Quiet Power: Mark Ericksen's Innovative Approach to Kiwifruit Farming

Mark Ericksen is a shareholder and supplier to Zespri, the world’s largest kiwifruit exporter, and a grower of the prized gold kiwifruit, which travels from his relatively modest 45-hectare orchard in the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, to markets in 59 countries across the globe.

Horticulture on this scale, particularly the apple and kiwifruit production in which Ericksen specialises, is very demanding. “For us, it’s about both the quality of the fruit we produce, as well as the sustainability of our operation, whether that’s economic, social, or environmental — and we’re performing well across those three parameters.”

When it came to purchasing an electric vehicle for the farm, however, he had a few reservations, he says. “In terms of the sustainability we’re striving for with Zespri, reducing our carbon footprint was the right thing to do. With any new product that comes out, however, I’m always a little sceptical about how robust or reliable it’s really going to be.”

It didn’t take long before his reservations evaporated. While it’s a given the UBCO offers a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions — each bike emits 97% less carbon than an ICE vehicle — he has discovered it offers significant benefits for the company’s targets for economic and social sustainability as well.

UBC 2X2 in action on Zespri orchard
Mark Erickson rides his UBCO 2X2 on the orchard

The cost-effectiveness of the bike, he says, is even further offset by the fact it’s not powered with expensive fossil fuel, the rising and unpredictable prices for which are a significant line item for any grower. But carbon and cost aside, what has truly surprised Ericksen is the human experience that using the bike has brought home to him.

“One thing I’m really taken with is the fact it’s quiet,” he says. “I get a lot more satisfaction from my mode of transport without the continual whine of a combustion engine in my ear.”

Horticulture for apple and kiwifruit production demands very high labour inputs, so one of Ericksen’s key tasks is managing multiple staff members across the different sectors of the huge orchard.  

“The UBCO gives me the ability to get from A to B very quickly — but also very nimbly. I can get down steep slopes, or in and out of narrow, tight spots very easily. Being two-wheel drive instead of a rear-wheel drive like a standard motorbike gives me extra stability, so there’s no chance of getting stuck. And rather than taking a trailer for all my bits and pieces while I’m doing irrigation maintenance, which is a big part of the job, I can just carry them with me on the bike.”

UBCO 2X2 under the orchard vines


Mark rides a 2x2 Adventure Bike model which is fully road legal, making it an incredibly flexible vehicle, he says, particularly compared to the conventional motorbike he used to ride, which wasn’t roadworthy.

“I can cruise down the road and get a coffee at the local coffee cart, so that’s an added bonus for myself and my team,” he says. “It might sound strange, but the thing I love about it is just the sense of freedom it gives me. It’s actually fun to use, compared with a motorbike. I thought the novelty would have worn off by now, but it hasn’t, and I can’t wait to use it from one day to the next. It is a fantastic, multi-tasking, multi-faceted piece of machinery.”

As stressful as the industry is these days, when growers and farmers are up against everything from unpredictable seasons to soaring costs and staffing woes, the bike has given Ericksen a little bit of joy as he goes about his day.

“Riding an electric bike is calming and reassuring in a way that a car or a noisy motorbike is not,” he says. “I just feel more relaxed and closer to nature when I’m using it. With our country moving towards renewable energy sources, I’m very happy to be using it — because this is what our future looks like.”