It takes only fifteen minutes to produce a full container of wood chips.

The chips are transported to power plants of all sizes that use wood chips as an energy source. Energy plants in several municipalities burn chips made of wood residue. These are sold to them by Pesonen's customers, such as forest management associations and private forest owners. This means that the heat in many municipalities is generated by burning wood chips. Pesonen's company performs wood-chipping services within a 100 kilometre radius of the company's domicile, Hämeenlinna.

Investment subsidies helped with start-up

Tractors and chippers are not small investments. At first, Pesonen used his farm's tractor for wood chipping work, but in the long run this was not a viable solution – both enterprises needed their own machinery for the sake of efficiency. Nowadays, Pesonen has two chippers, one installed behind the tractor, the other behind a truck.

Luckily, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment granted support for large investments. Thanks to this, he could purchase a new chipper and hire a second employee to drive the other one.

"Here in the countryside, to make a living you pretty well have to have another business besides the farm," Pesonen reflects on rural entrepreneurship.

Young entrepreneur enjoys fast-paced work

Despite his young age, the wood chipping service is not Atte Pesonen's first enterprise. This is already his third year in charge of his strawberry farm. This year, the 3-hectare farm will be expanded by 1.5 hectares.

"The wood chipping business accounts for 70% of my turnover. It currently provides work for around six months per year, but I intend to turn the chipping service into a year-round business," explains Pesonen.

Summer is also the high season for wood chipping.

"If the chips are dry, they burn better at energy plants," Pesonen explains.

As he enjoys being in the forest, Pesonen thoroughly enjoys his wood chipping work.

"Since no two days are alike, I have never become bored with this work," points out the energetic Pesonen.

Text and photo: Päivi Piispa