A clever spray trailer, a cheap-but-effective drill and a useful-looking hitching aid were among the winners of this year’s Suffolk Show inventions competition. Mike Williams reports
Spare time, a well-equipped workshop (plus the skills to use it), plenty of imagination and perhaps a modest budget. Those are the principle requirements needed to build a one-off machine that is not available from any of the big multinational manufacturers.
One of the annual get-togethers for the machinery world’s do-it-yourself enthusiasts is the Inventive Farmer competition at the Suffolk Show. The competition attracts entries from farms throughout the eastern counties. They are grouped into three classes, one for new equipment, one for modifications, with the third class for “any simple, original device”.
New equipment winner – spray trailer
The winner was a sprayer support trailer entered by Paul Whitton, Heathcote Farms, Toddington, Bedfordshire. Mounted on tandem axles, it has large lockable containers for protective clothing and for carrying full and empty spray containers, clean water tanks plus a small petrol engine to power a 300 litres/min pump. The steel induction hopper is extra large for faster mixing, and the equipment list includes a waste container for used paper towels plus a “Spraying in Progress” warning sign. Built-in bunding holds 1200 litres and the trailer floor is covered by non-slip welded mesh.
Modifications winner – pedestrian sprayer
When Peter Mitchell wanted a small sprayer to control weeds in the awkward places such as banks and along fence lines at Bushey Coopers Farm, Hadleigh, Suffolk, he decided to build his own. He used the chassis of a derelict wheelbarrow and added a wooden deck to carry a disused knapsack sprayer with a nozzle that can be positioned centrally or on either side. The sprayer pump, originally powered by a hand-operated lever, is operated by levers linked to a crank attached to the wheel. Total cost of new parts was £5.60 for an on/off tap.
Modifications runner-up – two-in-one drill
Peter Knott’s existing combi drill does a good job with cereals, but the sowing depth is too shallow to put spring beans safely beyond the reach of pigeons. It also has Suffolk coulters that cause soil smearing in wet conditions on his Hill House Farm, Rattlesden, Bury St Edmunds. So he decided to build his own drill, combining an old Carier cultivator drill – renowned as a bean drill, he says – with the excellent seed metering and the big-bag-sized hopper of a disused Vicon air drill. The two old drills were bought for less than £200, and buying new bits and pieces took the total cost to almost £800. This year’s bean crop, the first sown by the new drill, has emerged well with no evidence of pigeon damage.
Simple device winner – lower link arms guide plates
Lining up the rear of a tractor accurately to attach the lower link arms isn’t always easy, so Andrew Gaught decided to simplify the job. He uses two metal plates, bent to shape and with a hole at one end, and attaches these to the hitch points of mounted implements. As the driver reverses up to the implement the conspicuously coloured plates automatically align the lower link arms correctly, making the hitching-up job easier and safer. Mr Gaught uses the plates on the power harrow and a mounted plough at his farm at Ashbocking, Ipswich.