Lithuanian organic food firm Auga – which supplies Ocado and Holland & Barrett – has developed what it says is the world’s first hybrid biomethane and electric tractor fit for commercial use.
The Auga M1 runs on methane collected from livestock waste and stored in gas cylinders. When the tractor is running, an internal combustion engine powered by biomethane generates energy and transmits it directly to electric motors that spin the wheels. When operating under normal conditions that do not require high power, the tractor stores the excess energy generated in the batteries. At certain times – when less power is needed – the tractor can drive using only the energy stored in the batteries.
The company’s patented technology allows for the tractor to accommodate larger biomethane cylinders meaning tractors can operate for longer.
“Currently, biomethane-powered tractors have been able to operate for only two to four hours because the gas cylinders do not physically fit onto the tractor. However, farmers need agricultural machinery that can work 12 hours or more,” said Kęstutis Juščius, general director of Auga Group.
“Our team of engineers have found solutions to the problem of refuelling and ensure uninterrupted operation of the tractor throughout the working day,” he added.
Another problem facing the wider roll-out of hybrid tractors, solved by Auga’s engineers, was the “underdeveloped biomethane refueling station infrastructure”. The M1 makes use of “quick and convenient gas cartridge replacement” the company said.
“We are ready to provide consumers around the world with food at no cost to nature. By eating such food, people themselves will make a positive impact on climate change, daily. And we are sure that more and more people want to live like this,” says Juščius.
The company told The Grocer the M1 is currently only being used on Auga fields, but it is the company’s goal to share it with other farmers and companies once it is scaled up, “with the UK being a key focus market”.
“Three years ago, when we first calculated our emissions, we saw that as much as 30% of them come from the use of fossil fuels on farms. There were simply no solutions to change it. That is why we have taken the lead in developing technologies that will allow us to create a new standard for sustainable agriculture and drastically reduce pollution throughout the food value chain,” Juščius said.