A 'smart machine' that delivers improved accuracy and efficiency
Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30
Based in Athlumney Co Meath, Andrew Smith runs a large tillage farm in partnership with his father, Michael. Most of the 2,500 acres of crops comprise winter wheat and spring barley, but the Smiths also have a contract to supply Dunnes Stores with potatoes.
With such large acreage Mr Smith says his input costs like fertiliser, sprays and diesel can be scary at times, especially for the notoriously temperamental potato crop. He is a big believer in using the latest equipment to monitor input costs and help keep them under control.
One machine that is crucial to this whole operation is the team's mounted fertiliser spreader, an Amazone ZA-TS, now heading into its second season. The Smiths changed from a trailed to a mounted spreader as it offers more protection to soft ground. They also use special wide flotation tyres on the tractor and take additional steps such as filling the spreader at the field entrance to minimise ground damage and rutting.
But it wasn't just about optimising ground protection when it came to buying a new spreader. With such large acreage, the Smiths were looking for a smart machine that would be able to pay for itself through better fertiliser accuracy and efficiency; they didn't mind paying a premium for a top end spreader once the potential to save on input costs was there. After researching the market they settled on the Amazone ZA-TS, which is a 4,200 litre capacity spreader priced at €34,000 plus VAT. They bought the spreader from local machinery dealer Lyons and Burton of Kilcock. Mr Smith reports a 5pc reduction in fertiliser costs since purchasing the spreader, mainly through improved accuracy of application.
On the Amazone ZA-TS the 700-litre base for the main hopper is actually made up of two hoppers, which deliver the material separately to each spinner.
Built from one piece of steel which is deep pressed to form its shape, this gives a smooth seam-free finish with a greater resistance to corrosion, while preventing build-up of material and improving flow. A welded steel bin above the hopper gives the machine its 4,200-litre capacity.
Clear windows built into the hopper at the front and the back give a visual guide as to how much is left in the spreader. Inside the hopper, a grate prevents unwanted objects or lumps from reaching the spinners. A canvas cover is used to keep moisture out.
Two stainless steel spinners each use two sets of vanes. The first set is used for normal spreading and features angled tips (allowing the spreading width to be adjusted within the range by changing the spinner speed).
Mr Smith's machine runs TS2 vanes on the spinners, giving a spreading width from 18 to 36m. Each spinner also features a second set of shorter stubby vanes, used to reduce boundary spreading. Drive for the spinners comes via a hydraulic motor. Electronic control is used to adjust spinner speed in order to achieve the desired spreading width.
Without doubt, the brains of the operation is the control box and Isobus system in the cab. On the cab monitor, the set spreading width is divided into eight sections on each side. The sections can be shut off one by one, starting from the outside on each side.
This is a very clever feature with huge savings when spreading triangles or thin strips. Flow rate of material to the spinners is controlled with an electronically controlled shutter on the drop point.
In practice this simply means the disc on the side in question slows down its revolutions per minute so that the fertiliser granules are thrown a lesser distance.
Once you get back onto a full spreading width and away from any awkward field corners, the full 36m spreading width kicks in again, as visualised on the control box inside the cab.
A wealth of information can be displayed through the Isobus screen, or exported into the system via a USB stick. Variables such as spreading width, drop point, flow rate, section and boundary control can be controlled automatically if using a GPS receiver.