Power Equipment Australasia

The machine deposits chewed vegetation as it goes, creating a green bed of mulch that acts as a weed suppressant while reducing the risk of bushfire. Wes’ cutting and mulching regime has additional environmental benefits: whereas bulldozer clearing removes pest plants ‘roots and all’, potentially leaving soils vulnerable to erosion and subsequent weed revival, a machine like the LV600 allows soils to retain their full profile intact – an important factor on steep ground that might be subject to heavy weathering. Similarly, land clearing using harsh weed killing chemicals alone can take repeated applications to succeed, and the dead vegetation is still there as a fire trap. “But with our system, the impenetrable heavy vegetation is removed, and all the property owner needs to do after we’ve gone is use a light herbicide to make sure weeds don’t come back,” he says. The array of variables relating to each task makes cost/job duration estimates difficult, “but my sales pitch is: If you’re not happy with me after the first hour, send me home and it’s free of charge. I’ve operated four years now, but more often than not people are so happy with the results they ask me to stay the whole day!” CARING FOR MACHINERY Operating in steep and harsh terrain can be tough on equipment, but Wes says he has had surprisingly few problems – he still uses his original machines with fewmechanical modifications and performs his own maintenance. Aside from having to replace a water pump bearing and give it an adjustable belt, Wes says he has only had to carry out routine maintenance tasks. Sixty reversible flail blades ($10 each) are replaced every 50–60 hours following general use, though a set can last 80-100 hours in softer settings. “I do everything myself like the blades, regular oil changes, regular observation of hydraulic oil levels, and greasing everything you can possibly get grease into,” he says. “And the only modifications I’ve made have been protection bars; the four-piece radiator at the back, which is probably worth $7-10,000, was protected by a piece of plastic,” he explains, “so I’ve put a metal bar over it. Also, the onboard digital dashboard was exposed and quite vulnerable to spikes of timber, so I have put a polycarbonate box over that.” BUSINESS GROWTH After four years of operation, Wes says both government and private customers are becoming increasingly aware of the business and its unique capabilities. Government departments appreciate the enhanced safety of the remote-controlled machinery, while landowners are always excited to see what lies beneath their newly cleared land. “We even discovered a dam once that the property owner didn’t know they had!” Wes says. “You never know what you’ll find.” OPERATOR PROFILE The operator walks behind the mower with a remote control. Steep roadside verges like this would be impossible to cut with an ordinary ride-on mower. 14 | POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA | MARCH - APRIL 2022