5 January 2001

AWARDS FOR NEW IDEAS…

Everyone likes a welcome

pat on the back. And at

the LAMMA show, these come in the form of awards

for new products and

new inventions. Peter Hill

reports

AS A way of highlighting new and interesting ideas in equipment design, the New Product and New Invention awards at LAMMA provide a valuable service. It draws attention to developments that growers might find useful, while at the same time encouraging individuals and manufacturers to keep up the flow of innovative ideas that are the bedrock of advances in agricultural mechanisation.

Last years New Invention winner, entered by RDS Northern, an independent sales affiliate of electronics specialist RDS Technology, was the Pro-Series 8000 instrument.

This device represents a significant advance over previous data logging, interpreting and GPS mapping systems in as much as one control box replaces several individual units. It also provides a larger screen, enabling more information to be presented in a more visually acceptable manner.

Good response

"Weve had a pretty good response to it," says Nigel Brown of RDS Technology. "There are several hundred examples out as yield mapping devices on combines, and a number are being used as data loggers and controllers for variable rate fertiliser and lime application."

The Pro-Series 8000 unit is designed as a transferable unit that can be used on any number of suitably equipped tractors as well as combine harvesters. It is programmed with different software each time it is used for different tasks, which keeps control button inputs and information displayed both simple and relevant.

"With the latest version, a second software module is stored within the instrument, so all it takes to switch from yield mapping to soil sampling, for example, is the press of a button," explains Mr Brown. "Other modules – for spraying, spreading and drilling – programme the instrument using a plug-in device."

The runner-up award went to south Yorks farmer Anthony Hopkins of Wroot Water Systems for his triple-row drip irrigation pipe layer.

This machine carries three 6000m reels of polyethylene drip irrigation hose, enabling it to be deployed and gathered again quickly and efficiently. Wing sections fold to less than 4m for ease of transportation.

"I started investigating drip irrigation systems when we were experiencing difficulty getting water when we needed it and concluded that we had to use this resource more efficiently," says Mr Hopkins.

A Nuffield Scholarship provided the means to study drip irrigation overseas, and the lessons learned have gone into developing systems to suit UK cropping and climatic conditions, and ways of working.

He now offers both hard polyethylene pipe systems with drippers typically 30cm to 60cm apart designed for a 10-year service life, and tape systems intended for a single years use.

Tape retrieval

The latter will provide an entry into this years LAMMA New Inventions award – a machine that retrieves the tape at the end of the season and dumps it on the headland without the tractor driver leaving his seat. There are two- and four-row models.

"The investment involved makes drip irrigation most appropriate for crops like potatoes, celery, onions, carrots and leeks, which benefit from precise control of water placement and volume," Anthony Hopkins emphasises. "But it also gives you the opportunity to reduce overall use of fertiliser by applying nutrients through the irrigation system."

In the New Products section, for devices first marketed by exhibitors within the year preceding the event, RDS came up trumps again, this time with the Marker Guidance System. Produced by the companys Canadian distributor, this uses GPS to display a grid of parallel lines providing an accurate guide for pre-emergence operations and other situations when there are no tramlines to follow.

"The system is effective only on reasonably flat fields because of the discrepancies you get from the tractor tilting – which alters the position of the GPS receiver – as you travel over undulating ground," says Mr Brown. "But in suitable fields, it performs a number of useful functions in addition to providing parallel guidance."

Perimeters measured

It will measure field perimeters (or areas within fields if required); log spraying and spreading routes (to prove water courses were avoided, for example); and measure application areas. It will also provide auto switch off and on at headlands and regulate boom sections to reduce over-spraying of short work. And it has a "stake" facility that will mark where spraying or spreading finished mid-run so that the operator can return to the same spot to resume work.

It does not take much imagination to see the device linked to an automatic vehicle steering system – which would then be able to compensate for field contours. As Mr Brown says: "Watch this space" &#42

RDS Pro-Series 8000 data logger/implement controller ( left) and Wroot three-row drip irrigation pipe layer were award winners at last years LAMMA event.