Test: Protech Evo1S RC
The Protech Evo1S remote control unit is an impressive piece of kit, modernising the business of fencing. Farm Trader takes a closer look.
I’ve always thought of fencing as being a real hard man’s occupation. It’s extremely physical work, and although technology has progressed, you often still can’t get around digging the odd post in by hand. Having said that, we’ve come a long way from the death traps that were PTO-driven post bangers – much to the delight of WorkSafe.
Our latest machinery test made me realise that I was even more behind the eight ball than I realised when it comes to fencing technology. The latest kit on the market is seriously high-tech and impressive, making fencing faster, safer, and much more manageable than it used to be when I last attempted to strain a post (and my back).
Spending the day with Manawatu contractor Richard Blenkiron and his recently arrived Protech Evo1S RC (remote control) self-propelled post driver was a real eye-opener. This machine, imported from the UK by Agrilife in Hamilton, is right at the forefront of fencing technology. It’s as close to robotic fencing as you can get, and when the going gets tough, you can stand back out of harm’s way and drive the unit with a remote control.
This gives farmers and contractors the ability to fence where traditional tractor and banger combinations either can’t go, or where it’s too dangerous to go. Arguably, there’s always the option of running a bulldozer, but these are even less agile on hills and the tare weight and trucking in between jobs becomes a nightmare. The Protech Evo1S RC comes with its own trailer, ready to be hooked to the back of your ute and follow you between jobs.
Richard took over this well-established family business from his father and is proud to own some of the most advanced fencing equipment available on the market. Having worked in the industry for more than 15 years, he’s thinking smart and looking to use technology to increase the productivity of his business.
This future forward direction saw Richard first purchase a Protech Evo1S two years ago in order to test out what was then relatively new to the market.
Clearly the concept has proven a winner, as it has easily clocked up more than 1200 hours and got Richard thinking about investing in the latest model, which comes with a few extra features.
The arrival of the latest Protech Evo1S RC on the market brings all the agility and flexibility of his first model but additionally brings the mast auto-levelling and remote-control unit, just to give him a little more safety on the hills. This new machine has already done 460 hours and Richard says it’s performing beyond his expectations.
With his brother Grant having recently bought into the business, the pair can now have one machine each. Although Grant spent many years as a joiner, adapting to the fencing industry has been seamless – largely because their father was a fencing contractor, so the boys obviously (I’m not going to mention any slave labour) were exposed to this at a young age and the finer points of fencing have long been second nature to them.
Rangeview Fencing provide their services for a number of rural and farming customers, but corporate companies also see the benefits in using them and their unique tracked machines.
Once new roads or realignments are completed, thanks to the tracked Protech, it doesn’t matter what the landscape is like; fences can be erected. The only problem with having a unique machine doing fencing work is that on main highways, tourists will often pull over to take photos and videos of the boys crafting out their handy work.
Massey University call in Rangeview for their own farms and lease blocks, not so much because of the topography, but because the wet clay soils can be like a skating rink in winter, which is a time of year these tracked machines really come into their own. Another large portion of their work comes from roading contacts.
"Problem is, they often stop and jump out of the car in the middle of the road," Richard jokes.
The 400mm-wide heavy-duty rubber tracks come with two-speed drive, guide rollers, and upgraded greasing points. In my opinion, the best feature is the fact they are adjustable (hydraulically), where the track width can be moved out 500mm (on one side only). This combined with the front blade and the stabilising foot at the base of the rammer, plus only having three-and-a-half-ton on the hills, makes for sure-footed ramming.
The little blade acts as a stabiliser as well as pushing a few knobs and hollows in to make the job safer; similar to that of a small digger.
The only thing that moderately lets the rubber tracks down is the gluggy clay soil in winter. Like any tracks would, they fill up with gunk and once you’ve broken through the top, you’re a little buggered. To be fair, this is no different to a tractor.
I’m convinced this machine would go much further in these conditions. The other option is steel grousers but this would increase the weight too much, making it over the weight limit to tow behind a ute.
Fuel efficiency is another big cost saving the boys have found since converting to the Protech. "The Evo machine is struggling to chew through 20 litres a day, compared to 60 litres or 70 litres a day when running 120hp tractor and post driver," says Richard.
The 48hp Yanmar diesel is frugal, as the load on the engine stays constant all day, so essentially, its only job is running the hydraulic pumps, which, in turn, drives everything else.
Either side of the engine on the front and mid-section of the machine is dedicated to carrying posts. Around 50 (depending on size) can be carried at any one time. The only issue is that unlike tractor forks picking up post bundles, these need to be hand loaded.
Like most modern post drivers, the more trickery the machine can perform, the more controllers there are to use. This machine has 12 levers mounted on a completely adjustable bracket for ease of use.
I’m not going to lie – for someone like myself, who has never used this, it’s a little daunting, but Richard could do this with his eyes closed. It’s comparable to learning to drive a different brand of tractor with new controls – a little familiarity makes all the difference. It helps that everything is laid out fairly practically and straighforward.
So the 12 levers, along with the auto-levelling feature (where you hit a button on the main control panel and the mast levels itself) pretty much ensure perfectly straight posts all day.
The remote-control box is ideal for trailer loading and for safety on the hills. At least with the remote; if the absolute worst does happen and she goes, well it’s only a machine at the end of the day, and you don’t have to worry about being thrown from a somersaulting tractor cab.
The low tare weight and stability is where the Protech comes into its own on the hills. You don’t need to worry about the 300kg monkey banging up and down on the side of a hill, as the park brake and blade keep things well in check. Another safety feature is the thick nylon rope running the monkey, much less likely to kill someone if it snaps.
For adjustment of the mast itself, you’ve got side shift and push back, 120-degree rotation, and the extendable mast for the four-metre strainers. The big daddy strainer or a tree at the top of the line in that real tiger country acts as a perfect anchor for the next trick up the Protech’s sleeve: a six-tonne winch means you can simply winch your way up the hill, banging posts easily, thanks to the manoeuvrability of the machine. The banger’s ample adjustment means perfectly straight fences every time – something that always puts a smile on a fencing contractor’s face.
Like the old saying ‘a big tractor can do a small job, but a small tractor can’t do a big job’, it’s exactly the same for the Protech Evo1S RC. This thing is perfect on the flat.
I reckon it would still be faster than running two people, one in the tractor, one on the banger as per traditional fencing. But you simply stand on the back, use the remote control, or walk behind it using the on board controls, going from one post to the next.
This speed on flat ground turns into complete domination once it comes up to the hills. This is really where the Evo1S RC is in a league of its own. It almost makes we want to have a crack at doing some of my own fencing again.
Protech Evo1S RC Features
- 48hp Yanmar power plant
- Proclain transmission
- 300kg hammer
- 1m tele-mast extension to enable 4m post driving
- 500mm side-shift
- 500mm track width extension 1.6–2.1m
- 400mm HD rubber track width
- 120-degree slew
- 75mm rock spike and extractor
- 4-way mast tilt
- Hydraulic mast leg
- Foot stand and tow bar
- Front and centre post storage
- Professional track gear
- Full rear controls
- Servo high/low speed tracking controls
- Hydraulic park brake
- Wire unroller and storage
- 6T winch
- Remote control operation
- Auto mast levelling
- Fast, safe, and manoeuvrable
- Excellent stability on hills
- Less than 3.5T tare weight means it can be carted between jobs behind a ute
- Remote control ability means it can be driven from a safe distance on marginal country
- 6T winch
- Auto mast levelling for square posts on hilly ground
- Tracked machine will go more places,
- safer than a tractor
- Adjustable track width
- Front blade for grading and levelling a smooth pass (and a second handbrake)
- You can’t pick up posts, etc. with the front end loader like you can on a tractor
- Like anything self-propelled (mowers, harvesters, etc.), it’s a one trick pony. For fencing contractors though, this makes perfect sense.
Watch the Protech Evo1S RC in action