Cover story: Allen Custom Drills E-D 3000

With contractors around the country tackling such a diverse range of terrain, quality NZ-built machinery specifically designed to deal with this challenge, like that from Allen Custom Drills, is crucial

Like all ag machinery businesses, Allen Custom Drills faces stiff competition from around the globe. The home ground advantage, however, means these machines are designed to handle New Zealand’s challenging terrain, which also means they can handle conditions almost anywhere in the world.

This month, we test the Allen Custom Drills E-D 3000, which has recently been purchased by MF Contracting – a small, Matamata-based ag contracting business, which offers solid spreading (with a K Two 900) along with direct drilling crops and grass for local farmers.

The E-D 3000 is a key piece of equipment and replaces MF Contracting’s old triple disc drill. The new machine, supplied by Waikato Tractors, was ordered after seeing a couple of Allen Custom Drills in action at a local demonstration day and having followed test reviews and updates on the range through Farm Trader and online.

This model was chosen for its accuracy of air distribution and simplicity of the triple-disc set-up

One of the key reasons MF Contracting went with the E-D 3000 from Allen Custom Drills was not only for the formidable reputation the units have but also for the accuracy of the air distribution and simplicity of the triple-disc set-up, which should offer considerably lower running costs per hectare over the old drill set-up.

Then there’s the fact they are made in Ashburton and specifically designed to work in New Zealand conditions. With Waikato Tractors having recently become an Upper North Island dealer for Allen Custom Drills, back-up support is conveniently close by.

With several opportunities to test the drill under a variety of conditions, test work included replanting maize and summer crop paddocks, as well as undersowing to thicken up swards going into winter to encourage greater spring growth.


Optional hillside wheels for contouring ability

The E-D series have featured in the Allen Custom Drills range for some time, receiving a revamp/design in early 2018 to give greater contour following over the older design. With the E-D standing for Ergonomic Drill, this series is an economical triple disc direct drill designed for small- to medium-sized farms and contracting operations with a low horsepower requirement.

The E-D series has taken many of the key design points of the higher spec’d C-D series (Contour Disc Drill) that have worked so well. An example of this is the rubber torsion mounted front opening disc system, with sealed, maintenance-free hubs.

Maintenance-free disc openers

A standout feature of the E-D 3000, and of any Allen Custom Drill machine, is its build quality. In my opinion, strength and finish are right up there with any comparable machines from around the world. The now standard blue frame is built from large box section steel, contributing towards the 3500kg base weight for the five-inch spacing version of the E-D 3000.

The super heavy-duty two-point linkage mounted headstock is something that I like. What appeared initially to be a bigger machine than the old drill has still managed to squeeze in and out of some small Waikato gates and laneways with no problems. The headstock is set up with spacers to allow mounting on Cat II or III.

Hydraulic hose labels for easy tractor connection

I appreciate the attention to detail such as laser cut labels attached to the hydraulic lines in pairs, showing flow direction and function. This makes hooking up the drill straightforward, without the need for fancy insulation tape or coloured cable ties to indicate which hoses go to which hydraulic outlet.

The silver seed and fert bins are zinc-coated and powder-coated, giving optimal protection against corrosion, with stainless steel also used in some of the components to further protect the fertiliser bin from rust.

One design issue I’ve become aware of is keeping the drill compact to give good ground contour following. As the front opening discs are relatively close to the arms of the rear planting discs, careful attention needs to be taken. Allen Custom Drills have rectified this issue on their latest built machines.


With the Accord metering system used, there are a couple of key points to keep in mind. One is to get the aperture open to roughly the right setting before filling with seed and beginning to calibrate. Another is to remember which gear you want it in (red drive wheel in or out); slow for small seeds or fast for oats, etc.

Calibration is pretty simple, with the same size plastic container used for seed and fert bins. These fit the scales inside to keep them dry and functional and are stored in the toolbox underneath the filling platform.

Fill the container to the desired amount by holding the prime button (located beneath the bins) to weigh. Then enter this into the control unit in the cab and repeat two or three times to ensure accuracy.

The only improvement I could see that could be helpful to the current system is an app on your phone to save time jumping in and out of the tractor.

On the air lines below the fan, there is an adjustment for air flow of the seed line. This is beneficial if running small seeds and fertiliser, as air flow can be reduced to eliminate seed bounce while still keeping maximum air flow down the fert airline.

For those new to an Allen Custom Drill, a manual of the basic operation, set-up, troubleshooting, and parts would be helpful; this is currently being worked on. Once calibrated (which doesn’t take long), the RDS iSOCAN rate controller is pretty straightforward. Rates are easily set, with adjustment of +/- 5% on the go. The seeding rate accuracy of these is hard to fault.


Undersowing to thicken up swards and encourage better spring growth

Capable of planting at rates from under 1kg/ha to 400kg/ha with optional in-bin cameras and low bin sensors, it’s easy to keep an eye on how things are going. The basic E-Drive, standard on the E-D 3000 drill, still uses the electric radar for ground speed to control seeding rate, with the same accuracy through the Accord system.

Some additional bells and whistles, such as blockage sensors and the ability to use the precision farming features and potentially run through the iSOBUS terminal of the tractor, can be fitted.

The ability to run up to four units/motors through the same screen, like small seed and slug bait units as well as seed and fert, is one of the key reasons for opting for the RDS iSOCAN on the test unit.

In addition, it’s also future-proofing should the tractor get upgraded. MF Contracting has had the E-D 3000 hooked to both a Massey Ferguson 7718 and John Deere JD 7530. Both tractors are more than capable of towing the drill, given that the minimum suggested horsepower required is 100hp.

The other big plus for the new E-D 3000 over the old drill is being able to plant up and along steeper terrain with the same tractor as before, as well as achieving correct seed distribution when going up, down, or around the sides of hills.

The optional hydraulic side wheels help provide a level of safety in this regard. The hillside wheels help achieve an even strike when planting across the side of a hill, instead of the bottom side of the drill planting deeper due to the weight of the machine. I found them equally as important for depth control when planting cultivated ground or extremely dry maize paddocks, helping prevent the drill from turning into a bulldozer.

Initially, it appeared that the drill was unblock-able with the likes of maize stalks and weeds from the perimeter of paddocks. Under some extreme testing conditions, however, I found that this wasn’t quite true.

If you drag built-up trash into the middle of the paddock, while lifting the drill, then drop the drill back down and back up a couple of meters, the problem is pretty well sorted without having to get out and clear the blockage manually.



The screen flips between the two bin cameras and rear-facing camera

There is an extensive range of optional accessories to add to an Allen drill. The E-D 3000 we tested has a three camera unit fitted. This seven-inch screen flips between the two bins and rear facing camera at the touch of a button. It also has an upgraded RDS iSOCAN rate controller, as used in the C-D model.

A heat exchanger unit is a good option, offering two benefits: helping keep the fert flowing with warm dry air being blown through and cooling the hydraulic oil before returning it to the back end of the tractor.

To ensure this works effectively, the radiator cooler needs to be kept clean (this can be a daily job when operating in dry dusty conditions like after maize this autumn). The unit does, however, fold out once a bolt has been removed. A quick-release pin would be preferable for me, making the daily servicing tool free, aside from the grease gun.

RDS iSOCAN rate controller

The machine we tested had a large Stocks Ag air seeder mounted to apply small seeds or slugbait on the surface. MF Contracting had this attached themselves, and this particular Stocks Ag is not an optional extra through Allen Custom Drills.

They do, however, offer an optional smaller Stocks Ag air seeder for doing the same job; this mounts off the side of the platform for easy filling and allows a crane to be mounted on right-hand side.


Capable of planting at rates from under 1kg/ha to 400kg/ha

Taking the basic design concept of the popular C-D range, with a few tweaks to planting disc coulters, Allen Custom Drills have produced a more cost-effective drill while maintaining the same build quality.

This means it should have a similar life expectancy and help lower seasonal running costs, which has to be a winner. Depending on your budget and requirements, you can still option the bells and whistles as required.

The E-D series is currently available in 3 metre and 3.5 metre fixed widths, with the choice of 5″ or 6″ row spacing. An E-D 4000 is being designed by Craig Allen and will be available for Autumn 2020, with 4 metre drilling width and 3 metre transport width.

Once again the Allen Custom Drills team has shown why Allen drills are turning up in contractor’s yards around the country.

Allen Custom Drills E-D 3000 specifications

Working width 3m 
Row spacings 5″/6″ option
Tare weight 3500kg/3250kg
Minimum HP required 100hp
Drilling system Triple disc
Planting system Accord metering with electric drive and air distribution
Bin capacity 1000L seed
  1200L fert
Hydraulic remotes

3 x fan
Transport/ side wheels
Front opening discs

Options Cranes 500 or 1000kg options, work lights, camera packages, mudguards, tail lights, and oversize panels, upgrade to RDS iSOCAN or iSOBUS drill control, oil cooler/heat exchanger, small seed/slugbait applicators,hillside stabilising wheels

Find more tillage and seeding equipment for sale in NZ

Video: Allen Customs Drills E-D 3000

Photography: Laura Batten

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