Improved Seeder suits all conditions
Nearly 20 years after zero-till farming was developed on the Liverpool Plains, the original innovators of the technique are preparing to launch another revolution - a fully modular zero-till unit intended to be capable of winter and summer planting just about anywhere in Australia, or the world.
Tamarang farmer, David Ronald, "The Point," who alerted farmers to zero-till possibilities with his Rogro units, has teamed up with Ground Hound co-designer Dave Brownhill and Spring Ridge Engineering's Chris Holland to develop the Bitza, an implement unlike anything else on the market.
The criteria for the Bitza was simple. "The Bitza is designed to provide better trash handling, better depth control and more precision with winter crops on closer row spacings." Mr Ronald said. "It had to be modular, so that whatever farmers wanted could be easily added or taken off. And unlike most zero-till machines, we wanted the Bitza to be able to handle conditions just about everywhere."
A spin-off company, Bitza Research, has been created to oversee the Bitza's development, and it is now seeking implement manufacturers beyond Spring Ridge Engineering's northern NSW base to build the machine under licence for other markets. Key to the Bitza's operation is it's double-headed sowing unit. Each head uses an offset coulter disc to open the ground to a depth set by a press wheel that rolls tandem with the disc.
Seed pumped from a trailed air seeder bin is dropped down the inside face of the disc into the row, and covered by following press wheels that form part of the unit's flotation. The sowing unit's two opposing heads can be adjusted for row spacings of between 25-38cm (10-15 in.) and are set on a pivot allowing several centimetres of 'warp' for ground hugging performance.
Ground tracking is enhanced by a newly designed parallel arm arrangement maintaining constant tension over its full 30cm travel. Behind the sowing head is a tine set to run directly between the discs. A tool carrier attached to the tine unit can be used to attach small harrows, press wheels or any additional tool. The tine/tool carrier unit is separate from the sowing unit and each unit can be bought separately.
Like the rest of the implement, the Bitza's unusually high frame has been designed to be simple and flexible. It is made up of three metre wide sections, each carrying four sowing units. A farmer who starts off with only two or three sections can later add a fourth or more, up to a planned 18 metre span as his operation demands it. Each frame section has the ability to flex in any direction the ground demands with a wide range of movement.
Most of the machine's weight is carried on a continuous bank of press wheels at the rear. The arrangement allows each press wheel to move independently. Mr Ronald said combined with the rolling sowing units, floating the machine on it's press wheels make it easy to pull. "We've used less steel than normal because there's very little stress on the frame" he said "There's less hanging beneath it and there's no digging. It just floats along.
"Although it's still in the R and D stage, trials of the Bitza have been conducted in black soil and rocky country. "In each case the implement well and truly exceeded our expectations" Mr Ronald said. A preview version is being readied for display at Ag Quip Field Day next month.