DIY Solar Powered Tractors

Solar tractors are around — if you pay attention. Supposedly, there is one here in my own Boulder County which I hope to seek out someday and make a post about, but until then this post offers a sampling of “what’s out there.”

Most solar tractors are do-it-yourself projects, happily taken on by the frustrated-would-be-engineer, and so each one is different and innovated by its unique designer.

In this post, I’ve put together a few links, which if followed, will give you some ideas of what a few of these innovators have created for their own personal farm use.

The above is a solar tractor at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in 2008, taken by Mouly Kumaraswamy (FlickrCC). It looks as if its owner-maker is plugging the battery pack into a solar array system for re-charging, instead of putting panels on the tractor’s roof, like many other models.

On the Homesteading Today forum, the builder of the solar tractor in the photo above describes how he made the tractor, and there are other photos of this labor and back saving creation at the link. He calls it his P-Machine: P for Planting/Picking/Pulling weeds and Putting around the garden.

This (above) tractor is featured on the Solar Car and Tractor website. It is a heavier duty tractor, weighing 3700 pounds (with batteries), on a Ford 8N tractor model. With 12 HP, a 1300 pound battery pack lasts for about two hours, capable of plowing or harrowing a half-acre in that amount of time.

The same website also features another solar tractor using a Farmall Cub.

Mother Earth News, this month, includes a small solar-powered tractor being used on a 30-acre farm in Arkansas. Its innovator used a 1950 Ford scrap tractor for the frame. With its roof top solar array, it uses eight batteries and runs for two hours following an 8 to 10 hour charge. Its power is similar to a gas or diesel tractor, according to the owner, who says it is perfect for the needs of their small farm. Go here to see the Mother Earth story which includes two nice photos of the tractor. To watch a video of the tractor working, go here.

If any readers here know of other solar tractors that they’ve seen or read about, please add links or descriptions, in the comments below this post.

Permaculture Electric Tractors
Youtube video of Steve Heckeroth’s Solar Tractor
Youtube video of 1954 Farmall Howe Converted Electric Tractor

Agriculture News Links – November 22, 2013

● FAMILY FARMS: Today, the UN kicks off its International Year of Family Farming. (FAO)

● FARM THEFTS: Copper thefts still frustrating Northern Colorado farmers, law enforcement. By Kevin Duggan. (Coloradan)

● INNOVATION: Israeli Startup Grows Super Crops. By Elliott Gotkine & Gwen Ackerman. (Bloomberg)

● POLICY: How Industrial Agriculture Has Thwarted Factory Farm Reforms. By Christina M. Russo. (Environment360)

● ORGANIC VS CONVENTIONAL: The Myth of Organic Agriculture. By Henry I. Miller. (Project Syndicate)

● CHINA: Farmland expansion threatens Great Wall. (

Tractors are Changing Agriculture in India

India faces a challenge for mechanization of farming due to the fact that the percentage of farmers with land sizes of less than 2 hectares have tripled, and those with 2-10 hectares have increased more than 70 percent, in the past forty years. These small and marginal farms are operated by 92 million farmers, compared to only a million farmers in India who have large holdings. With India’s smallest farm numbers ever-growing, the economics of mechanization are difficult. Forty-four percent of the total operated area in India is on farms less than 2 hectares. Fifty percent of its farms are still ploughed by animals.

The chief marketer for India’s equipment maker, Mahindra & Mahindra, has written an article for The Hindu Business Line which is chock-full of interesting information and gives us pause for what we take for granted here in the U.S.

Sanjeev Goyle describes India’s rural transition due to the adoption of tractors on farms. He tells us that India accounts for one-third of global tractor production and that more than half of its domestic tractor sales are for tractors having 50HP or less.

He lists reasons why tractors can increase the productivity of farms, and are better than animal labor: two bullocks take about five days to plough one hectare, a tractor can do it in five hours; modern machinery helps keep the younger generation on the farm; and, the tractors can also be used for purposes other than in the field, for water pumps, as alternators, and for hauling.

Mahindra is responding to its nations’ smallest farmer needs by making a 15HP, fuel-efficient, lower cost tractor which it hopes is as affordable as owning a pair of bullocks. Called Mahindra Yuvraj 215, it costs about Rs 2.5 lakh, and farmers are encouraged to rent it out to help pay for it. This tractor should help meet the needs of small land holder farmers with vineyards, apple and other orchards, hillside farms, vegetable farms for working fields and transporting vegetables to market, and even for garbage collecting in narrow city lanes.

Goyle goes on to say that India’s government is helping to subsidize the mechanization of rural India and is offering the opportunity to “hire” tractors through Samriddhi centers which help to educate the farmers about the latest technologies.

Mahindra is also trying to expand its tractor sales here in the U.S. and other developing nations to take advantage of better growth opportunities. In a recent earnings report the company states that they are dealing with weak macroeconomic conditions which have affected sales.

Sources: No longer in bullock-cart age; Domestic tractor-makers roll on, have global greens in sight.

Agriculture News Links – November 20, 2013

● GLOBAL FOOD PRICES: The Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of food, feedstuffs and beverage prices will fall by 6.6% in 2014. (Economist)

● BRAZIL: Brazil declares emergency as hungry caterpillars attack crops. By Reese Ewing. (Reuters)

● DDGS: Twenty-five percent of All U.S. Distillers Grains Now Exported. By Tom Bryan. (Ethanol Producer Mag)

● CHINA: Jim Rogers: Biggest Event of Next 10-20 Years Just Happened in China. By Kevin Kingsbury. (WSJ)

● ECONOMIC: Why We Need a New Macroeconomics. By Jeffrey Sachs. (Huff-Post)

● FARMLAND: ‘Keep It Growing’ helps Minnesota farmers, communities retain farm land. By Claudia Broman. (Minnpost)