Special feature: Element Landworks

By: The Editor, Photography by: Supplied

Deals on Wheels caught up with Bevan Harper of Element Landworks to find out more about his FAE PrimeTech PT-300 tracked mulcher

The FAE PrimeTech PT-300 is made in Italy

It’s great to see different types of machinery turn up in the pages of Deals on Wheels occasionally, and I knew we’d found something interesting after speaking to long-time acquaintance Bevan Harper a few weeks back.

You see, along with his wife Alisha, they hadn’t long taken possession of an FAE PrimeTech PT-300 tracked-carrier mulcher and were rapidly getting familiar with it on job sites around the North Island.

PrimeTech background

Bevan, Alisha, and family

The PrimeTech brand is probably unfamiliar to many (unless you’re a hardcore machine geek), but behind the American-sounding name is Italian manufacturer FAE, who manufactures a lot of the intensive-use attachments that gets fitted to a whole range of machinery around the globe.

One issue FAE had apparently was that it was sometimes difficult to marry-up flow pressures when fitting their equipment to different brands and a decision was made to produce in-house purpose-built tracked units (PrimeTech) that would work as the designers originally intended. From that came three models: PT-175, PT-300, and PT-475.

Distributor background

The PrimeTech machine Bevan purchased brand is distributed in New Zealand by Active VMA. Established in 1997 and based in Rotorua, the company is no small hitter. With more than 60 staff, the business has extensive experience in re-engineering equipment for New Zealand conditions and supplying solutions in the transportation, rural, roading, and infrastructure industries. Additionally, along with FAE products, Active VMA also represents Simex and M3 utilities, so Bevan appears to be in good hands when any support or back-up is required.

Units working in New Zealand

The machine weighs 13,240kg

If you’ve happened to see a PrimeTech tracked mulcher working around the country, then consider yourself lucky, as, at last count, there were only three units in New Zealand, according to Bevan.

The PrimeTech PT-300 they purchased had just over 200 hours on the clock when they collected from the previous owner, and although based in Whangarei, Bevan can operate the machine anywhere in the North Island or beyond if required.

"One of the reasons I purchased the PT-300 was that it isn’t classed as an oversized load (13,240kg), so a pilot vehicle isn’t required, and my transportation costs are lower. At the moment, I’m unsure where the other two PrimeTech machines are located but intend to keep to areas that don’t encroach on their patches," says Bevan.

The Harper connection

I first met Bevan through his dad Grant Harper, who’s a long-established Whangarei-based contractor and we featured his business Act Services (DOW 256) in 2015. At that stage, when we caught up with Grant, Bevan and Alisha were two years into their own business Element Landworks, originally focusing on earthmoving using skid steer equipment.

It wasn’t long, however, before mulching work started to dominate the order book. "We started with a mulcher for the skid steer and a tractor with mulcher (both still in use). With these, we focussed on horticultural maintenance, along with shelterbelt trimming clean-up, and land clearing," Bevan says.

With the path laid out in front of them, they decided to find a machine suited to the workload, eventually leading to the purchase of the PrimeTech PT-300. "It’s worked out well; I like mulching work and earthmoving, as you get to see great parts of the country and meet some good people along the way," Bevan says.

On the day I speak to Bevan, he’s not long back from Wairarapa and is just about to head into the backblocks of Helena Bay in Northland. "I’ve added a couple of hundred hours to the clock since buying it and so far, am more than happy with how the machine is going," he says.

The business end

Bolt-on counter blades for quick changes

Other than the heavy-duty mulching head efficiently doing the business, Bevan points out that one of the advantages the PT-300 brings to land clearing work is the hydraulically operated push-frame at the front of the PT300’s mulcher.

The push-frame on the mulcher can also be used as a rake

This cleverly designed unit is made to push against trees and scrub laying them down in front of the mulching head. It can also be used for dragging or raking (ideal for tree root balls) and has adjustable depth skids to ensure a set working depth.

The 2300mm mulcher itself gets its power from a transmission delivering 330 litres per minute of oil flow and has bolt-on counter blades for quick swap-outs and reduced maintenance costs. Should Bevan choose to get into work other than mulching in the future, PrimeTech can supply a subsoiler, stump cutter, rock crusher or asphalt grinder, for his PT300.

Power and tracks

To get all that power to the ground takes some decent firepower, and for this, PrimeTech uses the Caterpillar C7 Acert 7l engine producing 275hp (205kW), sitting atop a Berco D4 oscillating undercarriage. The track gear consists of deep single-cleated 660mm grousers to allow for maximum traction on the generally hilly terrain Bevan frequently works.

Keeping it cool

A sucker fan helps keep the engine enclosure dust-free

With all the vegetation dust flying around, particular attention has been paid to the cooling system with an oversized radiator that provides enough capacity for all the liquids, including hydraulic oil. Coarse fins help prevent the radiator from clogging and allow easier cleaning.

Cool air is pushed around by a proportional and reversible fan that automatically and hydraulically adjusts its pitch in accordance with the amount of power being used, allowing more economic fuel consumption. An internal sucker fan also cuts in and out as required to help keep dust out of the engine enclosure.

Inside the cab

A 15mm windscreen helps protect the operator

When in work mode, Bevan is protected by a purpose-built ROPS/FOPS cab and a 15mm windscreen is designed to prevent any errant projectile from finding its way inside. Rear-viewing is assisted by large exterior mirrors and a rear-mounted camera.

Sound deadening materials have been integrated into the cab design to keep acoustic levels so low that Bevan can hold a normal hands-free conversation on his cell phone while the PT300 is in working mode. "It can get pretty noisy outside the machine, especially when the dust extraction unit cranks up, but inside the cab, you’d hardly notice anything," says Bevan.

The verdict

"While it is early days yet, I’m finding it’s meeting expectations and will help us complete larger jobs in a fraction of the time than we could have done previously. The PT-300 is safe to operate and powerful enough to tackle work that’s outside the scope of a lot of other contractors, but the machine is also small enough to transport economically," Bevan says.

Ray Copland, Active VMA product manager adds, "From our end, Bevan has a high-performance machine from a manufacturer who has a high attention to detail.

"He has a purpose-built carrier that’s designed specifically for intensive work, and we’re confident the machine will be a good asset to grow his business."

For more information contact, elementlandworks@outlook.com or visit activevma.co.nz.

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