Test: FarmGem Pioneer 3000

By: Mark Fouhy, Photography by: Mark Fouhy


UK technology is proving a hit in NZ. We test-drive the FarmGem Pioneer 3000 and check out its features, which include a self-trak drawbar system and individual wing lift.

When it comes to purchasing new farm equipment, farmers and contractors are somewhat spoilt for choice. Even here in New Zealand, there is a swag of New Zealand-designed equipment available alongside brands from around the globe, available through dealers and distributors. One piece of equipment that makes sense for farmers to own is a sprayer.

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The FarmGem Pioneer crop sprayer in action

Having a sprayer in your machinery arsenal means being able to get paddocks sprayed when you want and within tight weather windows, which is crucial to the success or failure of a crop.

FarmGem sprayers from the UK have been available in New Zealand since 2017, imported directly from the factory through Willowbrook Machinery based in Canterbury.

They first caught my eye at a demo day as a price competitive option worth considering, and I managed to catch some time with one of the UK managing directors for a first-hand discussion around the brands manufacturing process and key features.

Willowbrook Machinery

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Nikos Petkos and Terry Fixter from FarmGem

Matthew Sim from Willowbrook Machinery is a third-generation Canterbury farmer whose family has been farming the same property since 1946. Having started off sourcing and importing machinery for their own operation, it didn’t take long to establish solid contacts in the UK, US, and Europe before others in the region starting making enquiries for some of the same machinery.

This led to them being appointed as importers and distributors for the ProForge range of cultivation machinery, followed by the FarmGem range of sprayers. The idea Matthew has for Willowbrook Machinery is being able to provide quality machinery to Kiwi farmers and contractors at an affordable price.

Being based on farm with website and internet advertising allows them the luxury of low overheads not selling through an existing dealer network. The key to this slightly-different-than-usual machinery sales set-up (although becoming more common) is the ability to offer competitive pricing for comparable machinery.

Set-up/safety

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The self-trak drawbar makes turning easy and eliminates boom whip when turning

The FarmGem range is designed in the UK where rules and regulations are at least as stringent, if not more, than what we have here in terms of health and safety and proof of placement for chemicals and fertiliser applied.

This makes FarmGem sprayers a good option to help tick off compliance areas around application rates/areas and records, with the use of the Delta 80 8.4-inch colour screen and GPS option available with AGSTAR receiver. I’m sure this would still be compatible with guidance systems like Trimble and Greenstar for example.

For filling, the fold-down induction hopper for adding and mixing chemicals is handy. Almost equally important nowadays is the ability to do this with as minimal a risk as possible to those doing the job.

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The chemical induction hopper makes it easy to get the chemical into the tank

The addition of a storage locker for personal protective equipment, mask, gloves, etc. is a handy feature as is the retractable hose reel for hosing off gloves or the outside of the sprayer if changing farms or jobs. This also assists in minimising any spread of seed disease contamination.

When mixing, the valves are clearly labelled on the left side of the tank, making processes nice and straightforward. Filters are also located close by for easy access from the ground for cleaning. Should you need access to the top of the sprayer, there is a step ladder and safety platform at the front of the tank.

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A full lighting kit and optional reversing camera for road transport

For on-road transport, there is flashing orange lighting at the rear as well as optional cameras. LED lighting is available as an option and was fitted on the boom of our test machine for use after dark, when the bees are not flying and when the weather may be suitable for the job. Lighting is also available over the filling station area.

Should you need to refill out in the paddock from a source with no pump, there’s a six-metre hose with suction. For road work, rear tail lights, suspension, brakes, and drawbar locking mechanism are standard features.

Controls and operation

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The sprayer control layout is simple to operate 

Once the 3000-litre tank is full and ready to go (a 2500-litre option is also available), the electric joystick offers all spray start/stop and boom controls at your fingertips. Other options such as vertical fold for the outside sections are also available, but I reckon the features offered as standard on the Pioneer sprayer should tick most boxes for most situations.

Being electric, there isn’t a huge demand for hydraulic outlets to control all the boom functions, so an older model tractor like the MX110 was quite adequate to run the FarmGem Pioneer.

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A Bertolini 260L/min pump mounted on the drawbar

A large pump mounted on the linkage mounted drawbar and PTO to run the pump (a six-cylinder diaphragm unit designed to pump at 260 litres per minute) is designed to suit these sprayers.

The nozzle bodies used by FarmGem are a quick-change three-head design, which allows for quick changes if you’re changing chemicals and application requirements. The triangular boom design helps protect these from damage.

Boom

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The FarmGem Pioneer turns with ease during a headland manoeuvre

The boom is a vital component on any sprayer and can also be the weak link of the system, given the stains and stresses they are put under operating at speed over rough paddocks. I like the design of the FarmGem booms. Using triangles and a double lattice system ( a bit like a crane boom) for strength, helps protect the nozzle bodies and the 19mm stainless steel spray lines from damage. The Pioneer 3000 is standard with a 24-meter boom with a total of seven sections, four of which are folding.

The outer ends of the boom have three dimensional breakaway, allowing them to swing backwards, forwards, or upwards and back into position. For the rest of the boom, the combined use of springs and hydraulics with accumulators help protect the boom. Controls allow either side of the boom to raise and lower independently, to clear obstacles, and cope with undulating terrain.

As well as this, forward and backwards yaw movement is built in, giving almost 3D protection from bumps on the ground. This protection is further increased thanks to wheel suspension to minimise sudden movements being transferred to the boom.

An important feature of the active boom suspension is that it remains active when folded up in the cradles in transport, where the potential for damage can be just as high at 40–50km/hr down the road or in laneways, as in the paddock working.

The fact that FarmGem are confident to provide a three-year warranty on the boom is a pretty strong testament to the faith they have in these booms to go the distance and get the job done.

In the paddock

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FarmGem’s self-trak drawbar system works on an enclosed hydraulic system

On the trailed FarmGem range, the Self-Trak drawbar system allows the sprayer to follow the tractor perfectly through headland turns. What once seemed tricky, FarmGem has refined over the last 20 years to provide a simple system that requires no driver input. This system is important to minimise damage to high value crops, maximising yield potential as well as keeping soil compaction to a minimum.

Trailed off the linkage arms, with two pivot points, the one closer to the spray tank has hydraulic function. This can be locked in place for road transport with a manual turn buckle.

Large 340/85 R38 wheels and a smooth underbelly provide 600mm of clearance over crops, ideal if you want to use your sprayer for fungicide or liquid fertiliser after germination. The sprayer has an adjustable wheel which can be selected between 1.8m and 2m to match the tractor and minimise cop damage.

Servicing

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Spraying pressure and tank level are shown on the sprayer manual gauges, as well as digital info shown on the Delta 80 controller

Whether you’re thinking about purchasing a new sprayer for the upcoming season or already own one, now is the time to think about getting it ready for when the time and weather is right.

As Willowbrook Machinery is in the farming game, as well as importing machinery, they have teamed up with Keane Farm Services to handle the servicing side of things. With a passion for sprayers and GPS guidance systems, Keane also offers a mobile workshop and provide calibration, testing, and servicing to ensure you’re getting the best from your sprayer to minimise spray drift and provide optimal accuracy.

Verdict

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Individual wing lift is an option to help follow ground contour or lift over an obstacle

Having not previously been aware of the FarmGem range of sprayers, I was impressed by the quality and features of these UK designed machines, which really suit the New Zealand market and conditions.

FarmGem has many years of sprayer design and construction experience, and a range of sprayer models to suit lifestyle blocks, fruit and vegetable horticultural applications and larger scale agricultural applications.

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With safety in mind, the PPE locker and hand wash tank are standard

FarmGem Pioneer 3000 specifciations

Boom widths 24m standard, 18/20/21m options
Nozzle body Quick fit triplet spray nozzle bodies
Pump 260L/min 6-cylinder diaphragm pump
Controller Delta 80, 8.4-inch screen, Automatic rate controller
Spray lines 19mm stainless steel
Tank capacity 3000L (2500L option)
Track width 1.8–2m adjustable
Options

Extra lighting for boom/filling areas, Rear reversing camera, Boom/tank sizes, Boom level sensors, Extra sections (9 vs 7 standard), Selectron individual nozzle control

Pluses

  • Self-Trak drawbar
  • PPE storage locker and hose
  • Service and back-up support provided by sprayer specialist
  • Boom design to minimise damage
  • Three-year warranty (one-year parts and labour plus two-year construction)

Minuses

  • A lack of dealer networks for parts availability

Find more sprayers for sale in NZ

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