Outdoor Power Equipment for Energy Efficient Operations
Taylors Wines have been using power equipment, assisted by traditional methods of maintenance since their establishment in 1969. Viticulturist Colin Hinze and maintenance manager Stephen Kershaw speak with Lauren Butler about Taylors Wines’ equipment, training and conscientious approach towards energy efficiency.
Taylors Wines, established in 1969, is a family owned business with a vineyard situated in the Clare Valley, South Australia. It has seen three generations of management within the Taylor family and has a long history with outdoor power equipment.
While operations primarily revolve around the vineyard, Taylors Wines Viticulturist Colin Hinze said that in addition to this there are grounds and gardens around the winery complex as well as some unplanted land run as broad acre farming.
“Currently we’re operating 490 hectares, plus up to another 100 hectares of broad acre farming,” Mr Hinze said.
In order for the team to focus on the vineyards, large scale sprayers, seeders and harvesters are used by farming contractors to maintain broad acre farming land, and the winery employs a gardener to run smaller operations on site. While smaller apparatus are used for gardening maintenance, Mr Hinze said that this is not the winery’s main line of equipment.
“We’ve got a couple of chainsaws and pumps and things like that, but our main equipment is the tractor fleet and the implements they pull. They’re our key pieces of equipment,” Mr Hinze said.
According to Mr Hinze, vineyard equipment is often used in conjunction with the tractor fleet to assist operations throughout the year.
“Going through the seasons, a lot of our operations are tractor based and so most of the year we’re doing tractor operations of some sort,” Mr Hinze said.
“We start in winter time, which is our pruning season. We do a mechanical pre-prune of the vineyards where we have a pruner mounted on a tractor which removes a lot of the bulk growth from the previous growing season. That way, when we come through to do our hand pruning, it’s a quicker and safer operation.”
From winter into spring, herbicide spraying controls weeds.
“Due to our scale, we do it with a tractor mounted spray output and tow 2,000 litres of spray mixture with us at a time. As we move into spring and the vines start to grow, we are doing a foliage spraying so we’re pretty much putting protective spray on the vineyard in a two weekly rotation to prevent potential fungal disease.”
All operations lead through to summer and autumn, which is harvest season and all picking is achieved with mechanical harvesters.
“Our tractor fleet is a mixture of John Deere and Kubota. We run an operating lease on most of our equipment so we’re doing a continual renewal, typically two tractors at a time out of the eight tractors we lease,” Mr Hinze said.
Maintenance professionals at Taylors Wines keep an open mind when it comes to considering brands and models of equipment. Their tractor selection is based on model availability, pricing structures and the suitability of the models available.
“For the equipment we tow, with the harvesters, we have two different brands of our foliage spraying equipment. One type is from Croplands called the Croplands Quantum Mist’ which is a popular vineyard sprayer. Our newest purchase, three years ago, is called an FMR R-Series which is a recycling sprayer,” Mr Hinze said.
Alongside its fleet of tractors, Taylors Wines operates a fleet of utility vehicles. Running a combination of John Deer and Kubota side-by-side vehicles, the fleet includes the John Deere Gators and the Kubota RTVS. A mixture of 400cc petrol runabouts and 900 diesel-powered workhorses are used a lot for the people involved in their irrigation process.
“There’s a lot involved in switching valves, checking the system and doing running repairs so they’re very handy for those kinds of jobs, as well as our sampling monitoring program in the field. They’re a useful part of our power equipment fleet,” Mr Hinze said.
When it comes to summer and autumn, some of the most valuable pieces of equipment are the harvesters.
“In terms of the harvesters we use, we have two machine harvesters that are tow behinds, so they’re not self-propelled; they’re towed by a pilot tractor. They’re both Gregoire. We’re always looking at new technology and new possibilities from a brand availability point of view,” Mr Hinze said.
In terms of other equipment used in winemaking, maintenance manager Stephen Kershaw reiterated that open-mindedness is beneficial.
“We always try new things. If there’s something new on the market we’ll give it a go. We’re invested quite heavily in the crossflow filtration system for the winery which filters the wine. At the moment we use earth as a filter which is quite old technology, so now the winemakers have invested in this new system which is a lot more energy efficient and environmentally friendly,” Mr Kershaw said.
Taylors Wines’ focus is to have minimal impact and build up soil carbon levels for better water retention and soil health.
“We’re certainly conscious of our fuel and energy consumption so we’re always keeping an eye on our fuel use and looking for more efficient ways of doing things. That, for example, might mean using a sprayer which can spray two rows at a time instead of a single row sprayer. That reduces your number of passes in the vineyard. We also look at our water use, having effective irrigation and yield response. All of those things add up to making sure this vineyard and this company continues for even more generations,” Mr Hinze said.
In order to maintain efficiency, Mr Kershaw explained that the winery conducts power monitoring regularly, and that when obtaining equipment, energy ratings are considered.
“We have a portable power monitor that we use where we can actually see what asset is using what amount of energy, and from that we can tell how much energy is being used per second or hour and what it’s costing the business,” Mr Kershaw said.
“The power is monitored through the transformers, and we use energy efficiency ratings. We’re always looking to improve.”
Another way the winery has saved on energy is with the reintroduction of sheep in the vineyard in 2009 to assist in the operations of power equipment.
“There’s a small window where the vines are dormant where we can graze the grasslands of the vineyard. The sheep grazing means there’s less reliance on weed control. What it probably means is that there’s one less pass involved in slashing grass for example, maybe one and a half depending on the season,” Mr Hinze said.
While sheep provide good natural fertiliser and reduce the requirement of herbicides in winter, operations at the winery would not be possible without the use of its power equipment fleet.
TRAINING AND SAFETY
With such a large fleet to operate, staff training is vital to a smooth operation as well as safety at Taylors Wines.
Undertaking hazard risk assessments for all powered equipment, the winery also conduct hazardous manual task risk assessments to identify any issues related to ergonomics or physical labour. This allows them to develop standard operating procedures that are then used to train new operators.
“For any new equipment introduced to the site, we undertake training from the manufacturer or from the supplier and then we do in-house training once we have experienced operators,” Mr Hinze said.
Training in preventative maintenance of equipment is also important for Taylors Wines.
“Whatever equipment we bring on, we learn how to do preventative maintenance and service basic equipment,” Mr Kershaw said.
When it comes to operational safety, the primary consideration of the company is for its employees.
“We make sure we use closed cabin vehicles for our tractors at least, for a number of reasons. One is noise, but when we’re spraying we’ve got to make sure we’ve got chemical filters on the air conditioners from an OHS point of view. We have also undertaken noise studies from our operator’s point of view to make sure we’re not exceeding our working limits for noise,” Mr Hinze said.
The winery is always looking to make sure it minimises risk and ensures all staff are up to speed. By encouraging maintenance professionals to be multiskilled and knowledgeable about all equipment, operations are also more efficient.
“We generally share the workload and encourage multiskilling so that we’re not reliant on any one person in particular. For a season, there might be a small group of people who undertake a particular task but we look to rotate that the next season.”
As well as training existing staff, Taylors Wines also assists those with an interest in entering the industry. According to Mr Kershaw, the winery accommodates apprentices who are studying at TAFE.
“We have just had a senior apprentice come out of his time this year. We’ve also got a young trade assistant who we’ve taken on through TAFE with a view to possibly take him on as an apprentice as well. We send them to TAFE to study and they do hands on work there, and then any projects and experience they need, we try to provide that here on site,” Mr Kershaw said.
To find out more about Taylors Wines, visit: http://www.taylorswines.com.au/