Issues Fall 2020 A Foldable Planter

A Foldable Planter

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Spudnik has developed a 12-row machine which can fold up to a six-row base, enabling it to be moved from field to field easier.

It was an innovative idea that potato farming equipment manufacturer Spudnik came up with about eight years ago: Devise a 12-row potato planter which, unlike other 12-row machines in the marketplace, was capable of folding itself up — thereby making it much easier for growers to transport it from field to field.

The first prototype of this new foldable, 12-row planter was field-tested in 2013, and according to Evan Steel, director of engineering for Spudnik, the machine just wasn’t up to snuff. “That concept didn’t work,” he says.

That, however, didn’t prevent the Spudnik R&D team from coming up with a better design for a better planting machine which was put to the test in the potato fields of Idaho in 2018. This time, the planter passed with flying colours.

“We’ve been doing really well with prototypes lately where they’ve really just gone to the field and there hasn’t been a lot of issues, which is good because it helps us get them out into the market,” says Steel. “This program was no exception to that. It went to the field and it really ran well.”

Spudnik’s new 8312 potato planter, as it’s called, rolled off the assembly line shortly after that, and in 2019 the first machines were sold to potato farmers in Manitoba, Idaho, Washington and Maine.

“There are a handful of other 12-row planters out there that are built by our competitors, and there’s even some farmers who have built their own,” says Steel. “As far as we know, this is the first 12-row that folds up like this.”

The 8312 planter has a six-row base with two three-row wings on either side that can swing up when required. This allows it to more easily traverse roads and bridges and conform to size restrictions while travelling from field to field.

The planter’s flexibility also provides some additional advantages in the field. By being able to fold up one or two wings, growers can have an easier job navigating around power poles and irrigation equipment. Steel maintains this folding feature also means the 8312 is capable of seeding potatoes more evenly than standard 12-row planters.

“As wide as these machines are, it’s pretty hard for a solid 12-row to really follow any contour of the ground. But because the rows in the 8312 are broken up into those different sections, it can actually follow contour really well,” he says.

“We’ve developed the sensing technology needed to be able to do depth control across the whole planter. So that’s one thing that does make us unique — the ability that we have to control the depth, especially across a machine this wide, and really follow contour,” Steel adds.

“When your seed depth is more consistent, then your plant stand is more uniform in the spring.”

Steel points out the 8312 has an extra-large seed tank, which saves growers time while they’re out planting in the field because it doesn’t have to be filled as often.

He adds one big advantage for farmers using a 12-row planter like the 8312 is it cuts down on the amount of equipment — or people — that’s required to plant their potatoes.

“Our customers are always looking to improve the efficiency of what they’re doing. That efficiency a lot of times can come through reducing labour costs and tractor costs,” says Steel. “If we can develop a machine where a farm can get rid of one tractor or have one less operator that they need to find, then it improves what our customers are doing.”

Justin Kehler and the Spudnik team at genAG equipment dealers in Manitoba sold the first 8312 sold in Canada to a Manitoban farmer last year. Kehler believes the new Spudnik planter is a sure bet to catch on with potato farmers who want to get their planting done faster.

“The big thing with a 12-row planter is the acres it can do per day. It’s a very short window to plant potatoes, and the tighter you can get that window, the better,” he says.