Thursday, January 30, 2014

Building Unity Farm - Automation Arrives

Over the past few months, I've asked a dozen farmers what automation is best for Unity Farm's 15 acres of woodland management, manure movement, trail maintenance, food storage, and orchard harvesting.    I received thirteen different answers ranging from:

Buy John Deere, Kubota is underpowered

Buy Kubota, John Deere is mostly outsourced

Buy from your closest dealer, service really matters

Don't worry about the dealer, do the service yourself

Buy Agricultural tires, they're absolutely necessary

Buy Industrial tires, since Agricultural tires will wreck your property

Buy a skidsteer/compact track loader for work in mud/snow and on hills.   A tractor is for pulling not pushing

Never buy a skidsteer/compact track loader, they lack flexibility.

What did we buy and why?

I know that at least 11 farmers will disagree with me, but we bought a Terex PT30 Compact Track Loader, pictured above in our orchard.    It weighs 3000 pounds, lifts 950 pounds, yet only has 3 PSI pressure on the ground, leaving the trails and turf untouched.   The machine is the evolution of the ASV RC30 and has an advanced track system that does not slip in mud or snow.  

To make the decision, I test drove several devices.   With the PT30, I was able to move 12 cubic feet of mulch, haul 400 pounds of logs up a 15 degree slope, clear the orchard road of snow, move 500 pounds of rocks, and execute numerous zero turning radius redirections on snow in less than 45 minutes.

Unity Farm is a "compact farm" with one mile of trails that are 5 feet wide.   I really do not want to widen the trails, since their current width gives an intimate feeling of being deep in a forest.    The PT30 works on all our trails and turning around in 5 feet is no problem.  Try that with a tractor.

Unity Farm has many slopes, rocks, roots, gates, and narrow passages around outbuildings.   I was able to drive the Terex through all of the them.

This weekend, I'll move a few thousand pounds of wood and a few cubic yards of mulch around 15 acres.   When I told the salesman that I had already moved 10000 pounds of manure, 10000 pounds of logs, and 10000 pounds of mulch with a wheelbarrow and wagon, he asked "are you nuts?".    The answer to that question could be debated.

Unity Farm was built by hand labor, but now that I'm almost 52 years old, I look forward to the automation as I move thousands of pounds around the property every weekend.

Admittedly that Kubota tractor did look appealing, so I did buy one…for my desk.

Another Unity Farm update.   I lecture frequently at Harvard Business School and write for Harvard Business Review (HBR).    My Harvard students and colleagues often asked me, "why didn't you go to 'B' school"?

They're completely right and I'm going to correct this deficit by enrolling in a nighttime executive  'B' school this semester.

I'll learn about Bee biology, site selection, hive manipulation, four seasons management, honey extraction, and disease control.

In addition to my degrees from Stanford, UCSF, UCLA, Harvard, and MIT, I'll proudly add the 'B' school certificate to my CV this April.


Grahame Grieve said...

I want one now!

Lance said...

Love the blog, and drooling over the Terex!

Claudia said...

Consider it cardio-exercise..

Wiley said...

I missed out on taking that bee-keeping class last year. Perhaps this is the year I manage to make it!

vanessa said...

Good Luck in your Bee class! I hope you'll meet a great mentor/master like I did : )