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  • Writer's pictureMike Casey

New Zealand's first driverless electric tractor.

Forest Lodge is thrilled to announce that we have recently been approved for a second grant from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) for a Monarch Electric Tractor out of California. Due sometime in early 2022, this tractor will likely be New Zealand's first fully electric and driver optional tractor.

It's our ideal tractor, as it's only 1.12M wide, which gives us plenty of room to automate and move down our 2.25M UFO rows.

Spraying our trees becomes much safer for our staff

Aside from the obvious automation efficiency gains, one of the things we are excited about is the additional OH&S benefit. Not having to drive a tractor when spraying means our team can get on with other tasks far less hazardous.

The Specs

Visit Monarch's website for a full list of technical specs

  • 1.12 metres wide

  • 3.5 metres long

  • 2.19 metres high

The Monarch tractor is roughly equivalent to a 75-80hp viticulture tractor, and will run for over 10 hours on a single charge (3-4 hours of PTO use) and takes 4-5 hours to charge on NZs 230V with a standard 80 amp charger. The batteries are guaranteed for 10 years, and we will be purchasing a second to allow us to run a tow-behind sprayer all day leading up to harvest.

  • Peak Power: 70 HP equivalent

  • Continuous Power: 40 HP equivalent

  • PTO: 40 HP equivalent

Because we are prone to mud, we have opted for the 4WD version, although we have managed to get away fine with our 2WD orchard golf cart.

Extra Efficiencies and Possiblities

Through the ability to automate, we can run regular data collection and crop analysis, which will give us superior insight. We are thrilled to be working with Bitwise Agronomy out of Tasmania to develop crop analysing tools for cherries to help predict our production..

We also believe we can spot pests, including the cherry slug and the black cherry aphid, long before we have a major infestation, which means fewer chemicals and spraying will be required.

Carbon and Dollar Savings

The Monarch Tractor is like a traditional 75hp viticulture tractor. Speaking to other operators in our region, they have estimated their tractors consume anywhere between 5 and 12 litres per hour, and they use their tractor for between 250 and 1000 hours per year.

For the purposes of calculating carbon and cost savings, we will assume 10 litres of diesel per hour and 1000 hours of use. This is because Forest Lodge is a 6ha high density orchard with 25 kilometres of rows, which is on the larger side of independent growers. Our expected activities include weed spraying, foliage spraying, mulching, mowing, digging, fork lifting, cherry transport and seasonal data collection.

This puts the total diesel savings at ~ 10,000 litres by opting for a Monach e-Tractor.

Energy spent charging the tractor will be close to free due to substantial PV and battery arrays. However, a full charge at night would cost around $8 (15c per kWh under fixed time of day rates with Contact Energy) and a full charge will last for an average of 8 hours, meaning the total cost of energy without solar will be around $1000 per year.

$14,000 a year saved in fuel costs @ $1.4 per litre and just under 40 tonnes of CO2 never gets emitted.

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