A long working life with Upton

Upton Engineering has made a long term commitment to building the best irrigation equipment that it possibly can using high design inputs, state of the art manufacturing and a customer service focus, says the company’s chief executive Paul Upton.

Today the business has hundreds of centre pivot and lateral move irrigators to water areas up to 80 hectares.

Mr Upton said irrigator choices on offer also included the Pierce equipment range from America, for which Upton Engineering was the Australian distributor.

However, with the falling Australian dollar and rising US dollar, the purchase cost of a lot of imported irrigation equipment was starting to “significantly” increase.

“The Pierce centre pivot and lateral move range offers galvanised steel and also poly lined pipework, making these machines an appropriate choice for applications where aggressive water quality may be a factor,” Mr Upton said.

“The locally designed and fabricated Upton centre pivot or lateral range is built from marine grade aluminium pipework which overcomes the corrosion issues.

“Our philosophy is to offer machines with a potential working life of 30 years. “We believe the corrosion resistance of marine grade aluminium, together with the stainless steel pipe- work, control boxes and other fitting that we use provides this assurance.” Mr Upton said the company had even upgraded its gasket material from rubber to the more expensive urethane to provide a longer reliable working life.
“This is what our farmer clients tell us they prefer,” he said. Mr Upton said the order book for the Corowa-based production centre was pretty full with irrigators going to clients across Australia including a number that are repeat orders from local farmers and producers.

“A number of Upton centre pivots in the Riverina are in fact farming operations with multiple numbers of our irrigators most with an individual centre pivot coverage of 60ha being quite common.

“A lot of our current orders are in fact additional new centre pivots – and replacements for older rusted machines – for established farming operations.”

Upton Engineering also provides an Australia-wide delivery and erection service for its centre pivot and lateral move irrigators as well as a complete service back up. Mr Upton said the company worked with its clients to design, build and install site specific centre pivot or lateral move irrigation systems.

Driving Engineering Into The Future

It’s great to know the Murray region boasts many experienced professionals and the engineering expertise dating back to 1944 of the Upton’s spans over three generations. Brothers Marc and Paul have helped build Upton Engineering into the business it is today. Specialising in broad acre irrigation and more recently solar tracking devices, this niche business based in Corowa, NSW has tried its hand at more innovative designs!

A battery powered car? Yes, an old 1982 Toyota which has been converted to a green machine, overcoming the problem in hybrid or green conversions which does not compromise on the performance of the car. Paul Upton tells Murray Now, “We wanted to demonstrate that a 30 year old car can be good for another 30 years with this type of technology. We have created a zero emission system, whereby the lithium ion batteries charge from our solar tracking system, not from the power station”.

For Upton Engineering this conversion was more of a demonstration rather than a commercial reality due to the high cost involved. The average cost of such a conversion is between $20K and $25K, and for the average person this may not be affordable. The batteries are the latest technology and are $6,000 on their own. Although once the initial outlay has been made it only costs approximately $2.50 a day to recharge.

The car has a range of about 80km before a recharge is required; which is only limited to the number of batteries that are installed in the vehicle. “We would double the range if we doubled the amount of batteries in the car although that increases the weight and performance of the car. We tried to keep the weight relative to before the conversion, only adding about 20kg.” The car would be a fantastic commuter around town where you could charge the car at the end of each day.

But what really makes this business tick is the ability to provide machinery and equipment which is extremely robust and can withstand the extreme weather conditions, not only in Australia, but around the world. With demand overseas it is evident that there are cheaper imports coming into Australia making it harder to compete, although Upton Engineering believe quality will always prevail.

“We design and build equipment (such as the central pivot irrigators) like a ‘meccano set’ or ‘flat pack’ into containers or onto trucks, which are constructed on site with relative ease. We can pack a 500m long irrigator onto the back of a single tray truck and build it on site. This is a real advantage” Paul adds. At Upton Engineering if a customer enquires with an idea to build machinery, Paul and Marc will do whatever is necessary to make that idea a reality. Well the 1982 Toyota is a perfect example of these creative minds in action!

What of the future of Upton Engineering? Well there could be demand to renew the life of older vehicles on the horizon around the world. Closer to home Marc is hoping to convert a new (about 5 years old) Ute as the next project, and include the provision for battery monitors and a conventional 15 amp charging dock. Presently there are fast charge stations in the United States, and some car companies are selling cars without motors for conversion purposes.

For more information on the car conversion please contact Marc Upton on 02 60331844 or email info@upton.com.au.

Giant 2WD Australian-built tractor returns home to Upton Engineering at Corowa

LOVERS of Upton ­Engineering tractors are extraordinarily pas­s­ionate about them.

The last one was built 34 years ago and owners are reluctant to sell.

When Corowa manufacturer Upton Engineering was scouting for a heavy-duty tractor for yard work recently, it was able to buy a rare two-wheel-drive with its own name already on the side.

It was an Upton MT-855, one of about eight of this model built in the mid-1970s.

Paul Upton, a third generation Upton, who manages the business with his brother, Marc, said they needed a good tractor to help pull sleds loaded with centre- pivot irrigators from shipping containers.

Their father, Carl, who has retired from the business, ­designed the Upton 2WD tractors in the 1960s and 1970s after the business developed a reputation for retrofitting former US Army World War II tanks as landclearing and water pumping machines for farmers and irrigators along the Murray River.

Upton Engineering was started by Carl’s father, Arthur, in the 1940s.

The supply of second-hand diesel ­engines and heavy differentials from the Grant M3 tanks eventually dried up, and Upton Engineering began building bespoke tractors to order. Only about 30 tractors were built over a 12-year period from the late 1960s.

Most of the Upton tractors were designated “MT”, for med­ium tractor, although when they were built they were the biggest 2WD agricultural tractors in the world.

Paul said because they were only ever built to order with long lead times, the sales volume was never going to compete with the 4WD off-the-shelf tractors delivered by overseas manufacturers.

The MT-855 recently bought by the Uptons was built in 1976 and acquired from a farmer at Minlaton, on the South Australian Yorke Peninsula. The purchase has a story to it.

Paul found the owner and had to convince him they were worthy to buy the much-loved piece of machinery.

The farmer, Scott Hoyle, drove all the way from South Australia with an armful of photo albums of his beloved MT-855 to visit the Uptons at Corowa.

“He left the photo albums with us and said we could have the tractor and he delivered it to us,” Paul said. “Scott told us he knew he needed to sell the tractor but he wanted it to go to the right owner.

“And that was us.”

The MT-855 has a 216kW (290hp) Cummins diesel ­engine and, according to Paul, makes passersby take notice when they fire it up.

It is a cherished addition to the Upton Engineering yard and will be used to move sleds of parts now that Uptons has become the national distributor for Pierce Centre Pivots.

Carl, who retired about 10 years ago, is quietly pleased his old tractor is back “home” but still on the lookout for another, the biggest factory built 2WD tractor in the world.

At 23 tonnes and with 350hp, this is one big tractor and was last seen still at work in South Australia.

Carl would love to know its whereabouts and would possibly be interested in buying it.

While Upton Engineering is busy building everything from racetrack watering systems to fog cannons to damp down dusty digging areas in the mines, you get the feeling Carl would still love to be building tractors, and 2WD ones at that.

“We built tractors in country Australia in Corowa and we took on the world,” he said.

“In the first demonstration we had of the tractors, we pulled three ploughs with 54 discs at five miles an hour.”

He maintains 2WD tractors suit many Australian conditions better than 4WD, which he considers a waste especially in the Riverina.

“You are not driving the extra paraphernalia of a 4WD and people told me there was a 25 per cent saving in fuel using a 2WD doing the same job.”

But he acknowledges the prestige of owning an imported tractor, and the finance deals offered through the major manufacturers, mean Upton tractors can’t compete.

Upton Engineering, which marks its 70th anniversary this year, still makes its own design irrigation equipment and sells imported centre pivot systems for broadacre growers.

A giant yellow MT-855 in the yard will not only be a big help but a constant reminder of the day they took on the big guys.