Small-scale organic farming conjures bucolic images of days spent under blue skies doing honest work and living close to the land.

All that, says Uxbridge farmer Tony Neale, is true.

But it’s hard to enjoy nature when you’re riding on the back of a clunky diesel tractor whose engine can be deafening and exhaust can be noxious.

“It’s just as loud as you’d think,” Neale said. “You can’t hear anything. You have to wear ear plugs. And even then you’re still breathing diesel fumes all day.”

Surely, Neale thought, in the 21st century there’s got to be a better way. If there are electric cars on our streets, someone must be making electric tractors for our fields.

Young male engineer with solar panels in background

After a bit of internet searching, Neale was able to find examples of farmers who had stripped down old tractors, added electric motors and batteries.

But one engineer in California had taken his tinkering to the next level and produced the world’s first purpose-built electric tractor prototype — and Neale knew instantly he wanted one.

After making contact with Steve Heckeroth, who received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to commercialize the production of electric tractors, Neale flew down to help assemble one of the 10 Solectrac prototypes produced in 2018.

The tractor went through a month of rigorous field testing before being shipped to Ontario in August, giving Neale enough time to set the second part of his plan into motion.

Read more: The Star