A group of researchers from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) led by Dr. Mohd Azwan Mohd Bakri has invented a three-wheeled utility farm vehicle equipped with a hybrid power electric sprayer system for maintenance of oil palm plantations and transportation of palm fruits in plantations.
Dr Mohd Azwan said, the three-wheeled utility farm vehicle built with a single chassis is lightweight and can be used for various activities in the plantations such as spraying pesticides using an electric pump. This vehicle can also be used for field applications by simply changing the rear platform. This simple innovation can increase the productivity of workers and smallholders of the country's oil palm industry.
In addition, other innovations are the use of hybrid generator power systems, namely solar panels and engine chargers with deep discharge batteries. This system will enable a continuous supply of energy for the application of electric pesticide sprayer installed on vehicles.
According to Dr Mohd Azwan, MPOB and a local Bumiputera company, Fulle Technik Sdn Bhd have signed an agreement for the transfer of the technology. Fulle Technik has embarked on an innovation effort to turn the results of this study into commercial products. This technological innovation is expected to be in the local market in the near future.
“This simple utility vehicle produced at an affordable price can be used in various types of plantation and agricultural activities. Meanwhile, hybrid electric generators are convenient to consumers as they can use electrical equipment in the plantations such as pumps, sprayers, sensors, and many more and at the same time they can take advantage of the industrial revolution 4.0 (IR 4.0) technology.
According to him, the function of the three-wheeled utility vehicle is similar to that of other motor vehicles in the market and it is powered by diesel or petrol engines. Additional power for farm equipment such as electric sprayers is generated from hybrid power systems; solar and engine chargers. This hybrid power system is controlled by user-defined electronic equipment via a switch placed in front of the cabin.
“This machine is developed through engineering research methods where the specifications are studied to ensure it is suitable for the target market. Therefore, production costs can be reduced,” said Dr Mohd Azwan.
Research for this innovation began in 2016 and it was introduced in 2019. Preliminary studies were funded by MPOB and pre-commercialisation efforts were funded by government agencies which included the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives and the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation. Fulle Technik was appointed as the prototype developer while FGV Sdn Bhd was one of the plantation companies in the initial prototype testing.
This innovation differs from the three-wheeled utility machinery currently in the market built for rugged plantation activities such as for the transportation of fresh fruit bunches up to one tonne.
The three-wheeled utility vehicle places more emphasis on aspects of support activities in the plantations such as herbicide spraying. Smallholders do not need expensive and too heavy utility machineries to support their plantation activities and other agricultural activities due to their small farm size.
“This innovation invented by MPOB is expected to provide more benefits to smallholders, sustainable oil palm growers cooperatives as well as oil palm plantation companies. The selling price which is below RM15,000, based on the type of accessories requested, is the lowest in the local market for agricultural and plantation utility machinery. Additions such as hybrid generator power for plantation equipment can decrease the use of oil or fossil energy and at the same time reduce environmental pollution in agricultural activities," added Dr. Mohd Azwan.