The old diesel tractor soon to be stored in the barn? A young market gardener from Auvergne, also an engineer in mechatronics, has invented a versatile electric machine that respects the soil, which is operated using a simple control lever. Sleek design, mechanically welded sheet metal frame, 360 degree swivel seat for driving in both directions, roll bar … Alpo is nothing like its thermal equivalent. The six-button joystick makes it easy to operate with one hand, while two lithium batteries provide an average of eight hours of battery life, for an hour and a half of charging time.
“With its 25 horsepower, we carry out the same cultivation operations as with a 40 horsepower thermal tractor. We have the right agronomic power necessary to sow, weed, harvest, handle … so many operations that do not require a lot of ‘energy “, assures Alexandre Prévault, who co-founded his company” Sabi Agri “with Laure Osmani, his wife, a former lawyer.
For him, power under the hood is not always a guarantee of efficiency in agriculture. And the featherweight of his invention – 450 kilos against 1.5 tons for a conventional tractor – makes it a tool for agro-ecology, promoting good soil health. “With oil, we created powerful tractors going deep into the ground. However, the more we compact it, the more we suffocate and the more the microfauna and microflora disappear, which is a source of infertility. a vicious circle ”, explains this young man of 30 years.
After studying at the French Institute of Advanced Mechanics (IMFA) in Clermont-Ferrand, today SIGMA-Clermont, this son of Auvergne peasants “rolled his bump” as an agricultural technician in France and Sweden in breeding, arboriculture and market gardening. Before settling down as a farmer in the Limagne plain.
And it is in his fields rather than in a design office that this engineer imagines, in 2016, the first shots of his agricultural UFO. “Mechanics must be at the service of man”, likes to repeat this born handyman, who learned programming on his own as a teenager. From then on, this “Géo Trouvetou” conceived his invention as “a Swiss army knife”, allowing to hitch the usual agricultural equipment to the front as to the rear of the tractor. Saving time – you usually have to go back to the hangar to change the machines – but also comfort and energy. Some operations such as planting and hoeing no longer necessarily require two people.
At a time when robotics is more and more inviting in the agricultural world, this tool is “a link between the traditional tractor and pure robotics. Silent, it provides answers in terms of noise but also of pollution and potential automation “, judge Roland Lenain, of the National Institute for Research in Science and Technology for the Environment and Agriculture (IRSTEA).
The control, which is now manual, will soon be able to be automated. From there to seeing this robot working in the fields in total autonomy, there is only one step: “it is at this stage a robot + without a brain +. Tomorrow, the orders can be given by voice command, via a navigation algorithm. A whole bunch of options will be possible. One can imagine him returning to the hangar all alone, once his task is finished, “assures the inventor who has already received several awards. “In the glyphosate debate, alternatives must be found. This means more mechanical work in the fields with more frequent passages of harrows, the repeated use of bio-control products. Once autonomous, this type of machine will be able to really avoid hardship and facilitate the work of the farmer, “says Roland Lenain.
For now, the range is available in two or four wheel drive. Another model, called “straddle”, is designed for viticulture. The first machines will be delivered in the coming months.