3 November 1995

Big future for big potato harvesters, says Grimme

POTATO harvesters will become larger, predicts Grimmes sales manager, Fritz Bork. Based at the companys German manufacturing plant in Damme, 60 miles south of Bremen, Mr Bork is convinced four-, six-row and possibly larger machines will become commonplace in years to come – particularly in eastern Europe, where vast acres of potatoes are grown.

Agritechnica will see the launch of the companys trailed four-row machine, which should create significant interest for UK growers.

But for the company, the four-row machine is just one of a long line of developments Grimme has achieved in the world of potato harvesting equipment.

Grimme began life as a blacksmiths shop way back in 1861. Created by Franz Carl Heinrich Grimme, the great-grandfather of the present managing director, the repair and construction of agricultural implements became the mainstay of the business.

In 1930 Franz Grimme, grandson of the originator, entered the business and concentrated on the development of harvesting equipment. By 1936 he had succeeded in constructing his first horse-drawn, landwheel-driven harvester.

After an enforced break in production during the Second World War, production was resumed in 1945. During the 1950s development began to take ever bigger strides, culminating in 1956 with the launch of the first pto-powered potato harvester.

It was at this time that harvester components such as the hedgehog separator, the Contin-ental-type main web and the haulm elevator were introduced, all of which are claimed to be Grimme firsts.

The UK debut for Grimme harvesters came in 1963, a year after the firm decided to concentrate solely on the production of field equipment for potato growers. Single-row models arrived carrying such names as the Gazelle, Commander and the Mid-Ranger, followed by two-row machines – the GB, Q Continental and Allrounder models.

From relatively humble conditions, Grimmes factory has expanded over the years to cover 12ha (30 acres) and employ 450 people. Investment in buildings and plant machinery amounts to 40m Deutschmarks (£18m).

£46m turnover

Machines are now exported throughout Europe, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, South America, Africa, Japan and countries of the former USSR. Last years turnover was 100m Deutschmarks (£46m).

In terms of production, single- and two-row machines still dominate, with about a 50/50 split between the two. Output is about seven completed machines a day, with each built to a customers required specification.

On the future for larger harvesters, Mr Bork says it is the transport width of machines which is the limiting factor at present. "But that is not to say there will not be larger machines. We are currently working on a system which allows six and more rows to be harvested, and the machine can still be transported legally on the road. "I do not believe the future lies in self-propelled machines, although there will always be a few contractors who choose to take this route. The problem comes when a machine is ready to be exchanged for a new one; its harvesting equipment is worn out yet the transmission and engine are still fine.

"What is it worth? Probably no more than a worn-out trailed machine, yet the initial investment is so much higher."

Mr Bork believes powered axles on trailed machines can give adequate traction for most conditions.

For the future, Grimmes design philosophy is to develop machines with components having, as far as possible, the same life-span. "There is no point equipping a machine with an expensive gearbox designed to last, say, 30 years if the rest of the machine only lasts 10 years," he says. "Conversely, if a components life is less than the expected life of the whole machine, then it makes sense to spend more money developing a component which will last longer.

"Employing this philosophy could mean a reduction in cost to the customer and a better machine overall," he says. &#42

Fritz Bork: "Future does not lie in self-propelled harvesters."

A completed machine undergoes final testing before leaving the factory.