Farm Machinery, Farming, Horticulture, Horticulture, Smart Tech

Grant helps Victorian farm buy electric UTVs

A Victorian government grant has enabled Duxton Dried Fruits to replace its petrol UTVs with electric units as the producer moves towards net zero emissions

As more private enterprises look to help reduce emissions across industry, one Victorian farm company is already reaping the benefits of government support.

Duxton Dried Fruits received a grant as part of the Victorian government’s $5 million Zero Emissions Vehicle Commercial Sector Innovation Fund, which has allowed for six petrol UTVs to be replaced with their electric equivalents.

Duxton has 540ha of dried grape vines in the Sunraysia region of north-western Victoria and currently produces about 30 per cent of Australia’s dried fruit harvest.

The grant has enabled Duxton to not only purchase six electric UTVs, but also install an on-site solar charging station for them.

The company is currently working with local educational organisations and other groups to develop a report into the machines, aiming to encourage greater user adoption of zero-emissions technology across the agricultural sector.

Duxton sustainability project officer Henry Young says this collaboration has provided mutual benefits in terms of exposure, education and access to practical data.

“We’ve partnered with TAFE Victoria and we’ve been working with our local TAFE provider SuniTAFE in Mildura,” he says.

“We’ve developed an educational course that our staff are completing that goes through maintenance procedures and operational procedures unique to high-voltage electric vehicles.

“In terms of the solar infrastructure, we’ve partnered with La Trobe University. They’re being fed the live data and they’re compiling a ‘pathway to adoption’ roadmap for the technology in the agricultural sector,” he adds.

“We’ve been working with the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre. They regularly put on grower workshops and field days and through them we’ve been able to showcase the technology and give it exposure to the local agricultural sector.

“This is a keystone project to demonstrate to our existing portfolios and the wider agricultural community of the way that solar can be adopted on a pathway to net zero.”

The grant has allowed Duxton to introduce electric UTVs. Image: Victorian government.

Duxton’s solar setup includes a rooftop-mounted solar array totalling 60kW, while a complementary battery system that stores 128kW hours of energy has also been installed.

Duxton used grant funds to engage a solar provider who designed a system which will account for all the company’s power usage and allow for the vineyard to reach net zero emissions.

The vineyard currently uses half a megawatt of electricity per year, Young says, while the solar system is designed to produce one megawatt of power per year.

“We modelled it that with the increased electricity usage with the electric vehicles that the vineyard will be a net zero producer,” he says.

The new electric vehicles have been “really well received” since being introduced into Duxton Dried Fruits’ operations, according to Young, and operate seamlessly throughout the day before being charged overnight.

“There was a sense of anxiety with battery replacing internal combustion engines, but they have been absolutely faultless so far,” he says.

“The UTVs are integral to our day-to-day operations. All the machines are used daily by our staff.

“The various roles they fulfil include fuel and harvest support during the summer months, general yard duties, irrigation checks and currently they have been used widely for weed control.

“My favourite thing is probably the reduction in noise in the operator environment,” Young adds.

“They’re also considerably more powerful than the machines we’ve replaced, and they have got a range of innovative features.”

Duxton has 540ha of dried grape vines. Image: Victorian government

Adopting new technology on farm often leads to benefits beyond initial expectations, and this has proven the case here for Young and the Duxton team.

“The solar system and battery have, in general, replaced us having a fuel bowser and fuel tank,” Young says.

“We’ve greatly saved on the complexity and labour savings of not having to organise fuel and have emergency run-ins to town, which is about 40km away, for supplies.”

The convenience factor is significant and when time equals money, the financial impact of this is also beneficial.

Young acknowledges while there is a financial outlay for farms to invest in the full electric setup, it was a “no-brainer” for Duxton and is a decision the company expects will yield long-term benefits.

“The machines from a pricing standpoint are on par with what’s out there in the market already in terms of internal combustion engines,” he says.

“There is a significant outlay in the solar and battery setup, but that is offset by the greatly reduced operating costs of not having petrol in the system.

“Each business is unique, and you will have to analyse the figures and see if it works for you, but up here in the Sunraysia region, with sun being in the name, having a solar and battery system is a no-brainer.”

Henry Young with an electric UTV. Image: Victorian government
Send this to a friend