Farm machinery makers may have brought us all manner of reliable and effective kit over the past few decades, but there are some things that are proving difficult to design.
And one of the toughest nuts to crack is a round baler that can make a bale and wrap it – and do it without stopping.
See also: Krone unveils first non-stop baler
Krone launched a non-stop baler-wrapper in 2012 and Lely showed a non-wrapping prototype in 2014, though no machines have been sold in the UK so far.
However, the potential benefits are considerable – the fixed-chamber Krone machine, for instance, claims to be able to churn 150 wrapped bales an hour.
Vicon’s Fastbale was designed and developed at parent company Kverneland’s baler centre at Ravenna in Italy.
Machines are being tested around Europe, says Vicon’s sales manager David Furber, particularly in the UK where heavy grass crops work the machines hard. Hence a press visit to Nantwich in Cheshire.
How does it work?
On normal balers, there’s typically a delay of 15-18 seconds while the bale is stringed and the wrap applied. However, with non-stop baler-wrappers, there’s no delay at all – you just keep going.
Key to the design are the two chambers, arranged in series, with a smaller one at the front and then a main one. The pre-chamber of the FastBale produces two-thirds of the bale. As it reaches its preset density, crop then flows into the main bale chamber, allowing baling to continue without stopping.
The pre-chamber then opens, shifting the pre-formed bale into the main chamber, where it can be taken to its maximum size of 1.25m. When the bale has been made, the crop flow switches back to the pre-chamber, allowing baling to continue.
Net is then applied to the completed bale, the tailgate opens and it transfers on to the wrapper. All this happens seamlessly, helped by a wrapper frame mounted on a parallel linkage.
This means that the wrapper can be lowered to meet the completed bale as it rolls from the main chamber – there’s no need for a complicated mechanical transfer system.
The result of all this cleverness is – potentially – the ability to wrap 100 bales an hour with six layers of plastic wrap. That’s a prodigious output, and one that would bring a smile to the face of a farmer or contractor alike.
Does it work?
The field set up for the demonstration may not have been that big, but the Fastbale worked faultlessly. Despite the fact that this machine is still a way away from production, there were no hiccups or bung-ups and the principle certainly looks sound.
At 2.8m wide and 5.6m long, the Fastbale is also surprisingly compact.
Vicon also points out that many of the components, such as the rollers and pick-up, are already used on the company’s existing balers.
So there’s nothing untested or high-tech.
When will it be on sale?
Baler product manager Tim Baker would not be drawn on production dates or availability.
Like all manufacturers, Vicon wants to get all the bugs out the machine before farmers get their hands on them.
However, it sounds like there may be limited availability in a couple of years.
Who is it aimed at?
Anyone who doesn’t like stopping for a few seconds while the bale gains its strings will probably like the principle.
However the faster you go, the quicker the baler will run out of netwrap, so the main benefit may be for users who aren’t working in ultra-heavy crops.
Even with the biggest rolls of plastic wrap, using six layers of wrap means that you’ll need to change roll every 40 bales. Time for bigger rolls of netwrap?