Costs slashed with multi-row spray solution
Borrowing a good idea off the Australians is not something many companies would admit to, but was one that paid off for spray equipment company Silvan New Zealand and AgTech Hawke's Bay.
Working with Silvan New Zealand, AgTech adopted the concept of a multi-row macadamia sprayer seen in Mildura Victoria. Some clever engineering work morphed that concept into a three-row spray unit for spraying dwarf apple trees.
The client, Apollo Pac, has the 40ha Steiner orchard at Meeanee near Napier that was established only three years ago around the expectation a multi row sprayer being used - the catch was, one still had to be designed.
Matt Gordon of AgTech had been advised to check out the sprayer in Mildura by Greg Small of Silvan New Zealand, who could see the potential for multi-row applications here.
For Matt Gordon his team at Ag Tech the first priority was to create a machine that would fit within the confined 1.6m row space between predominately Jazz TM apple trees. For Silvan New Zealand the challenge was to deliver spray components robust enough to meet the sprayer's multi row purpose.
Huge step down
"This was a huge step down in size from the machine we had seen in Australia. There spacings were 7 m and the scale was almost broad acre - in fact, they used a broad acre tank and a big New Holland for towing that would not be out of place on a crop farm. However, the concept was there," says Matt.
The key benefits Apollo Pac sought were spray cost reduction and productivity increases in spray application. Until then the company had relied upon conventional air blast machines at a work rate of 2ha/hour.
From the start the productivity target was to achieve 1,000 litres/hectare application at seven kmph ground speed, meaning the whole orchard could be done in a 10-hour stint.
Selecting Silvan components from the company's warehouse in Melbourne, meant AgTech was able to commence assembly in early November, delivering the machine only a month later.
With the modified Silvan 18 metre spray boom having to sit above the 3.5m high trees, stability became a priority on the relatively narrow width spray platform.
Equipping it with 15" truck wheels and a tandem axle assembly addressed any concerns mere. The stability and excellent suspension means the sprayer can be towed safely at 40kmph, in spite of only being 1.68m wide wheel-to-wheel.
The risk of being over legal road transport height of3.5m was overcome by installing a hydraulic power lift on the boom, giving it a maximum operating height of 4.25m when open.
A spring-loaded boom lock on each side means shelter belts pose no problem, and the spring loaded system provides 14cm of flex over rougher ground.
Apollo Pac required a machine that could deliver more targeted and controlled spray application than air blasters could achieve. Nozzle configuration consists of eight precision Silvan nozzles per boom, split 3:3:2 and the ability to angle the heads and shut off sections.
Steiner Orchard manager Mark Simmonds says this has allowed more exacting targeting for spray applications like chemical thinning, where he may only want to target the tree tops.
In spite of its complete hydraulic operation, set up is simple with two hydraulic lines, a wiring loom and PTa shaft all that needs attaching.
Fitting a Primo 400 spray controller has meant the unit has a "slow hold" ability, so at head land turns the spray application rate drops as speed drops down to 5kph.
The six-cylinder Silvan diaphragm pump coupled to a 3000 litre Silvan tank, means coverage right from the start left no doubts about opting for quality Silvan components.
The water sensitive paper test was completely soaked at 7kph, so we stepped up the speed to 8.5kph and dropped the application rate to 660 litres/ha from 1000. "Suddenly, we were doing 4.5ha/tank per hour, compared to 3.0ha/tank per hour expected," says Matt.
Further experimenting has seen the productivity leap even further, achieving 500litres/ha and dye tests revealing excellent coverage with speed set at 8.5kph.
"The coverage results surpass even what I have seen over many years at far higher rates of application," says Silvan Sales Manager Greg Small.
The payback on the new unit in an orchard the size of Steiner is almost immediate in terms of fuel, labour and time.
Cost indications are that running the three row sprayer over 40ha is around $465 including sprayer service, tractor and labour costs.
"This compares to the cost of running three conventional trailed air blast sprayers that would involve three operators and three tractors, at around $1560," says Greg Small.
Time from filling to spraying and refilling is only one hour, delivering productivity triple the conventional sprayers.
Its productivity and quality components are such that Matt Gordon is optimistic interest shown in the unit by other large scale growers will see more of the machines in orchards around the country.