Reviews

Review: Househam Air Ride 4000

The Househam Air Ride 4000 is a beast built for performance rather than beauty, but it’s proving popular with end users in the South Island

When it comes to spraying accuracy, farmers couldn’t care less if contractors turn up with a horse and cart with a spray boom, providing it does the job of killing pesky weeds efficiently. That’s just as well, as the Househam Air Ride 4000 is a beast built for performance rather than beauty – but it’s proving popular with end users in the South Island.

To see the machine in action, we headed south to Canterbury to check out how the Househam 4000 is fitting into the fleet of local contractors Harrison Spraying Services.

Like all good contractors, Gary Harrison likes to do his homework when it comes to machinery, so around this time last year travelled to the Househam factory in England to investigate the unit and ensure it ticked all of his boxes before investing. Designed, built, and tested in the UK, the Househam brand is bought to New Zealand by Euro-Agri, which also provides any back-up required for clients.

With a number of models available, Gary opted for the Air Ride 400, largely due to its capacity, low weight, and soil compaction.

Having clearly liked what he saw, it turns out the self-propelled Househam Air Ride 4000L has become the pride of the Harrison fleet. Additionally, the Househam spray system itself (tank, pumps, boom, etc.) is proving so effective that Gary has had them mounted to his 10-tonne Isuzu trucks, which carry out most of his agricultural spraying requirements.

History

While the self-propelled sprayer market in New Zealand is relatively small, Househam (pronounced house-um) is a household name in Europe, where large areas of arable crops requiring constant spraying sprouted the birth of self-propelled sprayers.

The company was founded by Len Househam in 1970. The idea was to commit to the self-propelled sprayer market, as it was more cost-effective than either trailed or limited volume mounted machines at the time (it now offers those varieties also).

Throughout the 1970s, Househam disassembled Ford tractors, jacked them up, and modified the cabs before mounting them in front of the engine for better visibility. Once the cab was on, a tank and boom were mounted where the cab would traditionally be on a conventional tractor.

This creativity was the start of a journey that now spans almost 50 years, and today almost the same placement of components continues to stand the test of time, renowned for its optimal weight distribution, cab at the front, engine in the middle, and tank at the back design.

Today, Househam offers an impressive range of self-propelled machines, ranging from 2000- to 6000-litre tanks, with a clearance of up to 1m.75 to safely clear crops. The specialist machines can also be fitted with sprayers out the front for crops such as strawberries as well as various boom options with widths up to 40 metres and individual nozzle control.

Cab

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All round visibility in the cab is almost unobstructed

While I may have been a little blunt around the unappealing styling (as per most sprayers), in terms of visibility sitting in the cab, it’s almost unreal how much you can see. Many of the competitor’s models still have the nose out the front, meaning the cab is more central. While this may give a better ride when the tank is empty, for in-field visibility, the Househam is outstanding.

Getting into the cab is easy, thanks to a self-folding ladder. Inside, the cab is functional without looking like a confusing rainbow with a multitude of different buttons. The joystick controls the transmission as well as some of the spray functions and the rest is controlled from switches, while the brain of the operation is the Total Machine Control (TMC).

As with almost all Househam components, the touch screen TMC in-cab monitor is designed and built in-house. The TMC controls the spray control system, including application rate control, section control, and auto shut off, along with the boom, tank filling, and washout procedure. It also handles engine management and transmission control (like a CVT tractor) while covering diagnostics.

Like most technology, the TMC is useful during spraying itself, providing accurate data in terms of forward speed, tank level, application per hectare, and hectares done. This machine also has Field Master that controls the GPS mapping and six section auto control (ensures minimum overlaps on headlands and from pass to pass and controls the auto-steer). 

Engine

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The high folding boom allows good cab visibility through gateways and on the road

The 225hp CAT engine provides the grunt for the sprayer. Although this seems like quite a bit, driving the four-wheel motors and the large spray pump at 25km/hr definitely uses some ponies.

Given the high and awkward engine mounting position, all daily checks can be carried out by the TMC monitor in the cab. This is both safer and faster. The 300-litre fuel tank is accessed by climbing up the cab steps.

As mentioned, the TMC synchronises engine revs, transmission speed, and machine load, allowing the engine to run at the most economical rpm. An example of this is that when filling, the high-capacity centrifugal pump can run at full capacity with the engine running at idle.

Transmission and axles

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The 24m boom doesn’t disappoint

Househam Intelligent Transmission System (HITS) controls the four-stage hydrostat transmission, which has a positive drive to all four hydraulically driven wheels. HITS also works with TMC to reduce engine rpm while still capable of 40km/hr on the current row crop tyres or 45km/hour on the larger standard tyres.

Normal, power, and eco modes are available on a rocker switch to suit the terrain, while road and field modes manage max forward travel speed. A two-speed cruise control function, which can be adjusted on the move, allows the joystick to be pushed fully forward. The operator then simply pushes one of the cruise control buttons to switch between their chosen spraying and headland turn speeds.

Like most hydrostats, it’s smooth to operate and has automatic modulation to smooth out any ambitious speed changes. This gives the spray system time to adjust to ensure a reliable application rate. Having said that, at no stage did it feel sluggish.

The transmission itself, although impressive, is outshone by some of the other cool features going on under the chassis:

  • Househam developed the Active Air Ride suspension, which does exactly what the name suggests – giving the smoothest possible ride on the road and in the field.
  • Hill Assist feature, which automatically applies the brakes when you stop. It also allows the brakes to automatically release as you drive.
  • The transmission uses Sauer Danfoss wheel motors and Bonfiglioli reduction hubs.
  • Adaptive function that auto toggles between two- and four-wheel steering when the field mode is selected.
  • Crab steering can be used when ground conditions are particularly poor
  • Tight turning circle of 3.6 metres, in four-wheel steer makes it extremely manoeuvrable.

The hydraulic drive to each wheel gives positive drive and proves ideal in the wet. This combined with the low tare weight and bigger tyres make it perfect for applying urea or gibberellic acid in winter conditions on dairy farms. Having the ability to then do row crop work over wheat, barley, radishes, or the large area of fodder beet means the Harrison spraying team can use the Househam Air Ride all year round.

Tank and filling

You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that chemical sprays are not good for you. Luckily, the carbon-filtered cab and separate enclosed bin for safety equipment for loading allow filling to be carried out safely.

This is aided by easy-to-access filling fittings. The main trick is the 25-litre stainless steel chemical induction hopper that moves up and down on a parallelogram, so it can be easily loaded from below waist height. This also ensures chemicals are mixed thoroughly without corrosion from the harsh chemicals. A high-powered spray jet is incorporated so loading jugs or drums can be cleaned easily and safely.

Once chemicals are in the hopper, simply push a button for the chemical induction into the 4000-litre main tank while a 300-litre clean water tank is on-board if needed throughout the day.

For tank rinsing, the Hi Pro Plus feature, again at the push of a button, completely washes the system to ensure your precious radishes don’t get a residual dose of glysophate – every spray contractors’ worst nightmare.

Boom and nozzles

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Boom construction is lightweight and strong

This is the business end of the machine and the 24-metre boom on the Househam doesn’t disappoint. Firstly, folded in the transport position, the boom ends sit just above the cab, so you still have excellent visibility for getting in and out of gateways. Unfolding happens at a leisurely pace – a little slow but it’s definitely nice and gentle, with no risk of boom whip.

Once unfolded, the boom automatically drops to a pre-set height before the Dynamic Boom Control system (DBC) takes over. This then takes charge of controlling the boom height using multiple sensors to monitor the distance of each boom section to the (pre-selected) target height and responds accordingly. I’m told that this responds well (and more importantly quickly) to contour undulations, although, on the flat Canterbury Plains, it’s a little hard to test the reaction time no matter how fast you go.

Being on the move at pace means you also need some sort of protection. The hydraulic break back feature operates a continuous flow of oil. If the boom hits an obstacle in the field, the oil pressure builds, opens a relief valve, and allows the oil to rush back to the tank while the boom hydraulically breaks back.

The spray lines are 19mm stainless steel, and this machine has double spray lines and double nozzles. The yellow nozzles are for low-speed application. Once you get over a certain speed, the blue nozzles take over. If a faster forward speed is required again, both nozzles start up for accurate application at up to 25km/hr.

The tank mix constantly recirculates inside the spray system and in the booms for instant spray and pressure as needed. This allows for changing the rate on the go, as the spray is always there. This is a must for variable rate at high forward speed.

Verdict

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A bird’s eye view of the machine at work

Househam offers a full spec machine as standard while remaining price competitive. This allows for a faster, more streamlined production and reduced wait times. Obviously, individual requirements can be catered for, but the features of the Househam offer outstanding accuracy with a machine that’s truly user-friendly.

The Harrison Spraying team are over the moon with the Househam product for its accuracy and reliability along with the back-up they receive from Euro-Agri. Having seen and experienced it in action, I can understand why.

Househam Air Ride 4000L specifications

Engine MTU 4R1000 170-228hp engine
Turning circle 7m 2WD
Suspension Air ride load sensing
Clearance 1100
Tyres 320/85 R36 or other options
Wheelbase 3460 mm
Spray system 400L tank
Boom 24m
Technology MC system, high precision application rate control, recirculating booms, suction filter, flushing pressure filter

Pluses

  • Excellent all-round visibility in the cab
  • Positive four-wheel hydraulic drive
  • 45km/hr road speed (40km on row crops)
  • Four-speed hydrostat transmission
  • TMC touchscreen in-cab controller is the easy-to-use brains of the operation
  • Dynamic Boom Control maintains a consistent boom height, reducing chemical drift and improving chemical efficiency
  • Stainless steel chemical induction hopper, inbuilt pressure washer
  • Push button chemical induction and wash procedure
  • Twin spray line, double spray nozzle for spraying up to 25km/hr

Minuses

  • Boom fold and unfold is slow
  • Not the prettiest girl on the dance floor

Find more self-propelled sprayers for sale in NZ

Photography: Justin Bennett

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