Australian company LINTTAS is set to redefine grain harvesting with a completely new combine harvester concept. The implementation of electrification and a pioneering linear threshing approach promises unparalleled efficiency, speed, and cost-effectiveness, with the potential of achieving up to 30% in energy savings.
According to initiators Malcolm Lucas and Terry Krieg from South Australia, the new electric harvester will enable the machine is expected to offer efficiency and energy savings of up to 30%. “Terry and I have been working on it for the last two years”, Mr Lucas says. “We are talking to a range of government support organisations, researchers, universities and potential partners from around the globe. We have come up with a plan. The next step is to carry out complex computer simulation to verify and optimise our concept design before we build a prototype.”
Mr Lucas always was interested in building things. “I left school when I was 13,”, he says. “We had a small farm, I was building small machines, and my plan was to modify, electrify or even build new machinery.”
Mr Lucas finally put a plan for an electric combine harvester into action in 2008, when he converted an East German-built Fortschritt 5160 combine model to electric power using off-the-shelf, 3-phase electric motors. “Over the years, all these components came down in price dramatically”, he explains. “I realised an electric combine harvester was a viable proposition, and in 2008 I had one ready to go.”
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The electric harvester was used for nine years on farms in South Australia, Mr Lucas says. “It was really successful right from the word go. Every year I would do some modifications, alterations or an upgrade, looking at aspects that I could improve. It was extremely reliable and with significant saving in fuel.”
Mr Lucas and Mr Krieg have now founded LINTTAS Electric Company to build a completely new electric combine harvester based on the converted Fortschritt experience. The South-Australian company claims it has developed unique intellectual property, based on the design of an energy efficient harvester that is fully electric.
The electric harvester will initially be powered by a diesel generator but has the potential to convert to hydrogen power if that technology becomes readily available. The company also plans to use induction motors, to keep the costs low.
LINTTAS says it is using an innovative grain separation process. LINTTAS – or Linear Threshing, Turbulent Air Separation – was designed to maximise the benefits that can be achieved by electrification of the grain separation process in a combine harvester. The company is currently in the process of registering patents for the LINTTAS system.
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“The LINTTAS process is based on a conventional harvesting system”, Mr Lucas points out. “A rotary harvesting system is energy hungry, and you can’t get the advantage of electrification with it, that you can get with the conventional, gravity-based linear threshing system.”
“Electrification is a first step in implementing a major change in machinery design and in delivery of machinery to farm operators”, according to LINTTAS. “The global community and legislators should have high awareness of the need to reduce carbon footprint, especially in agriculture, but the opportunities to achieve this have been limited.”
The aim is to develop a price competitive harvester, ideally manufactured in Australia, adopting the latest technologies for optimal performance
According to LINTTAS, the technologies for electrification that it has developed can be applied to a wide range of agricultural machinery, not only harvesters. “Arguably, the combine harvester design that we are currently developing is the most challenging or all potential applications for this technology”, the company says.
The goal of LINTTAS is to establish a new business model with a machine that is fully repairable by farmers and where possible, using off-the-shelf components. “That will make it possible for the local electrician to deal with repairs if necessary”, Mr Lucas says.
The company aims to develop a price competitive harvester, ideally manufactured in Australia, adopting the latest technologies for optimal performance. It then wants to apply its technology to other agricultural machines to ‘re-align the agricultural machinery sector’.
The new electric grain harvester will be suitable and adaptable for a range of crop types and conditions. “Beans, peas, wheat, canola, lentils, those will be its forte”, Mr Lucas points out.
The machine will be based on standardised components, easily updated, and repaired. Using the latest technologies such as machine learning to maximise yield with reduced operating and whole-of-life costs.
LINTTAS is currently looking for commercial and research partners and other collaborators who want to help change ‘the current paradigm for development of agricultural machinery’. “Our development path has included 9 years operation of an on-farm prototype and other agricultural equipment development, with some great learnings by conversion of an existing machine. But this new design has evolved and will be built from the ground up, to maximise the benefits that can be achieved by electrification”, the company emphasises.