Monthly Archives: March 2014

Who will use it you say?

Anyone who does not want to be a slave to an economy dictated by the price of oil…

I know I would love to go to work and feel good at the end of the day, not drained from the noise and vibration. Not having to wear earplugs or sit inside of a soundproof cab with poor air quality. Being able to have a open cab tractor like the ones of my youth minus the noise and vibration. Now that would be awesome. Being able to smell the hay in the fields, The manure in the pasture, the sweet smell of the earth in the spring while tilling the soil to produce a crop that will feed someone or something…

I would love to charge my tractor like I charge my cell phone simply plug it in or even swap rechargeable  batteries like a flashlight. Simple easy to use not overly complicated. I want simplicity from my tools.

I do love aesthetics though and would like its design to be past, present and future rolled into one.  I want the tractor to have an enduring quality that seems timeless.

I want to be able to recycle it at the end of its components life cycle and upgrade it when when better, safer, or cleaner technology comes about without having to change the whole tractor.











Hell freezes over…

There are few things in life I was told would never happen by my father. The price of gold hitting 1500 dollars an ounce, The Canadian dollar valued greater than the American dollar, a distinguished man of color in the white house and the price of gas over a dollar a liter…Three of these are economic and the other is just plain racist.

And now my brother being as traditional as my father, talking loudly saying how electric cars will never be a part of regular lifestyle of Canadians. Has become involved through his work with developing parts of an electric car from some entrepreneurs in Quebec.Part of me is slightly envious of his involvement in the project and the other wants to scream I told you so. I however know that refraining from doing so will lead to an awakening within him of his roots (farming) and he will want his electric tractor.

I am seeing in the world around me traditionalists doing the same thing over and over again, they put a slight  tweak or change of insignificance and expect great results. Why do we do this? Is it easier to stay with tradition? or what is familiar?

I say yes from my own personal experience it is so much easier staying with what I know how to do. It seems difficult for me to deal with drastic change. So I feed my addiction with tradition, yet I am so far removed from what I grew up with it seems almost impossible to get back to where I started.



Simple kind of Man…

A song that inspires and has been part of my lifelong playlist is “Simple Man” by “Lynyrd Skynyrd” the tone and speed has always been a natural relaxant to me.
The message is clear and concise. It seems to reach me, the me that I know to be true. If you have never heard it, take a minute or two to find it and listen to the message.
I find that when I stray from where I know I should be in my life, it brings me back on track. That being said knowing where one should be and where we actually end up can be very different.
I work in an industry where you are a unit placed into the production line of producing the hydrocarbons  that our civilization deems necessary to survive and profit. But I am not a number…says unit 1722076.
For many years now, I have known that I was in the wrong place with the right person. So last year we decided to start righting my wrongs (yes she is perfect), we moved to an idyllic community of forward thinking individuals with  one foot in tradition and the other ready to try something different. We fit in here like we were born into this community. It is not a wealthy place but people do alright.
Recently there has been quite a stir in our town about the development of  shale gas reserves that have been there for millions of years. It took a very long time to create this hydrocarbon and it seems we cant get it out of the ground fast enough.
The oil company that is leading the charge for this particular resource has rolled into town like a rock star in their shiny Bus with a message of amazing wealth to follow if we let them play here. The truth is that the amount of wealth that will directly flow to the population will probably be less than 1% overall.
Before I continue with this idea, I believe I should clear the air. I work in Oil and Gas, it is what allowed me to move to this idyllic place with the loves of my life. I don’t think oil and gas is criminal from the standpoint that it was started before my time. I grew up thinking it was normal to fuel up your vehicles, farm machinery,and heavy equipment with fossil fuels. What I have a problem with is the stagnation of thinking and the laziness that seems to come from our population, my friends and family. Why is it that we can figure out ways to extract even more oil and gas from conventional and non-conventional plays, but we are still using automotive battery design from 80 years ago?
We have windmills in our backyard at home, I will be honest I don’t know their efficiency/cost.  But someone thought they could make money from them otherwise they wouldn’t be there. It seems to me that the energy required to power my electric tractor would require less energy to develop and produce this resource, than oil and gas require to produce their resources. I like the way electricity flows from one thing to another as if it were a natural way of doing things. It seems to me that we stayed on a path (oil and gas) to long and now can’t find our way back without asking for directions. My wife would say that I can be stubborn, lost and refuse to ask for direction at times. She would be right. But I do use my gps and maps now more often than not and if it gets really bad I will ask for directions.
Here lies my challenge to create, produce and offer to the public an alternative that will allow the consumer a choice of how and where they consume their energy.

People are watching…

Today there were extra messages in my inbox. They came from people who don’t necessarily look like traditional tractor buyers, but they all looked like electric tractor consumers. I try not to judge people on appearances but I am definitely guilty of it. It is what keeps me safe on the industrial work site. My ability to recognize a seasoned operator from a green hand who might cause or create incidents on the job site.

My idea today is one of ease and simplicity. How do you take an unseasoned operator of farm equipment and make them feel at home on the tractor in minutes. This is probably going to be my biggest challenge. In building peoples confidence you want to take what they might have a little bit of and build upon that shimmer till it shines. So how can the design of the operators lay out to do that? I will be stopping right here today and asking those who have experience on equipment and those who don’t to leave a comment or idea of there own or others. And lets see where this goes?

Not all engineers are created equal…

In recent months, I have come across something that makes me smile and think the world might just be alright. It is the “Global Village Construction Set”. It is basically 50 pieces of equipment that are required to build and maintain a small village. Being a heavy equipment operator and looking at this set for the first time, I was to say the least a little skeptical. But with most things I saw a possibility and a realization as well. Not everyone comes from an operating equipment background and nothing is truly perfect in design.

In my line of work I come across many different types of engineers. None of which would equal the intelligence found in the global village construction set. Even though the set is constructed in the same fashion as the technics play set of my youth. It could possibly be built by someone of little technical background following the instructions in much the same manner as one would to assemble flat pack furniture. The most ingenious part of the design was the ability to change power units or combine multiple power units into one machine. Imagine working away and a power cube breaks down in minutes a replacement comes in and the machine is back up and running. Take that same idea and now give yourself a fully electric power cube, two cubes that run on bio-fuels ( Biodiesel and Ethanol) or petrochemical fuels like gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas. The ability to use the least expensive form of energy for your piece of equipment depending on availability and cost. Now you might read this and think, gee Mike I need to have 7 different types of power cubes that will be expensive. Yes and No, I say.

Bio diesel and diesel can be run in the same engine. Ethanol, gasoline, propane and natural gas can be run in the same engine with different fuel injector programs as well as timing basically flipping a switch or selecting from a set program. And of course electric turn on and go.

I like the last option the most because of the simplicity of the energy source. It is delivered to my yard free of charge (no pun intended). I have the ability to capture it, store it and use it with out ever seeing it. I can collect it from my hydro dam, wind generator, solar panels and of course from my grid connection. When I fuel up it takes longer and the energy density is less (contains less energy per pound). But with my ability to switch power cubes in a minute or so, the negatives are negated. The positives from using electricity are torque (the ability to do work) is available from 1rpm and up in an electric motor compared to minimum 600 rpm and up in an internal combustion engine. When I fill up it is the equivalent of plugging in my cell phone, except bigger. Depending on the type of batteries used, the possibility of spilling fuel or smelling fumes would be almost nil. There are some unique challenges ahead for this project but It will definitely be my imperfect design…

Does size really matter?

While working in the prairie provinces, I have had the opportunity to see and use tractors from 40hp to 400hp and bigger. The different sizes all had there place, and required varying degrees of skill to operate. One key fact that dawned on me, was that the 40hp tractor could not do what the 400hp tractor could do and vice versa. Of course the 400hp tractor had the power to accomplish the task of the small tractor, but it’s size was to bulky or unable to go where the smaller tractor needed to go. The small tractor had the ability to go everywhere the larger tractor could go and when working the ground had the ability to do a better job (able to use the field more efficiently, the corners and soft spots). In thinking about this for a while it raised even more questions.

Could ten tractors at 40hp do the same work as one 400hp tractor, given that the ten operators would use the field surface more efficiently than the larger tractor? Theory says yes. Not only the same, but better because the field surface was used more efficiently. So could there also be a synergistic gain apart from the greater crop field yield, such as time? I say yes as well.

So to compete with my neighbor with the 400hp tractor, I should buy one 400hp tractor as well…Or should I buy/hire ten 40 hp tractors  and employ nine other people in my community to help me with tilling,seeding and harvest of my fields which will lead to higher yields with the smaller equipment given there ability to use the field more efficiently. Hmmn no one is doing this and it begs the question why not?

Is it at all possible that the 9 extra 40 hp tractors would be harder to maintain and keep track of? Are there enough people in my community to help with the work? Do they have the skill to operate the equipment? Answers are yes, maybe and no.

So what were to happen if the tractors were easier to operate than the conventional diesel 40 hp tractor? Such as maybe an electric tractor…

Things I never imagined I would be doing.

So today I have created my first blog, definitely not a normal part of my day but maybe in time will become as normal as waking up in the morning. I find it extremely weird to post on a page where people I don’t know will be judging and reading what I have to say. Hopefully there are others with like ideas to my own and who would like to instigate a change for better.