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Hemp composites as new tractor parts

The Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) in Winnipeg has completed an evaluation of a series of tractor parts based on hemp composites as an alternative to traditional glass.
The biocomposites were made from hemp and agave plants sourced from Manitoba and used to build a tractor hood, shields, fan shroud and fenders.
?We didn?t know if it would be possible yet or not, so we engaged industry to see if we could put our trial biofibre mat into a test tractor to see if it would endure the application it was meant to,? explained CIC project manager Andrea Kraj. The CIC partnered with Buhler, which manufactures Versatile farm equipment, and the Eastside Group of Companies to produce and test the components.


Kraj said the parts had performed well during the past harvest season and in testing on a ?bump track?.
?The biotractor survived the environment and the conditions of the bump track, which is great because it shows that it can succeed in its application,? she said.
?There are numerous benefits associated with bio-based composites instead of the traditional petroleum-based materials,? added Simon Potter, CIC sector manager for production innovation. ?Many of the largest agricultural equipment manufacturers globally are moving towards greater sustainability in their products and, as part of this strategy, are developing natural fibre-filled biocomposite and bioplastic advanced materials. These materials not only have reduced weight, they also assist in cost-reduction and in replacing non-renewable petroleum-based synthetic components with materials grown on the farm itself. In short, they are better for the environment and better for the rural economy.?
The project did not compare the cost of producing the tractor parts with biofibre instead of fibreglass.
?This was a prototype, so we don?t have any of that information yet, especially since the supply chain isn?t developed,? said Kraj, noting there are no private companies currently in a position to convert the raw materials into the biofibre mat that could be used by equipment manufacturers.
?What we?ve done with this project is prove the concept and the method of making biofibre parts in the manufacturing end of it. We now need to some of the pre-work in getting that material to the manufacturing stage.?