This is Nuts! Caterpillar Debuts Electrical Harvesting
A partnership between Flory Industries and Caterpillar has led to the launch of a lithium-ion battery-driven electric powertrain for nut harvesting.
As an engineer who grew up on a farm, I find automated agricultural equipment to be some of the most fascinating applications of electrical technology. Balancing heavy-duty power demands with often remote and harsh locations provides a critical proving ground for modern electrification technology.
Harvester. Image used courtesy of Caterpillar
This proof of electrification advancement appears in a recent partnership between powertrain equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, U.S.-based Flory Industries, and Cat dealer Holt of California.
Field Testing Is Going Totally Nuts
Holt Industries’ equipment is a towable elevator that lifts the product from the harvester to the storage truck. The model is in the final prototyping stage, with further field testing scheduled in the second quarter of 2024 when crops are ready to use the device in the real world.
The prototype nut harvesting elevator from Flory Industries, in partnership with Caterpillar and Holt of CA. Image used courtesy of Caterpillar
Upon successful completion and optimization of the prototype, shipping and final implementation by customers are projected by the 2026 harvest season. With rapid advancements in ag technology, consumers like you and me can be hoping and praline for more effective and efficient solutions to bring food from the farms to our tables.
Walnut Just Use Diesel?
Global progress toward reduced tailpipe emissions is certainly a well-understood target these days, but electrification can be particularly appealing in agriculture for a couple reasons.
Chemicals used near food products can lead to contamination and health hazards. Emission fumes and possible liquid fuel spills can present hazards to people and crops, and moving to electric powertrains removes the fuels from the field.
Electrical control systems can monitor battery performance for system health in ways that are difficult for internal combustion sources. Closely monitoring temperature, voltage level, and cell balancing in the battery unit can identify and predict decreases in performance. In contrast, a diesel engine may not show failure symptoms until a more catastrophic end of life. This is unacceptable for the demands of a peak harvest season in agricultural settings.
A Quick Pecan Under the Hood
Traditionally, harvesting elevators this size use large diesel generators to produce the electricity needed for conveyor motion. The lithium-ion solution in Flory Industries’ prototype will replace a 74 HP generator that previously provided equivalent output power for the large motors.
Produced by Caterpillar, the modular Li-ion battery produces 600 volts. Image used courtesy of Caterpillar
The battery pack from Caterpillar features a modular design and a 600-volt operating output. Obviously, as with all electrification projects, hurdles include the charge time, the full-output run time, and the convenience of charging or replacing the battery pack.
Agriculture applications, in particular, are less suited for regular and rapid recharging, as they must spend time in remote locations, and the harvesting season demands long working hours and ultra-high reliability. It must remain in serviceable condition for the rest of the year if unused.
So the next time we cashew indulging in some snacks from your local supermarket, consider the tech and innovations—like the electrification of nut harvesting from Flory, Caterpillar, and Holt—taking steps to feed the world.