College Project Turned Product
The story of farmer-turned-inventor is not an uncommon one. In fact, it’s how many agriculture businesses started. What is unusual is when a city boy like Colin Hurd creates an ag product and turns it into a business.
Hurd, a recent college grad, invented TrackTill: a planter attachment that tills the wheel tracks behind the planter to reduce wheel or pinch-row compaction created during planting. As soils become compacted, their physical properties are altered, causing changes in bulk density and porosity, which contribute negatively to field production levels and yield. Major compaction issues have been seen specifically with large center-fill planters.
In 2013, Iowa State conducted research on TrackTill to see the impact of the attachment. The study found an 8-bushel increase in the center rows, a 6.5% increase in corn plant height, and a 16% reduction in compaction. “The main reason I decided to develop and market TrackTill is because I saw an opportunity to give growers real value and maximize the efficiency of our land,” says Hurd.
Passion for Farming
Hurd grew up in Roland, Iowa. Hurd’s parents don’t farm, but his passion for agriculture brought him to a nearby farm where he worked throughout high school. His dedication was so strong that he gave up playing football for several years so he could help with harvest.
After high school, Hurd attended Iowa State University (ISU) and spent a summer working on a farm. It was here that he first noticed issues with center-row compaction. “I had to spray about 8,000 acres, and I started noticing the corn in the middle section of the planter was often shorter, stunted, and yellowing because it was not getting proper nutrients or aeration,” says Hurd.
Hurd remembered this problem but did not come up with a solution for a few years. “I was taking a class at ISU in ag entrepreneurship, and we all had to come up with an idea,” explains Hurd. “TrackTill was what I came up with.” The first prototype in 2011 was a shank-style attachment. “Since then we have made several more prototypes for different types of planters,” adds Hurd. “The design we are taking to market this year is what we have worked on the longest and the same version a number of growers tested last year.”
How it Works
TrackTill uses a vertical tine-tillage system, which consists of three sets of 10-inch tillage tines per roller. The 12-inch-wide rollers create a better root zone while leaving the soil surface undisturbed. Equipped with individual air cylinders for adjustable down pressure and lifting capabilities, the TrackTill kits are designed to perform in varying soil conditions.
For 2014, TrackTill is available as a frame- or wheel-mount. The frame-mount units simply bolt around the planter’s frame, positioned alongside the opening disks of the row units. The wheel-mounted version mounts around the planter’s rear wheels and fits between closing wheels on the row unit. The TrackTill frame-mount works on John Deere planters and some Kinze and Case IH planters on 30-inch row spacing. The wheel-mount model works on most John Deere and Case IH planters with 30-inch row spacing. Next year, Hurd plans to offer a version for 20-inch row spacing and possibly 15-inch. A complete kit, including mounting assemblies, tines, rollers, and variable down pressure, retails for $18,900. To order TrackTill, email Hurd at firstname.lastname@example.org.