John Deere and Ford collaborate to create concept Gator made of recycled material
A hood made of plastic bottles pulled from the Mississippi River or a storage bin made of coconut filler probably wasn't your first thought.
These are just two of the materials used to produce a new sustainable concept Gator, a machine prototype built in collaboration with Ford Motor Company's sustainable materials team to examine ways of taking waste streams, like plastic bottles, and turning them into viable machine components.
"When the idea of the sustainable concept Gator project came about, the goal was to explore a variety of materials to be used for possible adoption across product lines to support our goals around increasing use of sustainable materials," says Andy Greenlee, senior staff engineer for sustainable solutions at John Deere.
Collaborating with the industry
Working with Ford on the project was a perfect fit, Greenlee said.
Greenlee was one of six Deere employees on the team tasked with developing the sustainable concept Gator. While the project presented many challenges, the team worked closely with both Deere and Ford's network of suppliers, many going above and beyond to support the project, to build a prototype created with renewable, recycled, and recyclable materials such as soybeans, flax fibre, sugar cane, hemp fibre, bottles, and even fishing nets.
"It was difficult because we had to work within our current framework of production tooling, we weren't going to invest in new tooling for a product that won't go to market, but we did everything we could to find sustainable materials that were suitable replacements," says Keith Shanter, senior materials engineer at John Deere.
Concept projects like the sustainable concept Gator are valuable to our efforts in sustainable innovation says Jill Sanchez, director of sustainability at John Deere.
"The sustainable concept Gator has provided us key learnings," Sanchez says. "It shows how innovative thinking and innovative partnerships provide invaluable insight into how we can apply sustainable material use in the future."
Though many components used in the sustainable concept Gator are not a short-term production solution, the materials pave the way for sustainable solutions, including one that is in production now.
When reflecting on the project, which started back in 2018, both Shanter and Greenlee appreciated the opportunity to not only learn from the experts at Ford but found it inspiring to work on a future-focused project that has the potential to make a big difference.
"Getting the opportunity to look at things that are out in the future and focus on what we need to develop to add value to our customers while reducing our environmental footprint was a great experience," Greenlee says.