The world's first electric foliage sprayer? If you can't source it, make it.
Updated: Dec 4, 2022
The dawn of a new era in zero-emission food production and farming is almost upon us, with the development of two vital pieces of hardware near completion.
We have partnered with TRS Wholesale in Blenheim to create the first fully-electric foliar sprayer - converting an existing sprayer that runs off a tractor's power-takeoff to one that can be directly powered from a 230 volt power source. This is a fundamental change away from the way diesel tractors currently power sprayers.
For a viticulture / horticulture tractor, the PTO draws about 60hp ~45kW of power during operation. This power is significant, considering most EVs have under 100kWh batteries, and you would expect about 16kWh of power consumption per 100kms of road. A high spec Tesla like a Model X would only have enough battery power to run a traditional foliage sprayer for a couple of hours.
Clearly, using a PTO to power our sprayer was never a long-term option for us. The Monarch tractor we will receive in Q1 2023 has a PTO and hydraulic pump, but we would need literally hundreds of kWh of batteries (tens of thousands of dollars worth) to spray our orchard in one go. This is uneconomical.
TRS Wholesale have joined us on the electrification journey! This unit will be operational in just a few weeks to help us prepare our crop of cherries this summer.
To enable the mass adoption of electric tractors, we have to move beyond existing tractor attachments, and design and create new energy-efficient options that maximise the runtime of an e-tractor's battery. Fortunately, we are the lucky recipients of a grant, through the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries, Manatū Ahu Matua. MPI has provided a grant to cover 40% of the cost of developing our sprayer. In return, we will share our trials, data and learnings with the rest of the industry and ensure there are far less barriers and mental blockers to e-tractor adoption.
An important part of the sprayer unit is a machine to pull and power it. The team at Loxley Innovation will provide us with the first prototype of their electric tractor called Blue.E2 for this season, while waiting for the more powerful Monarch to arrive in January 2023. Lots of hard work and problem-solving has gone into converting a diesel tractor to a fully electric machine.
Blue.E2 is a converted Iseki TU318, fitted with a new 48v 20kWh pack. The small liquid cooled motor is rated for about 10kW (around 14HP) continuous operation, with plenty of torque. With an onboard single phase 5kVa bi-directional inverter-charger, the tractor will be capable of towing and powering our new 2 tonne electric sprayer unit for an estimated 3-4 hours, and recharge from empty in about 6 hours of a 15 amp plug.
Both the Loxley innovation tractor and our new sprayer will arrive at Forest Lodge Orchard in the coming week, with assembly, testing and calibration to be completed before the growing season kicks off. We plan to share our full results and learnings in an upcoming blog post in a few months, but for now here are the details.
Electric Foilage Sprayer Pump
40 Litres per minute
435psi / 30bar
2.2kw at max pressure
Electric Foilage Sprayer Unit
Based on existing FMR horticulture sprayers.
3.4m total boom height (optimised for Forest Lodge tree height at full production)
11 nozzles per side with reversible housings
1500L tank size
Weight approx 900kg empty, 2400kg full.
Not air/fan assisted yet, that is still in development for delivery next year.
A special thanks must go to Emma from MPI, Jake from Monarch Tractor, Chris Clifford, Michael Dudley and his team from TRS Wholesale, Murray Miller from Claas, and Duncan from Loxley Innovation for making this project possible. It requires a collection of great minds to change the world.
As always, anyone is welcome to visit us and see these two in action, as well as ask specific questions about these two unique machines!