A fossil fuel-free road trip this week ended with the delivery of an electric tractor to Forest Lodge Orchard at Forest Lodge Orchard, itself a fossil fuel-free operation.
Loxley Innovation founder Duncan Aitken said the tractor, Blue.E2, was an upgrade to the original Blue.E that he converted from diesel to electric in the shed out back of his Christchurch home more than four years ago, for use on the 5ha farmlet he and wife, Thea Hewitt, own.
They delivered it to Central Otago towed behind a Tesla, to keep the focus on using electricity efficiently.
Mr Aitken, a software engineer by profession, was joined at Loxley about a year ago by co-founder and head of operations Tony Tsai, an electronics engineer he had worked with at Syft Technologies, and they decided to expand the business.
While participating in the inaugural Orion Energy Accelerator, the two started looking at new and innovative ways to use energy.
Mike and Rebecca Casey, owners of Forest Lodge Orchard, saw a news piece on the business and Mr Casey contacted them, looking for an electric tractor to power a sprayer that had been converted to become the first commercial fully electric foliar sprayer.
Forest Lodge has a larger electric tractor due from the United States next season, but needed to use the sprayer before then, and Loxley seemed a natural fit.
A key part of the tractor’s design is its bi-directional power, giving it the ability to discharge electricity to the national grid, as well as recharging from it. ‘‘It is optimising the resource,’’ Mr Aitken said. Mr Tsai added, ‘‘it becomes the solution, not a problem’’. The company has ambitious goals that would make New Zealand more self-sufficient for electric farm machinery.
‘‘We are looking to develop a ground-up tractor rather than conversions.’’