One Strange Looking Device – The V-Tractor



It derives its name from its objective of being a village tractor for use in developing countries, in this case Malawi.

It derives its existence through the creative work of inventor-entrepreneur Tom Rich of the L. T. Rich Manufacturing firm of Lebanon, Indiana.

It became a reality after five years of imaginative thinking, thorough investigation, a major commitment of funds, and a lot of time and energy in its development.

From this effort comes the unique, unusual, and innovative creation that is now completing field trials in central Africa.

It started about five years ago when Tom began to develop an interest in the nation of Malawi and its frequent bout with famine. “For a nation with 95% of its people involved in family farming, this ought not to be,” Tom concluded in a conversation with Richard Stephens, the Director of the Malawi Project. From that conversation and a subsequent visit to Malawi by Sheila McDonald, an employee of Tom’s company, he started seeking ways to help the tiny nation get on its agricultural feet and find ways to offset future famines. What came off the drawing board was a strange looking creature that seemed as though it had its origin on another planet. Its mission was to assist small village farmers to move from a hand hoe for their farming needs to a mechanized unit that was not too large to “fit” within the agricultural community in Africa to see and realize its benefits. Not too small and not too large became the criteria and the outcome is the V-Tractor.

Tom’s company makes and markets a variety of self propelled lawn care machines recognized in the industry under the family name of Z-Spray.  It was a natural for the V-tractor to fit within this family in size and outreach as Tom sought to create a machine that would fit the small family plot environment of Malawi.

The versatility of this machine fits comfortably into the infrastructure poor landscape of the sub-Sahara, and its capabilities read like a who’s who of farm equipment. It has a 22 hp Hatz twin cylinder air cooled engine and a Hydro gear BPD 21-16-11-gpm-gear transmission. It can travel at 6.7 mph, and has the capability to plow, disk, transport over 70 gallons of water, plant two to four rows at a time, fertilize, operate a generator, and a concrete mixer.

In September Tom made his first trip to Malawi in order to see first hand the beginning of field trials for the first two full-scale units to reach the country. With the completion of the trials he returned to the U.S. to complete two more units to ship to Malawi as well as to outfit a 40-foot trailer as a supply warehouse to be dropped in central Malawi and to function as a parts supply center for a number of units that will ultimately be located in Malawi. For further information about the V-Tractor and its possible use in other areas contact: info[at] or call Tom at toll free 877.482.2040, or email zspray1[at] for contact with Tom Rich.

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