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  • Writer's pictureMike Casey

Electric Frost Fighting Fans - Forest Lodge demonstration day

Updated: May 28, 2021

We have been hastily installing and commissioning two 30kwh electric frost fighting fans which are the first of their type, not only in New Zealand but the first of these fans operating outside of South Africa! I would like to introduce AGI Frost Fans, Stiaan, Ossie and the team call Wellington in the Western Cape of South Africa home. They have designed, built and produced this new type of 3 blade electric can and are looking forward to helping with the electrification of frost fighting across the globe.

Forest Lodge eastern fan in the foreground and the western fan in the background
Forest Lodge eastern fan in the foreground and the western fan in the background

South Africa is not usually a country that you would look at importing high end electric technology from, and as a result I was super nervous about exactly what I was ordering and committing to a substantial international wire transfer, but Stiaan and Ossie were polished, escorting me through everything, WhatsApp video calling me whilst installing fans across South Africa and quickly they gained my trust. On arrival, there has been nothing but compliments of the workmanship involved. Mainfreight said they were very well packed and secured within the container compared to other imported fans. Our electrician said the accompanying and switch board and control panel on the fans were very well engineered and I have even had a pilot complement the blade design which is where the genuine intellectual property of a frost fan lies.

AGI has also partnered with an efficient and professional distributor in New Zealand; NDA. It has been a pleasure working with Sam, Criton, Colin, Bryan and Hayden who operated a seemless and timely installation process along with their local sub-contractor Kirk from Breen.

So what are the advantages of these fans?

  • Ease-of-use - you can log in to the system and start them from your phone, the touch screen they are shipped with or at the fan controller itself.

  • Integrated weather stations - meaning there is no need to buy a separate weather station. AGI can provide you with rain, humidity and soil probes that all feed back to the main data hub.

  • Email Alerts - get all of the gossip about your fans straight to your email. Start and stop alerts, control board access alerts.

  • Fold down servicing - Safer and cheaper and because its an electric fan there is a lot less maintenance in general

  • No Access Way required - No diesel, which means no tank to fill, which means no need for an access way. This is a huge advantage for trellis based growing systems is it allows you to plant more trees.

  • Programmable Rotation! - focus on the colder areas of your orchard or attach the frost drift for longer by pausing at certain angles.

  • Inbuildt VFD/VSD - new blades are being developed including a 5 blade fan which is quieter. With an inbuilt VFD, you simply need to reprogram it and it when you swap or upgrade the blades!

  • No more diesel. Better operational and maintenance costs and better for the planet. Plus they are epically cool.

Whats the cost?

The cost of these fans is about $62,000 NZD each and that includes all shipping to Port Charmers from South Africa and shipping from Port Charmers to a site in central Otago. As we were the first install of these fans, the local installation and commissioning was expensive at just under $15,000 NZD per fan. Total $77,000 NZD.

But there are plenty other costs to consider.

  • Is your current switchboard powerful enough?

  • Do you have a 3 phase power connection?

  • Do you require harmonic filtering?

  • How much cabling and trenching needs to be done from the fans to your source of power?

In total, we spent about $80,000 NZD upgrading a site from a small single phase connection to something suitable for satisfying heavy electrical appliance needs, however much of this cost we needed to do anyway for operating other equipment such as our irrigation and solar systems.

I'd recommend giving Jase Lee from Sangster Electrical a call, and he can come out and walk you through what would be required for your orchard and design a future proofed solution. Jase designed our whole system from the ground up, and we have been incredible though our whole journey.

Future Proofing Your Orchard on a Budget

These capital costs are going to be unreasonable for some but you can take a shortcut and implement these electric fans while operating one of AGI's native diesel generators at the base of the fan that will provide all of the same benefits as above apart from the diesel burning.

This might seem counterintuitive, but it allows you upgrade later down the track to use the grid, whereas a normal diesel fan, that will never be a feasible option.

Demonstration Day

One major advantage of being first mover, however, is that we were successful in our application for a grant from the New Zealand government via the Electricity Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). This grant is known as a demonstration grant and is available for those importing new technology into New Zealand that will help the electrification of a carbon heavy business process.

Yesterday (26th of November 2020) was our demonstration day, where we invited other growers from the region down to witness the commissioning of the fans.

AGI Frost Fan Demonstration Day
AGI Frost Fan Demonstration Day

We had about 60 growers from the region come along, on what was (luckily) a magical Central Otago Day! Our Mayor Tim Cadogan officially launched the fans by turning them on using the control touch screen that was included with the Control and Monitoring System.

Electric Frost fighting Fan Demo Day invite
Electric Frost fighting Fan Demo Day invite

So what are they like when operating? See for yourself!


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