Electric Tractors Will Soon Be Available

With So Many Electric Cars, Why Not Electric Tractors?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There are many different models of electric cars—they are even mainstream in most  U.S. cities and other countries—and now farmers may soon have electric tractors to use in specialty crops in California.

Bakur Kvezereli is president and CEO of Ztractor, the first autonomous electric tractor for specialty crops. Kvezereli, who is based in Palo Alto, explained why the tractor is being developed in California.

“First, California is our market. Second, we teamed up with some great engineers, who graduated from Stanford, and my school, which was MIT. We were friends, and we wanted to look into this technology looking to replace the 25 or 30 HP diesel motor as well as the 30-gallon diesel,” he said.

“And we started as an electric tractor company in September 2017. And in two months, we realized that to achieve an electric tractor, you have to find a solution for making it autonomous,” Kvezereli explained.

“We now have three models in our manufacturing pipeline. One 24 horsepower will be available to the farmers this year. The next model will be a bigger tractor, 45 horsepower, which will be available 2020, and a 125 horsepower will be available in 2021.”

“Our basic tractor will have all the usual features found in most other tractors. The premium model line will have more features, especially on the software and hardware area. The zTractors will have no emissions and no hydraulics—just strong torque power.”

A four-hour charge will provide 6 to 10 hours of work in the field. “It requires only level two charging similar to car charging.  “We are exploring a better battery, however currently it is the nickel ion technology,” Kvezereli said

“Horsepower is where we estimate the metrics for a tractor. What we think farmers care about is torque. In electric, to achieve higher torque is much easier than to achieve it with diesel power, and electric technology in general is very reliable for many types of tasks,” said Kvezereli.

The electric tractors keep the same three-point hitch as well as a PTO, both electrically operated.

“We build everything based on the requirements for the PTO and three-point hitch, and I think that’s what makes the Ztractor different from any other robotics companies that will provide a better tractor. It’s a general purpose and can replace a regular traditional tractor,” he said.

The main farming operations will be strawberry  vineyards and vegetable operations. The tasks will include soil preparation and crop management. Harvest tasks are not yet available.

The prices for the tractors, calculated at $1,000 per horsepower, are similar to traditional tractors.

CARB Seeking Participants for Agricultural Tractor and Mobile Equipment Survey

CARB Wants Inventory of Ag Equipment 

News Release

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is seeking participants for an update to their Agricultural Tractor and Mobile Equipment Survey.  For those that remember, CARB conducted a similar survey in 2008, and partnered with Cal Poly in their review of the submitted surveys.

This survey effort is looking to inventory various mobile agricultural equipment, including tractors, combines, balers, agricultural use ATVs and forklifts, and many more.  This survey is extended out to producers in the field, custom operators, and first processing facilities, and covers equipment using any type of fuel or electricity and any horsepower.  Responses to the survey are completely confidential and are anonymized upon receipt.

The survey that was previously conducted in 2008 was utilized to help fund incentive programs for agricultural equipment turnover programs utilized throughout the state.  CARB’s goal upon completion of this upcoming survey round is to utilize the data in the exact same manor, to utilize results to determine the best usage of incentive monies in the agricultural sector.

The survey is being made available through the internet.  Please follow the link attached below to complete the survey.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact offroadinventory@arb.ca.gov.  Paper copies will be available if you would like; feel free to contact Chris McGlothlin with the Western Agricultural Processors Association at chris@ccgga.org or by phone at (559) 455-9272.

Survey can be found online here.

 

Winegrape Cultural Practices Go Mechanical

Winegrape Cultural Practices Must Go Mechanical for Sustainability

By Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor

 

Higher wages handed down by the California Legislature are driving California winegrape growers to mechanize many farming operations. Doug Beckgeographic information systems (GIS) specialist and agronomist for Monterey Pacific Incorporated who works with winegrowers in the Salinas Valley, commented, “We don’t have the people; that’s the main problem. We can put bodies out in the field, but we can’t get the work done the way it needs to be done, at the time it needs to be done,” he said.

Mechanical Box Pruning on Winegrapes
Mechanical Box Pruning on Winegrapes

 

So the industry has no choice but to go mechanical on pruning, leafing as well as harvesting. Beck explained pruning has been tough to mechanize. “We’re basically just trying to do a system that is pruned by a tractor, creating a box head that self-regulates—it sets the amount of crop it needs and grows the size canopy it needs in order to balance that vine, produce good quality grapes and produce enough to be economically viable,” noted Beck.

 

Economic viability—profit—is critical, according to Beck. “In fact, it is true sustainability. Otherwise we’re not in business,” he said.

 

Mechanical pruning essentially creates a hedge every year. Beck explained, “Typically we have pruning spurs that have two buds or three buds, a hand space apart, coming off that cordon that we cut by hand. Instead of just having spurs, we let that grow into a box, and the mechanical pruner cuts along the sides and then across the top of the vine in one pass,” Beck explained. “It looks basically like a long box,” he said.

 

Beck has discovered that mechanical pruning into a box shape on the trellis wires, “works across all varieties we’ve tried. We’re definitely in a cool area for grape production,” Beck said, “so those are the kind of grapes that we’re growing: Pinot Noir, Grenache, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris, along with some Cabernet.”

 

Beck said that winegrape vineyards have a lot of vigor in the Salinas Valley. “You also have big crops, which may also require some shoot or crop thinning. You have to come up with other machines to do the rest of the operations that they usually do by hand.”

 

“The mechanical process appears to be working well because growers are seeing a bump in yield of 30 to 50 percent,” Beck commented, “and they are saving about $1,000 per acre. Economically, it makes a lot of sense.”

 

“Quality is definitely acceptable. It’s as good as any other trellis system we have out there. Quality comes from vine balance and fruit exposure to light, and that box prune system accomplishes both,” said Beck.

Connecting with Consumers

AgChat Reaches Out to Consumers

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Jenny Schwiegert, AgChat Foundation chief executive director, spoke to Laurie Greene, California Ag Today editor, at the recent Bayer AgVocacy Forum about one of the biggest challenges to agricultural advocacy. “We’ve got excellent bloggers out there,” Schwiegert said, “however, the audience they [reach] tends to be other growers and ranchers. We do not want to be singing to the choir. We need to find other ways to connect with non-ag consumers.”

Schwiegert elaborated on some of the resources for non-ag readers posted on the AgChat website, “There’s a page under “Resources” that talks about different non-agricultural hashtags people can use when they tweet or use Instagram or Snapchat. We also have a post about people with whom we need to connect on Twitter who are not necessarily in the agricultural industry.”

Jenny Schiegert, AgChat executive director
Jenny Schiegert, AgChat chief executive director (Photo Source: LinkedIn)

To [farmers and Ag bloggers] who are trying to determine who their audience might be, Schwiegert advised, “There is more to you than just farming and ranching. You know, I like to do renovations at my home; I like photography; and I’m a baseball mom. When I began blogging, which I don’t do as much recently, my strategy was always to be incognito and not say, ‘Hey, this is what I do.’ I would only talk about farming.”

However, Schwiegert discovered that when she talked about those other topics that are not necessarily related to farming, her posts attracted a lot more of a mom-based or photographer-based audience. She suggested, “Find that spark, the other part of your life that is not related to farming and ranching, and explore and talk about it. Connect with other people [consumers] who have that same desire to have a hobby or whose kids are also in baseball, or whatever it might be.”

While connecting with people via a distinctly different interest can be constructive, Schwiegert held that consumers do trust and want to hear about agriculture from farmers and ranchers. She referred to a recent finding that while the majority of people do not know how to get in contact with a farmer, farmers are the people they want to talk to and get their information from.

“We have also experienced this on a personal basis,” Schwiegert shared. “While our operation is very small, we like to take people, and not necessarily adults. Sometimes we will bring our children’s friends out, show them the sheep, and take them to my in-laws’ dairy. My younger two sons have an egg business, so we’ll show them that too.”

“Ninety-nine percent of the time,” Schwiegert said, “someone will say, ‘Oh these are so much better than the store-bought, and the store-bought has been sitting on the shelves for months.’ That’s where I stop and say, ‘that is not necessarily true. Let me connect you with Katy who is in Iowa or let me connect you with Greg in Oregon, whose egg farm is producing 1.5M eggs a day.’”

“I like to connect people,” she explained, “to help them understand what modern agriculture is all about because we tend to have a [rustic] romantic, idealistic view of what a farm is, and that is what people want.” But, she contends, that may not match what farming really is in today’s world. “I think people really do want to talk to the farmers and ranchers,” said Schwiegert. “They just don’t know how to go about connecting with them.”

Schwiegert does not know if there is a definite ‘disconnect’ between this romantic view of the rustic farm scene with antiquated tools, and consumers who use the latest devices and apps. She said, “I am not sure how to re-connect that. For instance, why is it ok to use an antibiotic if you have pneumonia, but it is not ok to use it in chicken? And I’m not sure how we mend that because consumers are not trustworthy of statistics and science, so I guess that it is one of the million-dollar questions out there. You know, how is it OK for them to have a Fitbit, but our farmers can’t use GPS or auto-steer in their tractors or precision Ag drones?

“That is a huge disconnect, and we need to address it as an industry,” Schwiegert reflected. “I think a lot of people in agriculture are intimidated and scared to share their stories because there are folks out there who are ready to pounce. And especially if you have small children, you do not want to have those types of people on your property. So people are hesitant to share their stories.

“I have the same fears,” Schwiegert stated. “I don’t want people like that on my farm. But the more that we can share our stories out in public, using different methods—whether through social media or a farm-to-table type of event with a commodity group at a public location—the more likely we are to mend that disconnect.”

AG CRIME ALERT!

AG CRIME ALERT:

Source: San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office

STOLEN TRACTOR CASE # 14 -6799

On March 20th at approximately 3:00 p.m., our office took a report of a stolen John Deere tractor model number 7330. It was last seen on March 19th at 5:00 p.m.

antiCrimeIt was taken from the area 8 Mile Road and lower Sacramento Road, Stockton Ca.

Any information please contact the Sheriff’s Office at (209) 468-4400.

MAKE: John Deere
YEAR: 2009
MODEL: 7330
COLOR: Green
VIN #: RW7330E005413
LAST SEEN: 3-19-14 @ 1700 HRS

NOTICED MISSING: 3-20-14 at 10:00 a.m.

STOLEN FROM: Eight Mile Rd. & Lower Sacramento Rd. Stockton

Any info contact the rural crimes unit at (209) 468-4798 / 468-4400 or at lvictoria@sjgov.org.