Gareth Rees is from the countryside in Wales, UK. He therefore chose to create an autonomous farming vehicle as his final thesis project at the RCA, not only as a symbol of where he grew up, but also to provide a problem solving solution to the physical demands of farming.
Focussing on automation and self-sustaining energy generation, the Element concept’s main objective is to increase productivity and environmentally efficiency. Powered by biodegradable waste, the vehicle is able to consume and conserve energy when needed.
“My most influential idea for this project explores the possibility of the evolution of anaerobic digestion within a vehicle,” says Rees.
Anaerobic digestion units — currently used in agriculture on a large scale — ‘digest’ agricultural waste/crops to create methane, which then powers gas turbines and generates electricity to power four hub-mounted motors. The exhausted methane is treated, yielding highly nutritious fertiliser as a bi-product.
The Element’s wheel hubs are independent, allowing them to rotate around to elevate or lower the vehicle for easier stowage; the body panels are made of lightweight yet strong nanochrystalline cellulose — a biodegradable material — and the tires are 3D printed. While remaining inherently functional, Rees also sought to change the perception of a farm vehicle as a working tool by making the concept more visually appealing.
“The project is born from my belief that the significance of farming is somewhat taken for granted by many in society,” says Rees. “With an ever-growing world population, our food and energy demands will put increased stress and dependence on agriculture.”
Rees’ concept not only envisions a more environmentally sustainable method of farming, but also imagines how a new type of vehicle could increase the appeal of agriculture to a new, younger generation of potential farmers.