23 November, 2010

Otto's Frost Fighting Machine

I had noticed the rather strange contraption in the field just along the road.  That place belongs to Otto, in his middle eighties, and still planting walnut trees and developing ideas.  An amazing man.  But what was that thing in his walnut plantation.  ?? 

I had not bumped into Otto for some time but then a small article appeared in our excellent regional newspaper, the Otago Daily Times.  Mystery solved.

"........................Walnut and almond grower Otto Muller is once again putting his brain to work in the fight against frost damage to vulnerable crops.  Hailing from Switzerland, Mr Muller introduced the method of using water to protect his and many other growers' crops in Central Otago about four decades ago.

Now, he is using water in a different way on his Pearson Rd property by combining it with hot air and high-powered fans.  Mr Muller has designed and built a contraption which disperses warm air over his nut trees, although unlike traditional heat-based frost-protection methods, the warm air stays low around trees instead of immediately rising into the atmosphere.

By shooting water into a furnace burning wood and other vegetable matter, Mr Muller is able to combine moisture with hot air, making it heavier than cold air.  The warm, humid air is then sucked into a giant tractor-powered fan connected to the furnace, and blown out over crops.  Mr Muller said a rack in the furnace meant water did not extinguish the burning wood below.

"At this stage it's just a set-up to calibrate the three factors of air, moisture and heat. Once I have the combination right, I will use pipes and an engine on the device so it can be placed in the middle of a paddock and disperse the moist, warm air through a rotating pipe across the entire area," he said.

Eventually the warmth of the air would fade, but if applied to trees every few minutes, it would be enough to prevent frost damage, he said.

The benefits of his latest idea include the abundance of wood and other vegetable matter on rural properties - which is normally burned anyway - and the fact potentially polluting fuel particles settle to the ground when moisture is applied to emissions.................."

Ah.   So he has to hitch it up to his Tractor to make it go.  


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