Friday, 15 March 2019 12:31

Drills making a name worldwide

Written by  Mark Daniel
Ashburton-based seed drill manufacturer Allen Custom Drills are earning a big reputation in NZ and further afield. Ashburton-based seed drill manufacturer Allen Custom Drills are earning a big reputation in NZ and further afield.

A recent demo day in Waikato allowed farmers and contractors a closer look at Allen Custom Drills.

The drills are making a name for themselves in New Zealand and further afield.

The Allen drill story starts in the late 1990s when Mid-Canterbury farmer and contractor Dave Allen was looking for a heavy-duty drill for crop planting; he wanted a spec that included strength, triple discs and, most of all, cost effective operation.

The first drill was drawn on a barn floor, developing into a super-strong frame with Accord pneumatic metering to deal with small seeds and triple disc openers.

Over the years, drills manufactured for customers incorporated features that suited their individual applications, hence the following at home and overseas. 

Son Craig Allen bought the business about seven years ago, and today, with his wife Deb and eight involved in fabrication and assembly, he runs the business in Ashburton.

Five basic models can be customised to suit customers’ requirements; machines are sold in Australia (it takes 25% of production), US and Europe. 

Proven componentry includes the metering system whose layout has twin seed and single fertiliser tanks as the main choice; these account for 95% of sales. 

Toolbars can range from 3 to 12m, with a choice of wavy ‘turbo’ opener discs or banks of scalloped cultivator discs – all mounted to the frame using a rubber sausage-style suspension system for improved shock absorption. 

Wing sections are active, using a pressured hydraulic system to ensure penetration and accurate placement on undulating terrain. 

Twin-disc seeding coulters are mounted on a simple parallel linkage, with following press wheels helping to maintain a consistent seeding depth as well as consolidation. 

Units are typically finished with a HIAB crane unit for independent loading when away from the yard.

The most popular ranges are the C-D (contour drill) and E-D (ergonomic drill) series. 

The C-D series maintains the triple disc concept, with elements grouped close together to make the unit compact, said to be better for undulating terrain. 

Their 17-inch diameter discs in a twin-row set-up are well suited to dealing with high levels of trash. Maintenance-free sealed hubs reduce operating costs. 

Seeding legs work as a parallelogram, adjustable in banks to reduce moving parts, working ahead of 13-inch x 3-inch press wheels. 

Working widths range from 3m to 6m with 5- or 6-inch spacings and tare weights of 4.5 to 8.1 tonnes.

Control is via the RDS Isoscan seed rate controller, enabling control of up to four bins and monitor blockages, a 7-inch touch screen and seeding rates of 1 - 400kg/ha. Users can also choose ISOBUS control if preferred.

The E-D series is a stripped-down version, with a fixed frame and no-frills configuration, while still incorporating many of the ‘Allen’ features. This drill -- in 3m or 3.5m working widths -- is aimed at smaller farms or those with tractors up to 110hp.

The triple-disc layout sees the normal opener disc, then 16-inch staggered discs set across two rows, again using maintenance-free bearings, with mounting arms using the same rubber-sausage suspension system. 

Rubber-suspended coulters with individual adjustment are again followed by press wheels. The Accord seeding system can be fitted with e-drive, using a radar sensor to measure ground speed or the more up-market RDS units, offering the same ability to work at seeding rates of 1 - 400kg/ha. 

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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