16 November 2001

Self-propelled potato harvester proves worth

GRIMME launched the self propelled 280hp, two-row SF DLS 1700 potato harvester earlier this year.

One of the first users of this futuristic harvester is Andrew Miller, who grows 400 acres of potatoes at Kellie Castle Farm, Anstruther in Fife. "It was the disastrous season we had last year which encouraged me to take a serious look at a self-propelled machine," he says. "Struggling to harvest waterlogged crops in November with a trailed machine was an absolute nightmare".

Mr Miller weighed up the argument carefully. Could he justify the extra cost for the self-propelled machine? "I thought it through – I realised that a self propelled machine would release a tractor for essential haulage duties and the chances were that we could make a better job of harvesting crops generally."

The SF DLS 1700 was delivered in September just in time to tuck into 120 acres of maincrop.

"Coming to terms with the control system was pretty straightforward," he says. " But the first thing I noticed was the overall view I had of the lifting of the potatoes and their path up the webs, something it is impossible to do effectively when operating a trailed machine."

Mr Miller also discovered that better observation also meant better control, as the cab can be moved forwards or backwards to obtain views of specific operations within the machine.

"I am able to tweak the speeds of webs to achieve maximum output throughout the machine," he says. "Controlling the unloading height of the discharge elevator as it loads into boxes is so much easier."

Potato quality is also deemed to have improved due to the ability to set the machine more accurately.

"Supermarkets are becoming so much more particular in the presentation of potatoes. If this machine means our markets are more secure in this department, then that will count for a lot on its own."

While last years harvesting conditions were undeniably bad, this year has also had its moments when Mr Miller believed his trailed machine would have floundered.

"In wet conditions it is all about keeping the lifters in the rows," he says. "On sloping wet ground this can be virtually impossible with a trailed machine." &#42

This Grimme SF DLS 1700 has enabled easier harvesting in wet conditions for Mr Miller.

Compared with the number of tractors sold in October last year, results for the same period this year reveals an impressive rise. The Agricultural Engineers Association says sales for October totalled 1064 units – a 46.4% rise – and brings the year to date figure to 10,191 units.