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Track loader shreds whole trees

Cate RocchiCountryman
Simon Ioppolo.
Camera IconSimon Ioppolo. Credit: Cate Rocchi

A machine that shreds whole trees at once is being put to good use in WA for the first time.

A 299 Cat compact track loader attached to an Advanced Forestry Equipment's SS ECO mulcher has been busy clearing fruit orchards in Roleystone.

Owner-operator Simon Ioppolo, also based in Roleystone, set up his company, Land Vegetation Management, in partnership with his uncle Ben Scaravilli in July 2013.

"We are in this together," he said.

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But it was Mr Ioppolo who came up with the idea a few years ago. One day, while surfing the net, he saw a machine operating in the US.

Recalling watching the machine originally, Mr Ioppolo said: "I had never seen anything like it before. The speed that it was mulching trees was incredible and I thought there would be an opportunity here."

In the US, the machine is also used for clearing land and creating fire breaks, taking down vegetation and leaving the stumps in the ground.

Mr Ioppolo uses the machine to make short work of rows of plum trees, turning the once fruit-growing field into pasture for horses within hours.

At just 22, the industrious Mr Ioppolo is a former WA Australian Italian apprentice of the year for metals and fabrication.

He is a qualified boilermaker and prior to his apprenticeship attended Mazenod College in Kalamunda.

His father Tony Ioppolo runs the well-known Kalamunda hardware Walkers Hardware Mitre 10, while several relatives have orchards.

Mr Ioppolo originally started his career on the mines in the north, where he specialised in conveyor belt replacement.

"But after two-and-a-half years, I had had enough and wanted to do something different," he said, adding his boilermaker skills were very handy in fixing machinery.

Mr Ioppolo claims there are only about six such machines operating in the whole of Australia, and he had the only one in the west.

The compact track loader is similar to a bobcat and the mulching head attachment is bought separately.

"By felling trees at ground level, you can create pasture land quickly," he said. "But you can cut trees higher and then pull out the roots if needed. Instead of mulching trees, I can put the grapple attachment on and flick them out of the ground."

No part of the machine is brand new. The mulcher attachment was sourced from Melbourne as was a support truck, while the loader - originally a demo model from US - came to Australia via a Queensland distributor.

Both the loader and the mulcher are manufactured in the US.

Mr Ioppolo said the hill-climbing loader was basically a big version of a bobcat.

"They come out with tracks now, like a mini dozer, and they are such capable machines," he said.

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