[14 June/NZ Herald]

Zealong made its debut at Fieldays with a world first tea farming machine nicknamed The Transformer. The tea estate made a wide variety of export teas from oolong to botanical beverages. It worked with a French manufacturer to develop the custom tractor. Zealong General Manager, Gigi Crawford, said it could do almost everything on the 80 hectare estate except picking. The machine got its name from its system of moving parts and attachments. It can straddle two rows of tea as it trims, prunes, mows, weeds, ploughs, or spreads fertiliser. Zealong R&D Manager, Fabien Maisonneuve, noted due to strict organic regulations they were unable to use conventional methods. He added they had to think outside the box and use expertise from several countries to develop the machine. It attracted interest from vineyard operators and orchardists at Fieldays.