David Williams was invited to the Vderstad factory to find out more
In 1962, Rune Stark, a farmer from southern Sweden designed a metal harrow to replace his traditional wooden implement which struggled to cope with the farm’s stony and difficult soil. Built in his farm workshop, it had rigid cultivation tines and was a success. Admired by neighbours, who asked him to manufacture similar cultivators for their farms, a business was formed and now, operating within half a mile of the original farm workshop in the village of Vderstad, the business which shares its name remains in the Stark family ownership, employing more than 1,000 staff. David Williams was invited to the factory to find out more.The original workshop has become a small museum, original tools on display along with the car and trailer used to deliver the early cultivators, the business having quickly grown and its machinery range expanded to meet demand for further new products. In 1967, the company’s first folding harrow was manufactured; the ‘Skid Harrow’, and in 1976 the first 6m folding ring roller was produced.The original workshop in which Rune Stark built his first cultivators.
The original UK importer was Bamlett, and Norfolk dealer William Randell who was at the factory with Farmers Guide commented that the longevity and build quality of the rolls is reflected by the number still in use today; “We are often asked for parts for rollers supplied new in the 1970s,” he said, “and of course with Vderstad, there is no problem and we can supply anything needed.” In 1982, the Vderstad NZ cultivator was introduced, and in the early 1990s the company’s first drill became available, the Rapid, of which more than 20,000 units have been sold through the following decades. One of the very first steel tine cultivators designed and built by Rune Stark.The Carrier cultivator was launched in 1999 and since 2000 further success stories including the TopDown, Spirit and the Tempo. In 2006 Vderstad bought 49 per cent of Canadian manufacturer Seed Hawk.Vderstad is owned by the Stark family, Christina Stark, daughter of the founder, is managing director running the business with three of her brothers. Chairman Crister Stark commented that part of the company’s success has been its policy of providing farmers with not just the product, but also the concept, explaining the methods and techniques likely to achieve the best results.”We have always made sure new machines offer something extra for the farmer over existing products on the market,” explained Crister. “The launch of the new Tempo planter means that five times now our company has doubled output over previous products. Starting with the HV Roller, then the NZ Cultivator, the Rapid drill, and the Carrier cultivator, all these products have allowed users to double their output.”The new parts centre adjacent to the factory.Vderstad has a sales presence in 40 countries and 12 wholly owned sales subsidiaries in nations including England, France, Poland, Hungary and Germany. The factory buildings in Vderstad occupy 60,000m2, a Tempo assembly hall recently having been completed as well as a new parts centre which opened in October 2012. As well as the factory in Sweden, the company has an assembly plant in Russia, and its Seed Hawk products are built in Canada.Business growth has been rapid; between 2006 and 2008 turnover doubled, and after a decline in sales between 2008 and 2009 during which time sales dropped from 225 to 145M, the 2010 to 2012 period saw growth from 205M to 240M with forecast sales for 2013 being 275M. Exports account for 90 per cent of the company’s sales; with the UK the largest importer followed by Russia. The company’s home market, Sweden, is its third largest market but Crister Stark commented that sales in Germany for the start of 2013 have been very good. New products
During Farmers Guide’s visit new products being demonstrated included the Seed Hawk 8m direct drill, with up to 150kg coulter pressure available, designed to drill into an un-worked surface. The split hopper can be used for seed and fertiliser or both sections can be filled with seed if fertiliser isn’t being applied. The drill is said to be extremely manoeuvrable with a large pair of bogey wheels at the front, and caster wheels on each corner to maintain accurate ground following. Row spacing is 10 inches and Vderstad said that the drill has been working successfully in the UK, the wider than usual spacing resulting in no detrimental effect on yield. Carrier XL
Ahead of its official UK launch at Cereals, the new Carrier XL cultivator was in use. Featuring larger discs; 610 rather than the standard 450mm, it is designed to deal with high trash volumes and can work down to below 15cm. Longer arms provide more clearance between the frame and disc and disc angles are individually adjustable from 10-18 degrees to suit the type of work.The new Carrier XL seen working for the first time in less than ideal conditions. The discs have a milled ‘TrueCut’ edge which increases the slicing action and maintains the aggressive shape even when the disc is worn, according to product manager Magnus Samuelsson.
The discs are positioned in an X-shape designed to neutralise lateral forces and ensure that the machine runs straight behind the tractor. The biggest benefit is that when using GPS guidance systems the degree of overlap can be reduced saving time, metal wear and fuel, as even on cross slopes the cultivator runs dead straight.
The new Carrier 925XL and 1225XL are expected to appeal to those growing crops which produce a lot of harvest trash such as maize, and is available in 9.25 and 12.25m working widths. Extra control
For its long-established NZA harrow Vderstad has introduced a ‘Control’ function allowing exact setting of tillage depth from the tractor cab during work, the operator able to increase cultivation depth where needed such as on the headlands while only working the soil as deep as necessary elsewhere in the field. The ‘Control’ function is standard on all units sold from summer 2013, the company claiming it makes the cultivator even simpler to use.The NZ A harrow now has in-cab control of its operating depth as standard equipment.Vderstad Nordic sales manager Bo Stark explained; “The control cylinder is actually a cylinder with an adjustable bottom position. By adding or releasing oil, this bottom position can be respectively raised or lowered. This allows the working depth to be simply adjusted during work, and the machine ‘remembers’ the latest working depth set. A clear scale shows the setting.”Combi Spirit
Another new product which created a lot of excitement when it was shown working was the new Spirit 600C, a concept drill which has the ability to apply fertiliser while drilling. The Spirit 600C has a new 5,000-litre hopper with compartments for seed and fertiliser.The new Spirit 600C combi drill has a 5,000 litre seed and fertiliser hopper and an integrated fan.Vderstad explained that it developed the drill due to growing demand for the system, which offers increased reliability of establishment, the fertiliser placed in moist soil where nutrients can act rapidly without the need for rain. Combi-drilling the fertiliser is an insurance against drought risk, says the company, which makes every kg of N or P more effective, and leads to higher yields, better plant nutrient use efficiency and environmental benefits through lower nutrient losses.
The relative proportions of the compartments within the drill’s large hopper can be altered, or if fertiliser is not being applied then the whole capacity can be used for seed. Load-sensing hydraulics means only three hoses are connected to the tractor, with all hydraulic control taking place at the implement rather than requiring multiple spool valves. The hydraulic system is fully compatible with automatic headland control systems. Fertiliser is metered using an auger, the same principle as used on the Rapid Combi seed drill. This allows for high application rates where required, of up to 700-800kg/ha. The metering system is the Fenix 2, drive provided by an electric motor which is said to provide stable and reliable operation and the ability to meter for extremely low seed rates, down to 1kg/ha, and a low and high gear allows it to work with different sizes of seed. The metering system is corrosion proof and said to be ideal for use with fertiliser.Fertiliser is applied in rows by coulters mounted on the System Disc toolbar, and covered by the flow of soil created by the discs. Consolidation is achieved by the carrying and press wheels, ensuring good fertiliser to soil contact, improving the crop’s access to nutrients.An impressive feature of the new drill is the almost silent fan which, at the demonstration, attracted comment from farmers watching it at work. The fan is integrated into the hopper, mounted near the top at the front, giving the drill cleaner looking lines and is said to be a more efficient design than conventional external fans.Aggressive RapidFor the Rapid 600-800S drills a new more aggressive front toolbar is available; the System Disc Aggressive which Vderstad said is its heaviest and most flexible front tool. It has been designed to allow the Rapid to direct drill where conditions allow, working on ploughed or min-tilled land, and where there are large amounts of residue present. Discs are larger and have stronger bearings than the standard System Disc. Two rows of discs are mounted in an X-shape, and in combination with a Crossboard light, to ensure straight pulling behind the tractor.The new System Disc Aggressive extends the versatility of the Rapid A 600 and 800S drills.“We have had the system tested on farms this year and one farmer was so impressed he bought the test machine,” commented Vderstad UK territory sales manager Rowland Dines. “The new tool means the drill can operate deep for direct drilling, as well as shallow on prepared land; it really does improve the versatility of the Rapid range,” he said.Strip-Till drill
Vderstad’s Spirit C Strip Drill was demonstrated to the press during UK trials in 2012, the strip-till technique attracting a lot of interest due to its potential to provide ideal conditions for plant root development, while saving fuel and fertiliser costs through efficient working of the soil. The company says trials of the drill will continue in the UK during 2013, with full production due to start in 2014.Vderstad has confirmed that its Spirit C Strip-Till drill will be available for the 2014 season following successful trials.Tempo maize drill
Crister Stark commented that few products have caused as much excitement at Vderstad in recent years as the Tempo maize drill. Designed to direct drill or work on prepared seedbeds at high speed with precision, the company claims the seeder units will operate at up to twice the working rate of other seeders available, at speeds in excess of 18kph, while maintaining better accuracy in terms of crop spacing, doubles and misses.
Shown for the first time in the UK at Cereals 2012, several pre-production versions have been operating here this year. Vderstad has invested in a new assembly hall to keep pace with expected demand with drills now in full production and available to order. The Tempo precision planter drilling maize in very dry conditions in mid-June for Oliver Arnold in Norfolk.
The Tempo is available in two versions; trailed and mounted, and with 6-8 rows. Mounted versions, designated Tempo T, have a telescopic frame which draws the outer units in for transport, and the trailed Tempo, the F version, folds. Row spacings are; 600, 650, 700, 750, 762 and 800 for the 6-row mounted and 500, 550 and 600 for the 7-row. Trailed machines have six or eight seeder units with spacings of 700, 750, 762 and 800mm. At the heart of the Tempo is the Gilstring seed meter, named after its designer in the Vderstad factory. Rather than a vacuum holding the seed to the metering wheel, pressure is used, each seeder unit capable of accurately handling up to 28 seeds per second. To ensure rapid seed handling components are manufactured from static-resistant materials, and once the seed is dropped from the metering wheel it is pushed down the short ‘Power chute’ by a strong blast of air from the fan. To prevent doubles, three singulation wheels run adjacent to each metering disc knocking off any additional seeds, and when seeds reach the drop point a rubber wheel running behind the metering wheel pushes them away from their respective holes, and blocks the air. A cleaning disc contacts each hole after the seed has been dropped clearing debris and helping prevent blockages. Performance is constantly monitored and if any seeder unit suffers three or more misses or doubles consecutively, from the same seed position on the disc, an alarm shows in the cab. The seeder units can be dismantled, checked and cleaned without the need for tools, and stripping and reassembly of a unit takes under five minutes.A complete contrast; in Sweden, the Tempo was demonstrated in wet and sticky conditions, but examination of the planted seeds showed perfect spacing and location.At the bottom of the chute the seed hits the base of the press wheel, ensuring precise placement and spacing with adjacent plants. The press wheel runs in a slot created by the pair of seed discs, each one 380mm diameter and 3.5mm thickness, which Vderstad claims ensures optimal penetration and long working life. A pair of tandem gauge wheels moving independently of each other travels over obstructions while maintaining a constant planting depth. Seeds are covered by a pair of angled closing wheels to consolidate the soil.The drill is currently intended mainly for the establishment of maize, Vderstad expecting the number of growers producing the crop to continue to increase with demand from AD plants as well as for feed. The Tempo’s seeder units have the potential to drill a large variety of crops and, while at present alternative disc options include sunflower, soya and sorghum, tests are in progress on crops including sugar beet, oilseed rape, peas and beans. “Just a few years ago oilseed rape was broadcast from a spreader and then incorporated,” commented Crister. “Now though, the benefits of more accurate planting in terms of crop establishment and yield are widely appreciated and as the crop has become more valuable growers are keen to optimise the seeding conditions. We believe precision drilling will become a more widely used method of establishing many crops.”The Tempo has few adjustments necessary. Calibration, via the electronic controller, is automatic, and the electric drive motor adjusts the seeding rate to match travel speed. Fifteen depth settings are available, and the operator can adjust coulter pressure up to 375kg per unit courtesy of a simple weight transfer system, higher pressures required for direct drilling as well as for travel at higher speeds. Options include Yetter row cleaners to clear residues, insecticide boxes with integral metering units and combi seeding which is currently available only on trailed versions. For 2014 the Tempo will be compatible with Trimble and Isobus control systems. Crister Stark commented that the potential market for the Tempo seeder units is huge. “The precise planting and high speeds achievable make the Tempo very attractive. The largest potential market is the USA, and because the seeder units are all independent they lend themselves to use on machinery from other manufacturers. Distribution through Seed Hawk for the US market would be an obvious move for us, and there is no reason why the company couldn’t produce its own frame and base units to take our seeders. In the USA we have an 18-row seeder operating this season; we see its potential as very exciting.”Backing up Vderstad’s claims for its Tempo planter are the results of a recent maize drilling marathon in Ukraine, which took place in late April this year. A Tempo F8 trailed 8-row planter drilled 212 hectares of maize in a 24-hour period at an average work rate of 18kph. Monitored by the Ukrainian Institute for Certification of Agricultural Machinery, 85,000 seeds/ha were planted 5.2cm deep with 130kg/ha of fertiliser added. The seeding rate achieved represents 26.5ha drilled per row unit in 24 hours, some 42 per cent faster than any previous record set, claims the company.Potential for further improvements?
Asked whether in the future, we can expect to see even faster seeding units, Crister’s response was that until recently we wouldn’t have believed that the rates at which the Tempo is capable would have been possible, so there is always potential for further improvement. However, he added that making something which works faster would not necessarily mean that drilling could be carried out any faster, as for every increase in travel speed the shock loads on the seeder units and other components increase exponentially, which creates its own set of challenges.With regard to the feasibility of much wider machines, he said that with the demand for fertiliser application at the time of drilling, transporting the material over longer distances to the outside row units becomes more of a challenge, significantly more powerful fans being required, particularly due to the fertiliser’s tendency to attract moisture causing it to stick in the pipes. “The problems aren’t impossible to resolve,” he said, “but would need to be overcome.”The UK contractor’s experience
Oliver Arnold is a Norfolk-based contractor who, as well as farming his own land, runs a specialist contracting business for farms in the area and is in a partnership running two local biogas plants. His business carries out general farm work including cultivations, drilling, muckspreading and baling, as well as feed mixing, and he produces silage for local farms. It was his experience of growing and harvesting silage crops which led Oliver to become interested in the idea of running an AD plant and during the past three years has pushed for two to be erected; one on his own land and one on land neighbouring his farm. With demand for maize increasing, he invested in a Tempo planter to establish the crop, and two 1,100hp Krone forage harvesters to chop the maize, as well as a pair of Terragator spreaders to spread the digestate.Oliver has seen increased interest from farmers in growing maize crops this year following the wet autumn and said that in particular Future Biogas, the owner of the AD plants, has been offered land after OSR crops have failed to establish. “Whereas the company used to be offered only poorer land, now it is offered much better soils, and when a farmer is considering various alternatives to conventional cereals, maize is now a respected crop and that helps.”
Operator Todd Seago has used the Tempo all season, and explained to Farmers Guide that it is very easy to set up and use. “I have planted approximately 700ha (1,700 acres) and really enjoy using it,” he said. “It folds and unfolds quickly and easily. For transport we just remove and replace two pins and a ram stop, and it is ready to work or transport in just a few minutes. “I started on ploughed land early in the season, and then moved on to fields which had been strip-tilled with digestate applied. Most maize has been planted on lighter land but I have also worked on black fen soils as well as ploughed land which had dried out and was rock hard. The planter has worked well in all situations,” he added. Todd said little adjustment of the machine is needed, and that once the depth and pressure control have been set when he moves to different soil types, they can usually be left alone.He added that the in-cab screen is one of the best he has used; “It makes using the Tempo very straightforward and it is reassuring in that it tells me quite quickly if anything is wrong. When it has shown a fault and I have checked the seeder unit, then I have usually found there is something needing attention; a piece of paper, or a broken bit of seed plugging the hole. It works well.”Vaderstad dealer for Norfolk, Randell Agriculture managing director William Randell was present in Sweden as well as at the Norfolk demonstration and supplied Oliver Arnold’s machine. “We have had significant interest in the Tempo with the advantages it offers over other planters,” he explained. “There are only so many maize growers in our Norfolk trading area needing this sort of capacity, but we see huge potential for planting other crops including oils