Although this month's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is usually associated with the "geek brigade", global manufacturer John Deere chose it to launch new technology aimed at farmers and growers.
The risk is especially high in the summer months, with many reports of balers catching fire from precursors like sparks, flints, accumulated dust or failure of mechanical components. In most cases, the fire can take hold quickly, generating intense heat, with the operator having little chance to disconnect the baler, meaning the tractor is often lost too.
To address the problem, Austrian coupling manufacturer Scharmuller has developed an emergency release system for baler drawbars. Featuring a removeable drawbar shaft, in normal conditions the assembly is held in place by a hydraulic locking cylinder with a pre-load of 140bar.
However, if an event like a fire occurs, the operator can trigger a release button in the cabin that energises a solenoid, allowing the drawbar to release and the tractor to move away from the baler in little more than a few seconds. This is achieved without the driver leaving the seat and removes the risk of injury from the intense heat.
Used in conjunction with breakaway hydraulic couplers, consequential damage created by hydraulic and electrical connections being ripped out cannot be completely avoided. However, the cost is minimal compared to losing both the tractor and the baler.
In addition to the disconnection function, if the baler is equipped with an air braking system, the sudden drop in air pressure means the brakes are applied and the baler is held in a fixed position.
With a suggested retail price of €5,000 (NZ$8,500) the system is not cheap. However, it will certainly give peace of mind to large scale operators who value their machinery. More importantly, it will minimise risk to them and their drivers.