Methane tractor trial a success for large-scale horticulture business
A large-scale Cornish vegetable grower has had success trialling a methane-powered tractor. Having put the tractor through its paces for nearly 12 months, Daniel Collins, Farm Operations Manager at Riviera Produce, has been impressed with its performance.
“Innovation and sustainability are two of our key values here at Riviera,” says Daniel Collins. “We are constantly striving to do things in the most efficient way possible, while also being mindful of our environmental impact.”
Efforts to reduce the business’ carbon footprint include installing renewable energy systems and using cover cropping. Reducing fossil fuel use was the next natural step, and Daniel wanted to explore innovative ways of doing so: “A big part of our carbon footprint is diesel use, so we’re keen to find a more sustainable fuel option.”
Putting the T6 to the test
With over 8,000 acres and as one of the UK’s leading producers of brassicas, Riviera Produce runs a fleet of 60 New Holland tractors. Daniel and his colleagues jumped at the opportunity to trial the methane-powered New Holland T6 in July 2021, putting it to work alongside the diesel-powered fleet. They tested the tractor across most operations, including haulage to the packhouse, fertiliser spreading and groundwork.
“Most people would never have known it wasn’t a diesel tractor,” says Daniel. “We put it through its paces like any other tractor on the farm. It’s proved to be a versatile machine and has stood up to every challenge. When compared with our conventional diesel tractors, it performed in equal measure.”
Running costs and overall reliability of the tractor matched up well with their conventional machines. “Reliability is key for us as a business, and this is something we really look for in a tractor,” he says. “It was great to see that the methane tractor was just as reliable as our other machines.”
Locally-produced fuel increases appeal
The only challenge was the fuel capacity, explains Daniel: “We did find we were having to refuel every three to six hours. But the refuelling process itself was quick and simple, with the methane supplied in large gas tanks and a fuel bowser that could be brought out to the field.”
The methane fuel was provided by local company Bennamann, which has developed a system to capture biogas from covered slurry lagoons on dairy farms in the Cornwall County Farms Estate and convert it to compressed biomethane.
“The fact that the fuel is produced just ten minutes down the road is a big plus for us,” says Daniel. “It’s a much more sustainable option than using finite fossil fuels. As the technology and fuel infrastructure develops, we will definitely be considering updating our fleet to include methane-powered vehicles.”
Image credit: Daniel Collins
Farmers are currently seeing the biggest changes in agriculture for more than 50 years. As a mutual insurer, we’ve stood by South West farmers since 1903 and through our Future Farming Programme, we are helping our Members and the wider farming community navigate the changes ahead in this transformative time.Future Farming Programme