June 07. 2012 9:00AM

MSOE students install new electric motor on Fondy Food Center tractor

  
Milwaukee School of Engineering students recently designed and installed a new electric motor on the Fondy Food Center’s 1950’s era Allis Chalmers G tractor. The conversion project was funded by Brady Corporation Foundation.

"The mission of the Brady Corp. Foundation is to protect our future through partnerships that build strong and sustainable communities where we live and work - and this project is a great example of our mission in action,” said Steve Hasbrook, Brady’s director of sustainability. “It was an excellent opportunity to introduce and educate engineering students on real-life applications that minimize air and noise pollution, support local economies, and ensure the long-term availability of high-quality, locally grown food to residents on Milwaukee’s north side, many of whom do not have regular access to affordable, fresh, locally grown food.”
The tractor, which is operated by farmers participating in the Center’s Fondy Farm Project in Port Washington, had a non-functioning gasoline engine.  The converted motor is powered by a 48-volt battery and is quieter and more fuel efficient than the previous gas engine.
The Fondy Food Center will host a dedication ceremony this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Fondy’s Port Washington Farm, County Road P in Port Washington.
“The students working on this conversion gained real-life insight into applications for electrical and mechanical engineering,” said Dr. David Howell, associate professor in MSOE’s general studies department and the Pieper Family Endowed Chair for servant leadership at MSOE. “This project also presents a potential business opportunity as skyrocketing demand for local, sustainably grown food is calling more people to farm on a small scale.”
According to Howell, these farmers will need to innovate with machinery like this tractor in order to thrive.
“The service component is also particularly meaningful for our students. Many of the farmers participating in the Fondy Farm Project are immigrant and minority farmers who have faced considerable language and cultural obstacles in achieving their dreams,” Howell added. “By giving these farmers a high-functioning tractor, our students help those farmers succeed.  This in turn increases the availability of locally grown food to families living on Milwaukee’s North Side.” 
The new tractor should be more reliable for farmers.
“An electric motor not only will save us significant fuel costs but it will also allow our farmers to control speed more precisely – vital when weeding or planting small-seeded vegetables like lettuce,” said Stephen Petro, Fondy Farm Project director. “And with less moving parts – no carburetor, no radiator, and no clutch – the tractor will be much more reliable and easier to use for our farmers.” 

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