Jaiden Drought, a self-confessed ‘white honky’ from Taranaki, endured the sweltering +30-degree temperatures of North Canterbury to test the robust SuperSeeder drill, a machine that proved even harsh, dry conditions won’t see it beat.
This month I tested two quite different machines, but there was one clear similarity between the two — build quality. When I talk about impressive build quality I mean I would be surprised if anyone could break one of these machines...ever! Both machines are built either wholly or partly by BJ Scarlett, a team that prides itself in building tough machinery.
For this test we're focusing on the SuperSeeder drill. Superseeder frames are manufactured in Timaru by BJ Scarlett under contract by Ben and Steph Tait of Canzquip. Canzquip import the innovative hardware under license from Bourgault Industries and carry out the final assembly out of their base near Ashburton.
The summer dry has settled in and it's fair to say it's not the ideal time of year to be drilling, as what little moisture remains in the shale soils of the Waikari valley is barely keeping the existing plants alive. However, this didn't stop me giving the 320 SuperSeeder (3.3m drilling width, 20 openers) a run for its money with Scott Hassell, manager of Iffley Farms and operator of the SuperSeeder.
Now, a couple of months ago some of you may remember I tested Ben's first prototype drill, the 636 (6m, 36 openers), which he uses himself. He's had an exceptionally good run out of it, having clocked up 3000ha in one of the most competitive drilling areas in the country.
This time around we're testing out the 3m drill and I can honestly say I have never seen a 3m drill built like this, tipping the scales at nearly 6 tonne which doesn't include seed or ballast — definitely a heavyweight contender that can handle 12 rounds no problem.
So now you'll be getting a clearer picture of what I was harping on about earlier in terms of build strength. While all this weight is definitely an advantage, it's also the unique disc design that creates the ease at which you can bite into the ground (more of this later).
Scott Hassell and the team at Iffley farms scoured the countryside for a drill that could handle their exceptionally challenging environment and after settling on the SuperSeeder, they are rapt with their decision. So, how can a 1000ha farm, drilling around a quarter of that annually, justify having a drill that is more superior than most contractors in the district? Scott conservatively estimated that an extra 80-100ha of the farm could be renovated with the new drill in either crops or just new and improved pasture species. This has massive gains for the farms productivity with up to 500 extra stock units able to be carried on the farm simply by drilling these previously unattainable areas and getting rid of the over 30-year-old grasses that are simply not performing. So why can this drill do what others can't? Well, it's all about coulter travel and keeping a low centre of gravity. There are other features to aid with this, but the steep and very undulating hill country needs all of the 500mm coulter travel, as well as Scott constantly on the linkage arms using all of their travel range to negotiate around areas where others just will not go. While the drill was tested in a flat paddock, we must note the steep country the drill has covered. How does Ben gauge steepness? He says it's steep enough to take a spare change of underwear with your cut lunch. In fact, he changed the speed sense from a land wheel to a radar because Scott's wheels weren't always on the ground while drilling the sideling. With the openers weighing in at 125kg each, almost half of the drill's weight is from ground engaging hardware. This leaves the drill's centre of gravity very low and very stable in steep applications.
Coulter and disc design
Each disc is set on a five-degree horizontal and 10-degree vertical angle. The discs are also set opposite to each other i.e. the left-side discs are opposite to the right-side discs. Due to this set angle, the single disc has the ability to penetrate even the hardest ground while maintaining excellent trash clearing ability.
The coulters and the press wheels are mounted on a parallelogram design which allows you to place the hydraulic pressure on both the coulter and the press wheel as well as climbing over any obstacles independently.
The openers have sixteen depth settings, in 6mm increments held in place by depth stopping pins, with finer tuning done by hydraulic pressure. The large, rubber press wheel is connected to the depth gauge wheel by a walking beam. You have the option to lock the gauge wheel up so that the press wheel alone sets the opener depth. This in turn increases the downward pressure of the press wheel for closing the seed furrow in the toughest conditions. The hydraulic pressure on the coulters is controlled with the basic but effective in cab controller. The down pressure is measured on the monitor with a gauge while the raising and lowering is on a toggle switch.
Single fan can run a true double shoot
Often twin shoots are run from two separate fans allowing the seed and fert to remain separate, right to the distribution heads, down through the tubes all the way to the coulter. The SuperSeeder achieves this with a single fan by allowing the hot air to pass through a cooler, then into a division box and knife valves to split the flow. For example, brassica seed in the back tank goes to the left-hand pipe, with the knife bank cutting 60% of the air flow to that pipe. In the right-hand pipe is the fert with the knife bank right open. This means the air is raging through the fertiliser pipe to allow heavy application rates, but because the seed line is only running at 40% of its capacity it isn't blowing the seed out of the ground.
Anybody would be able to handle the greasing needs of this drill with only two daily grease nipples on the ball hitch and weekly greasing on the HIAB crane (if fitted) while the openers have two grease nipples on each of the adjustable tapered roller bearings which only need greasing every 250hrs. The low disturbance boots have a tungsten leading edge and are easily adjusted up a spline as the disc wears. The side draft slop that's created after wear on the machine only requires simple 'click in' plastic shims which slot into the gap. This cheap fix is a more cost effective way to stripping and re-bushing the coulter assembly.
The tungsten boot tips are hidden behind the disc due to the angle it is set on, and because it comes in marginal contact with the ground this stops the shoots blocking with sticky soil. With the boots properly adjusted up the spline as the disc reduces in size, Ben believes they may never need replacing.
Other key features
- Because of the hydraulic drive there's no manual cranking of a handle for calibration. Set the rate on the computer, take the drop pipe off the charge line and hang a bucket for the seed to drop into — it's that simple;
- Reduction gear box of 5:1 if spec'd without a small seed box to achieve low sowing rates;
- Ball hitch works regardless of the angle. Because the two parts fit perfectly, there is no slop, twisting force or risk of it popping off even with upward pressure;
- The drill has two compartments included in the frame for holding compressed air to clean out the product tanks and meters between jobs;
- Equipped with field lights for filling, including lights inside and below the tank.
Ben Tait has designed a drill that can handle virtually anything. But because it's designed to handle the toughest terrain, has framework that will rust before it wears out and has low on-going maintenance costs, no one's ever going to need an upgrade. He's doing himself out of a job!
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