A biomethane-electric hybrid for sustainable food production
The AUGA M1 is not a tank. Instead, it is referred to as the world’s first hybrid biomethane and electric tractor for professional agricultural use. Sure it’s too big for the house, but you can always dream. AUGA group, the Lithuanian company behind the machine, says it will significantly reduce agricultural pollution and set new standards for sustainable food production.
According to Kęstutis Juščius, CEO of AUGA Group, the tractor is only the first step. Next up is green technology that will eliminate carbon emissions from the soil and digestive processes of cattle. This statement almost needs an exclamation mark.
Via the M1
The AUGA Group is Europe’s largest vertically integrated organic food producer. The company operates around 100,000 hectares of organically certified land. Its sustainable agriculture model is based on new technologies and specializes in the cultivation of plants, dairy cows, chickens and mushrooms. The company produces a wide range of organic food for the end consumer as well as organic raw materials.
In line with this, the eco-tractor is being tested in AUGA companies, the largest organic food production company in Europe.
“It is used to carry out regular agricultural activities,” says Juščius.
“The results prove that the AUGA M1 can do the work of a 400 HP equivalent conventional tractor. For example, it can move at a working speed of 12 kilometers per hour and pull a 7-meter-wide precision cultivator. For testing and continuous improvement, we use a main prototype in this phase. “
The aim is for the company’s emission-free tractors to cost just as much as conventional machines. The business plan is to develop, produce and implement technologies for a sustainable food value chain and to make everyday food emission-neutral for consumers. The biomethane electric tractor will be used, tested and improved in AUGA companies from next year.
“Then we make it available to other farmers who want to work sustainably,” says the CEO. “The main target markets are highly developed regions like Europe and the US, where we believe our technologies will be available in the next two to three years.”
The cylinder solution
The tractor runs on biomethane. Methane is collected from animal waste, converted into biomethane and ultimately offsets more emissions per unit of energy in its production and use cycle than it emits, says the company.
The first step is the production of biogas from organic waste such as cow dung in biogas plants, explains the CEO. The second is biogas upgrading, which is converted into biomethane. Compressed to a certain pressure, it becomes fuel, like compressed natural gas.
“There are two main problems with tests by other manufacturers: their tractors can only work two to three hours and there are no practical and economically viable solutions to fuel them with biomethane,” says Juščius. “AUGA has solved the technological bottlenecks and introduced a hybrid biomethane electric tractor with an operating time of up to 12 hours and an easy-to-use quick refueling solution on site.”
Existing tractors would have to use a biomethane filling station, the infrastructure for this is missing. AUGA uses a replaceable fuel cartridge that enables quick and easy on-site refueling, while refilling of the cartridges can be done at accessible remote stations if necessary.
The cartridges can be filled in one location and delivered to different operating locations where they are used.
The impact of fossil fuels
Food systems are responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to the use of fossil fuels in agricultural machinery.
“By replacing a professionally used conventional tractor with an AUGA M1 biomethane electric machine, we can save up to 100 tons of CO2 emissions per year … life cycle in Europe“Says the CEO.
“Another problem is the working hours of agricultural machinery. With our agricultural model, we can achieve up to 1,400 working hours of tractors. We intend to implement the new work organization and the technology sharing model in order to involve other farmers and achieve the same high level of efficiency in using machines. “