Reviews

Cover story: Protech EVO 220B

Farm Trader’s Mark Fouhy is left impressed with the newly arrived Protech EVO 220B — the ultimate in one-man fencing operating efficiency

This impressive bit of kit is manufactured in Gloucester in the UK by Protech Machinery and imported and distributed in New Zealand by Hamilton-based Agrilife.

Like the evolution of humans from primates to cavemen to modern-day men, the once-humble post driver has also evolved, with the Protech EVO 220B a fine example of the latest cutting-edge model on the market.

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The ability to operate remotely is a key safety feature

From early handheld drivers to the addition of the hydraulic post rammer mounted to a tractor (which admittedly has taken some of the back-breaking work out of the fencing game), the next era of improvement, safety, and efficiency is the self-propelled, tracked, and remote-controlled post driver. Enter the Protech EVO 220B, the follow-up model to the Protech EVO1S. This newest B model includes a front-end loader for the ultimate in one-man fencing operating efficiency. 

Operation

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Making use of the 1500kg lift capacity loader to carry a bundle of posts

With key start on the side of the engine, the remainder of the controls are at the rear of the machine for convenience while operating post driver functions.

The main hydraulic control bank is mounted on an arm, which folds in (for transport with a hydraulic ram) or out (for a comfortable working height). Although there’s a load of levers on one of the largest hydraulic banks I’ve ever seen, they are logically laid out, so it’s easy to learn your way around to be up and running efficiently. In fact, it’s probably more efficient than what you may be used to with a traditional tractor and rammer set-up. This is due to the overall manoeuvrability of the Protech EVO 220B and its ability to go places other machines can’t.

Not needing to get on and off the machine to move between every post is also a major time and hassle saver. With an outstanding range of movement (it can rotate through 220 degrees) and the boom’s ability to telescope out from the rear of the machine (the telescopic boom and foot system give the ability to drive up to 16-foot posts, about 4.8 metres), the unit is ideal for driving cattle yard posts or working on a tricky bank away from where the machine can directly access.

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Auto-level features add efficiency to the job

Thanks to the hardy and convenient remote control (which comes as standard), control of the front-end loader functions and the machine’s tracks are at your fingertips. Plus, there’s the benefit of being able to operate the EVO without actually being on it, keeping you safely out of the way in problematic terrain.

While the two-speed track gear (like a digger) is not exactly fast, it has impressive traction and gets in and out of steep spots where even tractors would struggle. Good life expectancy is achieved from the rubber tracks, with EVO 1 machines clocking up 2000 plus hours still running fine on the original tracks. Both 450mm tracks on the heavy-duty undercarriage extend for additional stability, while the belly-plated chassis offers good ground clearance.

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Hydraulic track width adjustment greatly increases stability when working on hills

Engine

Protech has fitted a reliable Yanmar 68hp diesel engine to power the EVO 220B. This modern engine meets Tier 5 emissions regulations. Using a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF), they’ve been able to do this without the need for AdBlue, which is a big plus for many users.

An LCD panel on the side of the engine allows you to scroll through operating parameters, checking functions such as engine oil temp. An audible alarm sounds if there’s an issue.

For daily checks of oil and coolant, inspection holes in the engine cover avoid having to lift the whole cover up, and, if for some reason you do need to lift the cover, it’s on gas struts to make it easier.

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Remotely operated, with a blade and 10T winch, the EVO 220B can navigate even the steepest fence lines. Two large lockable toolboxes offer secure equipment storage.

Operating noise of the machine is not excessive when in transport or using the loader and blade functions, especially when operated from a distance using the optional remote function. When you start driving posts, hearing protection is essential as with all post drivers.

Although the Protech range of self-propelled post drivers is available through Agrilife in Hamilton, for the 250-hour services, any local heavy diesel mechanic, experienced with excavators can carry out the servicing. A range of parts are kept on hand at Agrilife should anything machine-specific be required.

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Multiple positions for setting forks make the forks and blade extremely versatile

Front loader

Fully rounding out the capabilities of the EVO 220B is the front loader capable of lifting a 1500kg load (pretty much a decent bundle of posts). The machine we spent some time with was also fitted with a 2.1-metre blade using a standard Euro quick hitch, so could take other Euro hitch implements.

Being set up with pivoting forks that have multiple positions allows the operator to load up with posts and still have use of the blade on steep fence lines as an anchor for grading or stopping power. The pivoting blade was also optioned, and this can be used to help level up the fence line as you go, ensuring it’s ready for driving posts. This feature can also help keep a load of posts level and minimise the chance of them falling off if working on the side of a hill.

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Optional blade tilt for greater functionality

A third service valve is fitted to the loader to provide additional options. Adding a thumb/log grab is quite popular and may be worth looking into depending on the type of fencing work you’re doing. A cradle in the middle provides extra carrying capacity for strainers/angles.
A foldable frame on the left side of the machine provides a handy carrying system for those extra-long posts.

Machine size

Until recently, Agrilife has focused on the Protech EVO1S, which comes in under 3500kg when loaded on a braked plant trailer. This allows for easy transport between jobs behind a standard ute (rated to 3500kg braked trailer).

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A huge range of movement (up to 220-degree slew) allows easy access to tight spots

The big brother EVO 220B version has a base weight of five tonnes, including its 450kg driver weight. Although still compact, it probably requires at least a small truck to transport.

A handy feature of the machine is being able to go from a narrow 2.1 metres (which fits easily through most gateways) to a width of 3.1 metres with the tracks hydraulically extended out for ultimate stability. The pivoting idlers help the machine handle any rough terrain.

The 450mm wide rubber tracks help carry the weight of the machine with excellent traction in both forward and reverse. If you intend to use it in tough conditions, such as steep hill country, the addition of the hydraulic 10-tonne winch could be worth considering. In the UK, these are used to lower a machine down steep fence lines safely, with the operator clear of the machine using the remote control unit to drive the machine. This ensures safely accessing areas otherwise unable to be driven, increasing productivity.

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Fitted with an optional high-torque 4- and 6-inch auger, the Protech EVO 220B is a master class in fencing

The 75mm rock spike and optional high torque auger system work off the track drive motor. When in park, this is via an electric diverter. With four- and six-inch augers mounted on the loader, there aren’t many posts this machine won’t be able to drive.

Summary

Although the concept of self-propelled tracked is not brand-new, Agrilife has proudly aligned with Protech for a few years now, with the EVO1 models proving popular and the new EVO 220B model amping up the capacity and capabilities of this type of machine to a new level.
In terms of price point (although they hold their value well), they’re going to suit those fencing contractors with kilometres of fences to do in a year, rather than meters. The addition of the loader to the ‘B’ model adds to the versatility of this machine, with one man and one machine able to cover more ground in a day. When you consider the safety factor when operating in a hazardous industry, you can see why the Protech EVO machines represent the future of fencing. 

Top features

  • Stable with 2.1–3.1m
  • adjustable track width
  • Efficient 68hp Yanmar diesel engine keeps daily running
  • costs down
  • Powerful (1500kg lift) and versatile front-end loader
  • and blade set-up
  • Remote control functions
  • for tracks and loader
  • (post driver controls optional)
  • Incredible range of movement from the post driver: 800mm
  • tele-arm, 220-degree slew
  • Ability to carry plenty of posts, along with toolboxes for gear
  • Rock spike, augers are an optional extra
  • A range of options, such as winches or self-levelling to
  • suit different needs

Protech EVO 220B Specifications

Engine

Yanmar 4-cylinder, 68hp diesel

Fuel tank 50L
Tier Stage V non-AdBlue,
Diesel Particulate Filter
Engine service interval 250 hours
Weight 4.5T
Driver weight 450kg
Track width 2.1m min to
3.1m wide max
Width of tracks 450mm wide
Boom telescopic extension 800mm
Boom slew 220 degrees
Tele boom Handles up to
16-foot posts
Rock spike 75mm with
hydraulic extractor
Controls Control bank on machine
or remote control (loader/tracking)
Auxiliary connections 12V and USB plugs
Loader lift 1500kg
Third service Standard
Implement attachment Euro hitch
Work lights LED, front/rear
Post storage Front forks/centre of machine/left-hand side
Storage 3x central toolboxes
Options 10T hydraulic winch, auger drive system (4 and 6 inch), 2 axis auto-level system, full remote control (loader/tracking/post driver), FORCE 5 netting system, and rotator blade

Find new and used farm machinery for sale in NZ 

Photography: Mark Fouhy and Lisa Potter

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