Simon Turnbull starts pruning high up in the avocado tree and rapidly moves down and from side to side, through the canopy, cutting off limbs.
The ATP gives Simon Turnbull safe and ready access to the avocado trees he’s pruning.
He’s using a hydraulic pole saw and working from the safety of the cage of an All Terrain Platform, dropping prunings well away from himself and the vehicle.
“When I first came into the avocado industry from teaching two-and-a-half years ago, I operated a three-wheel conventional platform but didn’t feel safe,” says Simon.
“It took me about half a day to learn to drive this AT – now I’m happy working from it to prune or pick avocados.”
Simon and his father Sid own one of three ATP machines in Katikati, designed and manufactured by the local company Mural Town Engineering.
And like other ‘converts’ to the platforms, he wouldn’t consider using anything else. The other ATPs are owned by orchard contractors.
“It’s a significant investment but it is saving us money because we can prune and pick our own trees. I am able to position the ATP and pick fruit from four trees without moving it,” says Simon.
That’s because the ATP has a continuous 360 degree slew and an articulated boom, which can reach to nine metres. The articulation means the cage with its operator can extend right into a canopy, without the machine having to change position.
While the Woodland Rd orchard Simon is pruning has a relatively flat contour, it’s on steep ground the ATP comes into its own. Mural Town Engineering owner, and designer of the ATP, Don Rust worked closely with those in the industry when designing and building the ATP.
Operating safely on uneven and steep ground was a prime requirement, which Don has met by designing a machine which can operate safely on up to 25 degrees of slope.
Stability and manoeuvrability is enhanced by its dual oscillating axles, which enable the vehicle to be driven over obstacles while reducing the ‘bump’ effect by up to 80 per cent.
“Another advantage is the massive work envelope, which means prunings are never dropped onto the machine itself, avoiding damage and also not restricting its ability to be re-positioned,” says Don.
The ATP was launched three years ago and orders grew so quickly, Mural Town Engineering has now out-sourced much of the manufacturing to keep up with demand.
The vehicles are in demand from the Australian avocado industry; and Don has made minor adjustments to offer variable width so they can be driven into containers for shipment.
The ATP is also finding favour in the construction industry, providing safe work platforms on building sites, or for water blasting tall buildings or cleaning windows.
“They are also being used by arborists, because they can access trees without having to climb them,” says Don.
Mural Town Engineering is about to release a smaller Lite series, petrol version of the diesel-powered ATP Super model.