New Zealand's first fully-electric tractor unveiled at Cromwell cherry farm

New Zealand's first fully-electric tractor unveiled at Cromwell cherry farm

The MK-V Monarch tractor is New Zealand's first-ever driver-optional fully electric tractor and was officially launched at Forest Lodge Orchard in Cromwell on Saturday.

Owner and operator of the Orchard Mike Casey told REX host Dominic George the lack of noise and automation were the big talking points among those attending the launch.

"You can drive around on that tractor while talking to people who are standing next to you.

"Just seeing this tractor drive without a driver is a pretty big revelation for people."

The 40-horsepower tractor has a maximum battery life of 14 hours, but will not last quite as long if it is used for more strenuous work. Casey noted that this particular model is certainly not going to be able to plough any fields or do major work on bigger sheep and beef farms for example, but will have a lot of use in horticulture and viticulture in particular.

While Casey admitted there were a few minor issues adapting American-built technology to the New Zealand grid, once set up, it functions just like any normal tractor would.

"Setting up the automation side things so it can run seamlessly throughout the orchard or vineyard without a driver, that's definitely going to take a little bit more set up than people are used to with traditional tractors."

Forest Lodge Orchard is widely regarded as the world's first 100% electric, zero fossil fuel orchard and Casey said replacing their previous tractor with an electric one was the last piece of the puzzle.

"When you were looking at a new purchasing decision on you're farm, we just started always choosing the electric option.

"Maybe a couple of years ago we realised that the vision of going completely zero fossil fuel was the right thing for the wallow as well as the right thing for the climate so we set out to do that."

The tractor was imported from California to New Zealand and cost Casey NZ$140,000 plus $25,000 for shipping, a slightly discounted price he said, because they were able to sign up and place a deposit early on.

The Government's Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority's Technology Demonstration Fund (ECCA) also contributed $46,000 toward the Monarch.

"The big thing now is that the taxpayer gets that value back by me showing as many farmers from around New Zealand that this electric tractor is here and it exists.

"One of the big things I'm hoping to achieve is to get a much bigger order of tractors coming into the country so the whole thing becomes cheaper for New Zealand farmers."

Casey told George that the Californian Government offers a 50% subsidy to any farmer (in California) that buys a fully electric tractor and believes a similar proposal would massively benefit Aotearoa's push to electrify farming.

"If you make it easier for farmers, they're more likely to rapidly adopt this sort of technology."

Listen to the full chat between the owner of NZ's first fully electric tractor Mike Casey and Dominic George above.

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