Grant Coombes is embracing new innovative technologies to improve the sustainability of his six farms. Learn how Grant is using his fleet of Ubco 2×2’s to help in this agriculture case study.
Farming for the Future
Grant has been farming for 25 years. Since progressing through the share milking system with 130 cows, to farm ownership, he’s now farming 6 farms through a combination of ownership and lease, and employs 13 people. Based in the Waikato, there is never a quiet moment for Grant and his wife Kyly, who owns and runs workplace drug and alcohol and house meth testing company Resultz Group NZ, and their 4 children – especially as Grant is also a Director at Directors-Inc.
“Along my journey of building our farming business my training was in grass and cows, this soon turned to HR and Business then naturally to Governance. This lead me to a small group of Waikato business people identifying a need for an organisation that offers governance solutions for both organisations and directors. Directors Inc is a governance solutions organisation connecting highly trained directors with companies requiring governance assistance from first board creation to board review.”
With this wealth of knowledge behind him, Grant decided to make some changes and embrace an ‘electric’ approach to farming by replacing his fleet of traditional farm bikes with Ubco 2×2’s. For him, the bikes were part of a plan to improve sustainability both on his farm, and the wider dairy industry.
“Every innovative solution we implement on our farms, which can reduce our environmental footprint and improve sustainability gives us, and our dairy industry a competitive edge, and helps us work towards a greener future – and the Ubco bike is part of that”
Having always been passionate about sustainability and health and safety, replacing his fleet of farm bikes with a more sustainable option was something he had considered for a while.
“We were running a fleet of quads and conventional 2-wheel farm bikes, but had been looking at phasing out the quads for a while due to their cost and perceived H&S issue. Plus, there was the hassle of having fuel and oil stored on the farm and the issues associated with that. I initially heard about Ubco at Fieldays 2015, although I originally dismissed them as an option as I simply felt that the savings in fuel cost over a conventional 2 wheeler wasn’t worth switching. However, the seed was planted, and after going for a test ride, looking at the lifetime costs of the Ubco versus the current fleet we had and doing the math it was a no brainer.”
“The Ubco’s 2-wheel drive and lightweight frame appealed to me as a replacement option for the 4×4 quads and traditional 2-wheelers, as we were restricted to where we could get in the wet conditions. Now we’re certainly getting over terrain that we previously couldn’t. The safety benefits of the 2×2’s, such as the low centre of gravity, also appealed to me. There is a perception that quads are a health and safety issue, however, if they’re used appropriately with the correct training they aren’t. The problem is that doesn’t always happen. Now our H&S discussions and training regarding operating the Ubco are 100 times easier.”
In an average day, Grant’s Ubco 2×2’s are used to shift mobs, monitor stock and pasture and get the cows and calves in – and with a running cost of only 88c per 100km, it makes for efficient work.
“The Ubco’s are certainly cheap to run compared to other traditional farm bikes. You can’t ignore the savings when it only costs 88c to charge, and we’re only charging the bikes every 3-4 days.”
Making a Difference
The Ubco’s aren’t the only initiatives Grant is employing in his efforts to be more sustainable.
“We always look for new ways to improve sustainability on our farms. Recently we have invested in new effluent storage facilities, fenced our waterways and initiated our riparian planting programme. There is a bunch of exciting science and technology ventures out there which can all help to advance our sustainability efforts – one of which is the Ubco.”
However, as Grant explains, it’s not just him taking steps to be more sustainable.
“A strong agriculture sector has always been important to the survival of our rural communities. A sustainable agriculture sector is one that is sustainable both environmentally and economically, and thankfully NZ farmers are great at adapting to change and meeting challenges head on, and at finding or introducing solutions to issues.”
“All farmers I know are focused on operating their farms in a sustainable manner and looking for new ways of reducing their environmental footprint and work more efficiently. Farmers are aware we need to continue to drive science and technology to present opportunities to improve sustainability and in turn, protect our social license to operate. They recognise that we are living in a world where we can’t afford to waste resources, and they continue to look for options to improve the sustainability of their farms and be efficient in their use.”
As well as being environmentally and economically smarter, the Ubco 2×2 is a game changer for safety. Weighing in at only 58kg, including the state of the art lithium-ion battery, and with a low centre of gravity, there is a reduced risk factor. But for Grant, it all comes down to education.
“Education is key when it comes to on-farm safety. It’s all about understanding the piece of equipment you’re using – whether that’s a quad, a traditional 2-wheeler or an Ubco. The benefit of the Ubco is that the training required is much less than traditional bikes. They’re just so simple and easy to use.
A Brighter Future
“It’s about using innovations, such as the Ubco 2×2, to make the future a brighter place for farming. Environmentally we aren’t in the same place we were 20 years ago, there are bigger pressures on the industry to reduce their footprints, and thankfully, technology is keeping up.”
“Saving costs, resources and potentially lives is not something you can turn a blind eye to. When you compare the benefits to the cost, you’re coming out on top with the Ubco.”
Grant and his farm workers use the Ubco 2×2’s to shifts mobs, monitor stock and pasture, and to help bring the cattle in.
Grant’s farm worker, Jayson, bringing in the last of the herd for milking.