Dewulf deal sees potato harvesters UK debut
By Mike Williams
A NEW range of potato harvesting machinery, including trailed and self-propelled models, is available in the UK after a distribution agreement signed by the Dewulf company in Belgium.
Dewulf builds one of Europes biggest ranges of root crop and vegetable harvesting machinery, but Niagri Engineering – their UK distributor – will be concentrating on potato and carrot harvesters initially.
Production of Dewulf self-propelled machines started with a carrot harvester in 1973, and their first self-propelled sugar beet harvester followed in 1976.
The company claims to have pioneered the development of self-propelled potato harvesters in Europe when they built their first machine in 1986. Their current range covers three models, including the R3000 Mega powered by a 219hp Deutz engine.
The R3000, a two-row harvester with a bunker holding up to 6000kg, has three powered wheels, including a single front wheel which is offset to avoid running over unharvested crop. The combination of a single front wheel plus the rear wheels on a steerable axle is said to give excellent manoeuvrability for headland turns, and the hydrostatic drive has working and travel ranges with infinitely variable speed control and a 30kmh top speed.
The R4000 Mega is also a two-row harvester with a tricycle wheel layout and hydrostatic drive, but it has a cart elevator for direct unloading instead of the bunker and the engine power is increased to 250hp.
For their top-of-the-range model, Dewulf offers the R5000 Mega harvester. This is also a two-row design with a bunker, but the load capacity is doubled to 12 tonnes and the power unit is a 435hp Scania. The wheel layout is also changed, using dual wheels all round instead of the single wheels on the smaller models, and with two steerable axles at the rear to give five dual wheel sets.
There are three trailed potato harvesters, the Superia, Quadria and Axia, all available in both cart elevator and bunker versions. Like the self-propelled models, the trailed harvesters have a 1700mm web width, but the web speed is mechanically adjusted using a four-speed gearbox instead of infinitely variable speed control through a hydrostatic drive on the self-propelleds.
Alan Nicholson, managing director of Niagri Engineering based at Lakenheath, Suffolk, plans to concentrate on the potato harvesters initially, particularly the self-propelled models.
"Dewulf is Europes leading maker of self-propelled potato harvesters," he says. "They have been building them longer than anyone else and the R5000 has the biggest capacity of any potato harvester built in Europe."
Mr Nicholson, who has 30 years experience of root crop machinery production and marketing, believes the UK market for self-propelled potato harvesters will follow the growth pattern already established in some European countries.
The number of big acreage growers who need the extra output of a self-propelled harvester is increasing, he says, and self-propelled machines will provide more opportunities for contractors to offer a harvesting service for growers. *
Dewulf was established at Roeselare, Belgium in 1946, and now employs 75 people building vegetable and root crop harvesters producing almost £8m turnover last year. Exports account for 40% of turnover, with Germany, France and Holland heading the list of 21 different overseas markets.
Self-propelled potato harvesters are one of the most successful Dewulf products, accounting for much of the companys 30% increase in turnover last year. They sell to growers with 80ha (200 acres) plus of potatoes, but contractors are now the biggest customers as they take over more of the harvesting work in many of the main potato growing areas.