British Christmas dinner tables this year could feature vegetables harvested by a world-first low carbon, cow dung-powered tractor, thanks to Government backing.
Made in Basildon, Essex, by tractor manufacturers New Holland, this is the world’s first 100% methane powered tractor and has already been used on fields in Cornwall to harvest cabbage and cauliflower.
Given £9.1 million in funds through the Government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre, the Low Carbon T6 Methane Power Tractor uses bio-methane fuel that is created from cow manure that helps reduce emissions.
Projects such as the Low Carbon Tractor will help create more sustainable ways of farming.
Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “The Government is happy to help fund this new, methane-powered tractor. It will reduce fossil fuel usage and cut emissions. For farmers, it will be effectively free to use. It’s a double helping of good news – allowing them to grow food for us all, while reducing their business costs.”
Cornish start-up Bennamann created a process to collect the methane gas slurry from a dairy farm and then ‘clean up’ the methane to be good enough to be used as a fuel.
By using methane fuel instead of diesel, the New Holland T6 Methane Power tractor can help reduce emissions by eliminating the need for fossil fuels to power tractors. While the methane would have entered the atmosphere regardless, this process captures it and uses it as a fuel, putting it to use and reducing farming CO2 emissions by as much as 60%.
As set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan, the Government is already introducing a range of reforms to incentivise sustainable farming practices, rewarding farmers for producing public goods such as better air and water quality, protecting wildlife, soil health and animal welfare.
The tractor has been field tested by Riviera Produce this year in Cornwall by harvesting cauliflower andcabbage to test whether it could potentially replace diesel powered tractors and thereby help reduce emissions.
Daniel Collins of Riviera Produce said: “Our business is constantly looking for new, innovative ways to farm while ensuring we remain sustainable both financially and environmentally. Using methane powered tractors is another big step in our ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.
“We have been very impressed with the tractor’s performance, and apart from a different engine and fuel tank, it is fundamentally the same as our current tractors inside and out.”
The biomethane fuel further helps to create a circular economy for the agricultural sector, with plans to use manure produced by cows that graze on the waste leaves after the vegetables have been harvested. The tractor can also help save farmers money with 30% lower running costs than a typical diesel tractor.
Investing in innovative UK-made manufacturing such as the Low Carbon Tractor will ultimately work to reduce emissions and help secure highly skilled manufacturing jobs as we accelerate the shift towards low carbon vehicles.