I frequently reach out to the electric vehicle community to share stories and ideas for upcoming articles. Andrew intrigued me when he shared a photo of his Nissan Leaf towing a trailerload of tomatoes in answer to my request for ideas about EV towing. This led to a visit to his farm this afternoon. He is not just an electric farmer, but an eclectic farmer on his electric dream farm.
Andrew tells me that he got into EVs because of how economical and versatile they are, and how useful they are on his 20-acre farm 30 km from Brisbane. He uses his Nissan Leaf as a workhorse, and his electric bicycle like a pony. Andrew has ridden over 1000 km around the farm on his electric bike. The Leaf replaced a diesel Hyundai i30 wagon. The cost of diesel made Andrew’s farming activities uneconomical. Andrew describes himself as an environmentalist, but not quite a vegan.
After a brief chat with his partner, Erika, he gave us a tour of his eclectic, diversified farm. Erika picks up stale bread from local shops to be used for animal fodder. She can tow 750 kg with the Leaf and tends to lose about 30% of range traveling locally at about 80 km/hour. They also collect fruit and vegetable scraps from local shops to use as pig food and compost. The farm is very efficient at processing waste. Then she was off on her “bread run,” the new Nissan Leaf towing the trailer loaded with wheelie bins.
Andrew is selling his original 2012 Leaf, as the family no longer needs two vehicles. The battery was replaced in 2019, near the end of its warranty period, and its current charge capacity compared to new is at about 78%. Those interested can view the car here.
Whilst explaining the use of the extra vehicle, Andrew used the expression “one charge stop away.” It’s an interesting way to describe distance, similar to “a six pack away.” In my youth, we would describe distance driven by how long it would take to drink a six pack of beer.
After feeding the pigs and admiring the many piglets, Andrew took us to see his latest venture. He has purchased a business growing and selling vetiver grass to environmentally conscious people who are looking to control erosion. “Vetiver grass (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a tropical clump grass with origins in south India. Its primary uses are for soil and water conservation, soil fertility enhancement, bio-engineeering, phytoremediation of contaminated land and water, disaster mitigation, and a byproduct supply for forage, fuel, handicrafts, and perfumery. It also sequesters significant quantities of atmospheric carbon,” Vetiver Network International writes.
The vetiver plot is currently being restored — weeds removed and compost added. The weeds don’t get wasted; they get fed to the pigs. Despite being a monoculture, Andrew believes that the vetiver grass is an ethical resource. It occupies about a quarter of an acre on his 20-acre farm. Nearby, an electric fence protects a neighbouring market garden from free ranging roosters — adopted by Andrew and Erika. It is powered by a solar panel of course.
Andrew seeks out waste that can be used to support his farm. Piles of garden waste mulch and compost abound, making a great resource for “hugelkultur” — “hugelkultur is a centuries-old, traditional way of building a garden bed from rotten logs and plant debris. These mound shapes are created by marking out an area for a raised bed, clearing the land, and then heaping up woody material (that’s ideally already partially rotted) topped with compost and soil.” Sadly, the garden waste is often contaminated with other rubbish.
These beds help to keep Andrew’s plants out of the wetness during Queensland’s flooding months of January, February, and March. When he bought the farm in 1996, Andrew cleared part of the pine plantation and planted Australian native cabinet trees. Unfortunately, most of these tree saplings died a couple of years later in the floods.
Andrew has received leftover tarmac from roadworks which he uses to create roads around the farm (makes it easier to drive a Leaf around). Recently, after the collapse of a local company processing soft plastics, Andrew has begun to hoard the plastic bread packets (from the bread run), expecting that there will be a demand in the future.
As I was standing, writing my notes in the rain, surrounded by free range chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl, I was impressed by the imagination and forethought of this farming entrepreneur. He creates value from waste. Word has gotten around and light industries know where to come to dump organic material. The farm is truly eclectic.
His diesel tractor is playing up, and so the farm looks like it could do with a haircut. Andrew is looking forward to the time when tractors, slashers, and zero-turn lawnmowers can be powered by one battery that can be swapped out, recharged from his solar, and swapped back in. He did try to modify his mower, but the experiment is ongoing.
Andrew is resourceful and has built several income streams. One of them is the massive solar array on the roof of his house and shed (see photo below). He will be building another shed near the vetiver plot — it will also be covered in solar panels. He had to redo his solar roof, as the panels had been attached without sufficient space for airflow by an early commercial solar company. Andrew has worked for a while as a solar installer, but had to let that job go as he could not tolerate the heat.
Saving the best for last, Andrew pulls back a tarp over a car-shaped heap at the back of his shed to reveal the last “Blade Electron.” He explains that he has all the parts and putting this car together will be his retirement project. All he needs is a battery pack.
“Between 2008 and 2011, a fully electric version of the Getz was sold in New Zealand and Australia called the Blade Electron. This model has a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph) and a range of 120 kilometres (75 mi) on a full charge.”
“The Blade Electron was the first commercially available battery electric car made in Australia,” Powerhouse Collection writes. “Around 50 of these vehicles were produced in Victoria over the period 2008-2014. Initiated by Ross Blade, the company utilised Hyundai Getz vehicles, removing the internal combustion engine and installing an electric motor, lithium-ion-phosphate batteries and electric control systems.”
I commented that I couldn’t see him ever retiring, with all the ideas and projects that he is involved in.
The farm does grow fruit and vegetables, but there just seemed to be so many more interesting things to see and talk about. It is a truly eclectic farm, reflecting the vision and values of its owner. Thank you, Andrew and Erika.
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Source: Clean Technica