All the movers and shakers of the potato industry gathered at the Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate last week for the biennial two-day British Potato event.
Farmers Weekly rounds up some of the highlights from the machinery exhibitors.
Dewulf unveil new three-row potato planter
Belgian root-crop-kit specialist Dewulf has revealed its first three-row belt planter and it is packed with technology to maintain accurate planting on hilly terrain.
Spud planters that place three rows of seed in each bed are designed specifically for salad or baby potato production, with the smaller tuber size requirement achieved by planting at higher densities.
The market for three-row belt planters is dominated by German maker Grimme, with just a small number coming from French firm Agronomic.
Dewulf is now attempting to muscle in on the market with its new Structural 30 planter, recently launched at Agritechnica and on show to UK growers at British Potato 2017.
What makes it unique from other similar planters is its Wave Belt concept, which uses multiple undulating rubber bands to prevent seed rolling to one side on slopes, helping to maintain accurate seed metering and placement. It is also said to be kinder on seed tubers.
As an extra, growers can opt for the Inclino Master system, which uses several sensors and hydraulic rams on the planter’s chassis to keep the hopper and planting gear level as the openers follow the contours of the ground.
The centre row can be taken out of work to turn the trailed planter into a two-row machine and it also has a very tight turning circle thanks to its rear steering axle, which can be controlled by an optional in-cab joystick.
Other features include a 3.5t self-tipping hopper with a slatted floor to minimise trash build up and four cameras can be fitted to monitor the workings of the machine from the comfort of the cab.
The planter is available from Norfolk dealer Niagri Engineering or Forfar-based Netherton Tractors in Scotland and prices start at about €58,000 (£51,900).
British-made palletiser makes bag stacking a doddle
A Cambridgeshire technology company has launched the first British designed and built solution for automatically stacking potato bags on pallets.
With labour supply in the UK fresh produce sector tightening, growers are increasingly looking to automation to reduce labour requirements and until now, palletisers have come from overseas.
However, Wisbech-based firm Agrimech is now offering its Titan robotic palletiser as a means of reducing labour requirements and increasing the efficiency, accuracy and safety of stacking operations in the grading shed or pack house.
The Titan is built from stainless steel for strength and durability and, rather than using fingers to pick up the back like many other systems, it feeds bags gently into the stacking mechanism to reduce the risk of damage.
It can stack up to 15t each hour and is controlled from an easy-to-operate touchscreen.
The Titan’s bag grabber can stack a range of bag types, including paper, plastic, hessian, poly and bales.
Agrimech’s Belinda Smith told Farmers Weekly the system costs £55,000 plus VAT, which includes feed-in elevator, 12 month’s parts and labour warranty and top support from the engineers that designed and build the machines.
ScanStone upgrade its trailed harvester range
Forfar-based root crop machinery manufacturer Scanstone has gone into full commercial production of its Patriot 5 trailed potato harvester.
The Patriot was in the pre-production phase last year, when it was extensively trialled in France, and had its official launch at Potato Europe in September.
After some updates and improvements, it is now in full production and the first machines have been working in Angus and Shropshire during harvest 2017.
Fitted with a tailor-made Evolution separating system, the Patriot 5 has been designed with salad-potato growers in mind.
With gentle cleaning carried out in five stages, it reduces the risk of haulm being pulled out in bunches and taking small tubers with it. Scuffing and bruising is also minimised, with no vertical drops right through the harvesting process.
The design was kept as simple as possible for low maintenance, including the use of tooth belt drive instead of chains, and options include Dahlman rollers, a picking table and hydraulic wheel drive.
A basic version retails at £89,000 and expect to pay up to £130,000 for a fully equipped machine.