Image

Solid biofuel powered tractors being developed

30 March 2022
A prototype tractor which can run on solid biofuel is being developed for the primary industries by AgLoco®, a start-up company based in Christchurch, New Zealand.AgLoco® is developing advanced steam engines which burn dry woodchip to replace diesel tractors on farms and diesel trucks for hauling heavy loads.The company is currently building its first fully functional 150hp tractor, having already built and tested a 400hp boiler as a proof of concept in 2021. Their tractor, the AgLoco® 150, is purpose built for energy intensive jobs such as cultivation, harvesting and haulage, which are currently only possible with the use of diesel engines.

The AgLoco® team expect to complete their prototype tractor by November 2022 and it will be put through extensive testing. The AgLoco® 150 will provide producers with a practical and resilient Zero Carbon tractor option and a great opportunity to begin taking the diesel out of primary production in New Zealand and the world.

Chief mechanical engineer and AgLoco® cofounder Sam Mackwell leads both the design and build of the new machine and is optimistic about the progress to date. “Testing of the new boiler technology has delivered exciting results. We are focused on thechallenging task of combining our new boiler technology with a drivetrain and chassis for the first time, then hooking it up to a cultivator to show farmers what it can do.”

Significant technological advances in modern steam engines utilised in the AgLoco® 150 include a threefold increase in efficiency, a safe low volume boiler design which has no risk of explosion and the incorporation of a complete combustion firebox which completely eliminates smoke emissions.

The AgLoco® 150 will match the power to weight ratio of a conventional tractor, heat up to full pressure in under ten minutes and run for 4 hours at an average 48% load capacity.Completing a full day’s work is no issue as the AgLoco® 150 takes less than 10 minutes to refuel from empty.

Torque is also impressive, boasting 7920NM, nearly 10x that of an equivalent diesel.Sam has incorporated a patent pending technology which eliminates all wood sparks to prevent fire risk into the design, a risk Sam identified for operating in arid regions. “We realised right away that one of the reasons we don’t see steam tractors in use today is because they had a tendency to start fires. That’s why we developed the new spark free boiler.”

Being Zero Carbon, energy dense and transportable, solid biofuels are particularly well suited for use in heavy load applications such as log hauling and cultivating. “Although steam locomotives are most commonly associated with a bygone era, to rule them out forfuture use would be a mistake” says Sam.

“Globally, a number of dedicated engineers have continued developing steam technology ever since it fell out of favour. We are standing on their shoulders. The results that they achieved during the past 70 years gives us a great deal of confidence in AgLoco’s ability to meet our performance estimates and take the diesel out of production.”

Read More
Image

Earlybird rates end TODAY

Earlybird rates end this Friday for Environmental Forestry Conference On 25-26 June, ourFIEA Annual Environmental Forestry Conference is running. Registrations are going very well. We bring practical foresters together with local regulators and national policy-makers to debate and bring constructive ...
Read more
Image

Decarbonising transport & logistics

New Zealand environmental specialist, Toitū, recently held a panel to discuss how New Zealand’s transportation and logistics industry, the nation’s second-largest emissions source, can take effective climate action. They shed light on the critical pressures facing supply chains and how to respond ...
Read more
Image

FIEA wood residues conference: time for action

Low carbon economies, extreme weather events, and building resilient domestic supply chains are critical issues in 2024 and beyond. In New Zealand, this has created opportunities for the forestry sector, including significant investments in forest residues. Harvesting regulations are mandating more wood be collected from the forest ...
Read more
Image

Calling all NZ loader operators – be part of this study

Driven by mechanisation, traditional career pathways in forestry crews are evolving. As part of the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme, ‘Te Mahi Ngahere i te Ao Hurihuri – Forestry Work in the Modern Age’, the Scion Human Factors research group ...
Read more
Image

Kiwi bird surprises at Rosvall Sawmill

Workers at Rosvall Sawmill near Whangārei, New Zealand, had an unexpected visitor, a fully grown kiwi bird. The bird casually strolled into the mill early one Monday morning, and spent a few hours exploring the premises before it found a ...
Read more
Image

Every second counts

During hot and dry periods, there is a serious risk of wildfires. Moreover, a single spark can be enough to start one, in which case every second counts. Having fire extinguishing equipment close at hand can make all the difference ...
Read more
Image

Superhuman AI – smarter than every human by 2025

Billionaire tech boss Elon Musk has recently predicted that superhuman artificial intelligence (AI), surpassing human intellect, could become a reality as soon as next year. If this kind of prediction becomes true, are humans ready to embrace that machines can ...
Read more
Image

Swiss develop drone to explore forest canopy

Inspired by cockroaches, Swiss researchers have developed a new drone which can push away obstacles and move past them. In the future, it will be used to measure biodiversity in remote areas. Environmental monitoring in areas with dense vegetation is ...
Read more
Image

NZ forestry H&S statistics updated – March 2024

Safetree NZ has released their H&S stats dashboard for March 2024. WorkSafe provides statistics on forestry fatalities and workplace incidents. These investigations help inform us of any key issues or trends as they come to light. Overall, there is a downward trend ...
Read more