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Smart air cart

11/01/2011 @ 10:35am

If you own an air cart, you know that most models are designed to work with air drills up to 60 feet wide. But as farm sizes have increased and the window of opportunity to get ground seeded seems to be decreasing, many pieces of equipment have grown in size, including air drills.

Yet many air carts, which carry and distribute seed and fertilizer to the air drill, haven't kept pace with the trend toward super-size equipment.

“Most air carts were designed to work with air drills up to only 60 feet wide – not the 70- to 90-foot drills many producers now use to seed their crops faster as farm sizes increase,” says Norbert Beaujot, a Saskatchewan farmer and engineer. “They weren't built to handle the high rates of fertilizer now being used on these large air drills as variable-rate fertility gains momentum.”

The result? Many farmers struggle with plugged air hoses because there isn't enough airflow or metering capacity on their air carts to push such high volumes of product through.

“Instead of getting crops seeded more quickly and gaining efficiencies with a wider air drill, many farmers are forced to slow down to avoid plugging because of their air carts,” says Lawrence Papworth, AgTech Center in Alberta, Canada.

Some even lower their fertilizer rates to prevent plugging, which means their crop may not reach its full yield potential.

50% More product

An innovation from Beaujot takes a new approach to seed and fertilizer and solves these problems.

The Nova XP-820 Smart Cart, with an 820-bushel, four-product capacity, is designed to seed up to 400 pounds per acre of fertilizer on any size air drill at 5 mph with no plugging and minimal seed damage.

“That's up to 50% more product than existing carts,” says Beaujot.

He and his design team had specific goals in mind: prevent plugging, move more product, and reduce seed damage. To achieve the first two, they started by increasing the number of primary runs that carry seed and fertilizer on the Nova XP to the air drill.

“It's like adding lanes to a highway,” he says. “Instead of the standard six or eight, we increased it to 10.”

Minimizing seed damage proved to be more difficult, however.

“Farmers have very little control over air speed on their air carts,” he notes. “They often blow the same high speeds into all of their seed and fertilizer runs. That's a big problem when you're seeding canola at only 3 to 5 pounds per acre and fertilizer at 400 pounds an acre. Canola needs considerably less air than the fertilizer because you're applying so much less. Otherwise, you wind up with extensive seed damage and bounce.”

To remedy the problem, Beaujot and his team isolated the airflows for seed and fertilizer in each primary run so air couldn't leak from one run to another.

“That lets us feed low fan speeds in the seed run and high fan speeds in the fertilizer run, side by side,” Beaujot says. “That's not possible on other air carts because they have one long metering roller that drops product into all of the primary runs. Air spills over the roller into the runs, making it impossible to set different air speeds in each one.”

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