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Twelve-row beet harvesters world debut at Cambridgeshire demonstration

The first combined demonstration of Holmer and Agrifac sugar beet harvesters, all now badged Holmer Exxact, took place near Ely, Cambridgeshire in mid-January

The first combined demonstration of Holmer and Agrifac sugar beet harvesters, all now badged Holmer Exxact, took place near Ely, Cambridgeshire in mid-January. Eight harvesters were working, including two pre-production examples. David Williams reports. Pictured in front of the impressive machinery line-up at the demonstration are Holmer and Agrifac staff from Holland, Germany and the UK.  The purchase of Holmer and Agrifac in 2012 by the Exel Group has resulted in a wide range of harvesters from one supplier, Agrifac UK, which is now looking after sales and service of both brands, along with Agrifac sprayers from its Cambridgeshire base. We were delighted to be able to demonstrate so many different models of harvester at one UK event, explained Agrifac UK managing director Andy Carse. Our Agrifac harvester and sprayer business has gone from strength to strength and we have established a strong reputation for the back-up we provide. Now, being able to invest further and extend the level of support for the additional machines in the Holmer range is great news for us, and for users of that brand. Investment in new technology and machine improvements is being made across all models and there were several experimental products working at the demonstration, for which we were keen to receive customer feedback. We have a range of class-leading products, and expect them to be even better as updates are implemented, he added.   12-row harvester re-introducedThe star attraction was undoubtedly the new 12-row HexxTraxx. The 12-row version has the same tank size as the 6-row and weighs an extra 2.5t. Construction of the prototype machine had been completed in Holland just a few days prior to the event and, as the sugar beet harvest had finished there, the first opportunity the company had to try out its new machine was in the UK. Having landed at Harwich port in Essex, the harvester was put to work for a brief spell on a farm in the county and was then driven through Suffolk to Cambridgeshire during the early hours on the morning of the demonstration.  The HexxTraxx is powered by a 600hp Volvo engine and will have a price premium of approximately 50,00060,000 over the equivalent 6-row model. During the first day of trials it was harvesting up to 4ha/hr, equivalent to 300t/hr of beet, which Andy Carse described as incredible performance.  That lifting rate was achieved with one driver, one fuel tank and one machine, pointed out Agrifac Machinery managing director Peter Millenaar. In the USA, 12-row harvesters are widely used and until 2006 Agrifac produced a 12-row model, many of which are due for replacement, and users are keen to retain the work rate of the 12-row lifting system. In the Netherlands many contractors are lifting approximately 1,000ha (2,470 acres) of beet each season but within a short time period, so high work rates are needed and we expect demand to be strong for the new model.  The 12-row HexxTraxx beet harvester shares many of the same components as the SixxTraxx, which has replaced the Agrifac Big Six. Work rates up to 4ha/hr equivalent to 300t/hr of beet lifted have been achieved during its first two days work. For the 2014/15 season there will be up to 10 machines available to purchase with full availability the following year, he added. To meet the faster work rate of the 12-row lifter, the cleaning system provides greater capacity with bigger turbines throughout the machine. The hopper, though, retains the same capacity as that of the 6-row machine and Peter explained that it would only make sense to increase the tank size if a one-person harvesting system was in use.  Larger turbines provide the capacity needed to keep up with the 12-row lifter. For transport the outer sections of the topper and lifter fold hydraulically and, while at present the operator has to leave the cab to disconnect the PTO drive shafts, this will be done automatically on production machines.   Prototype T4-30 at workAnother machine creating considerable interest was a prototype T4-30 four wheel harvester which will eventually replace the T3. Above: The Exxact Terra-Dos T4-40, demonstrated in pre-production form at a Norfolk demonstration last year, is now fully available. With a 45m3 bunker with capacity for 30t of beet the 49t gross vehicle weight is shared between six flotation tyres operating at 22psi on the front and 28psi at the rear. The Terra Dos design allows the vehicle to crab in the field so the weight is spread across the full width. A 625hp Mercedes Benz engine powers the machine and is electronically controlled, producing only as much power as is needed, full power reserved for power-hungry operations such as working on slopes or during unloading. The 30t of beet in the bunker is unloaded by the large elevator in just 55 seconds.  Badged for the event as a Terra Dos T3, the new machine had several components under development and, while the company was not forthcoming with precise details, many upgrades are believed to have been adopted from the new T4-40 six wheel model. Comments were being sought from current users of the T3 regarding the latest developments. The T4-40 is very impressive and we look forward to seeing T4 technology added into the design of the current T3 model, said Andy. We will continue to develop the machine here in the UK until lifting is finished, and a limited number of machines will then be sold in Germany for the 2014 season, and it will go into full production for the 2015 season. Andy was delighted with the success of the demonstration days; We were overwhelmed by the number of visitors, the weather held off for us and we received many enquiries from new and existing customers. I would like to thank Keith Turner from East Fen Farms for hosting the event, Simon Smith (Northfield Farms) and Roger Turner (RF Turner) for all their help leading up to and during the demonstration days.   The head folds hydraulically for transport and, when the harvester is in full production, coupling and uncoupling of the PTO drive will be automatic negating the need for the operator to leave the cab.  Peter Millenaar is pictured (left) with Andy Carse at the demonstration.  The ground is left level behind the T4-40 working in its Terra-Dos operating mode.  The prototype Holmer Exxact T4-30 was operating. As well as sporting the Bavarian flag it had been signed by all the engineers who assembled the test machine.   Yorkshire contractor Robert Todd of RJC Todd Ltd, based at Doncaster was at the event. He was operating his own SixxTraxx harvester which was delivered new in September 2013 and had been put straight to work. We have lifted 690ha (1,700 acres) with our harvester and have approximately 160ha (400 acres) still to go, he said. We havent had any significant faults all season and the performance has been very impressive. Our highest work rate so far was 2ha/hr (5 acres), clearing a 6ha (15 acres) field in three hours once it had been opened up, but our overall average is probably about 1.2ha/hr (3 acres). Robert explained that the new harvester had replaced an Agrifac Big Six, new in 2005, and he noticed a significant difference made by the new larger turbines which provide better cleaning performance and which can run slower, reducing beet damage.  We operate in light sand to really heavy clay and black peat too, he said, so we use the full range of adjustment available on the machine. We run two sets of turbine gates and can swap them from bar to pig-tail in just 15 minutes; much quicker than on the previous machine. Further improvements include the topper performance, he explained, which rides easily with depth wheels on the front and rear. Our flails look like new despite having topped 690ha (1,700 acres) of beet. We have never had that sort of life out of them before, he said.  The new Protect-Plus micro topping bar also comes in for praise; We easily meet the whole beet delivery standards for our customers and they appreciate the excellent topping performance which means we remove the minimum section of crown, he added. We had a demonstration of the new SixxTraxx last year and the improvements were immediately obvious, said Robert. Depth control is improved, the new paddles between the depth wheels ensure the beet are cleared quickly from the lifting area and the cleaning performance is better. The new cab is completely different and everything comes immediately to hand, and the touch-screen control makes adjustment on-the-move very simple. It has larger rear tyres too, and customers like the level finish it leaves. We had no doubts whatsoever when we were considering updating and the new machine has proved excellent, he said.   Providing support at the open day and keen to hear the views of UK users was Holmer CEO Wolfgang Bergmann, pictured (left) with Andy Carse.   The Holmer Exaact OptiTraxx is a tracked version of the Agrifac LightTraxx, providing extra low ground pressure for the lightweight machine.  Along with the beet harvesters, two Agrifac Condor sprayers were demonstrated, one belonging to the host farm, Northfield Farms, and driven by its usual operator, Alf Skeels, who is pictured (left) with Agrifac sprayer senior service technician Barry Proud. Several years ago we moved from another make of sprayer to a 4,000-litre Condor, got on very well with it and replaced it with another similar machine, and then in 2013 we upgraded to the latest version and increased capacity to 5,000 litres, he explained. They have all been equipped with 42m booms and we use them for everything; sugar beet, potatoes, onions, cereals, oilseed rape, carrots and parsnips. Last year we sprayed approximately 30,000ha (74,000 acres), and we usually update the machines every 18 months to 2 years.  Having to spend full days in the sprayer at times, I couldnt wish for a better machine. I can get so much work out of it and the ride is excellent, even on our uneven fen roads. It is like driving a lorry at 50kph whether full or empty; the ride is very smooth and on the field too, it is second to none. I spray at up to 25kph on level fields but on sugar beet it is usually 812kph, he added. The sprayer is filled in 67 minutes through a combination of its own suction system and a pumped supply when in the yard, and a bowser is used in the field.  I have had this sprayer since last April and it has worked 1,200 hours with only minor problems, said Alf. The back-up we receive from Agrifac is excellent and if there is an issue we know it will be dealt with quickly. The sprayer is fitted with Agrifacs auto-section control and guidance system, and Alf said it is very easy to set up and use.


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