One of the machines on display at Agritechnica 2015 that impressed show judges enough to win a Gold Innovation Award was German manufacturer Krone’s Premos 5000 pellet harvester. Until now harvesting forages meant either baling or ensiling it. The Premos 5000 offers a third option, creating pellets right in the field.
“We can handle it like corn,” said Kai Lüpping, one the technical staff behind the Premos 5000’s development as he stood beside the machine on display at Agritechnica. “It’s not one big bale.”
Krone says the Premos name comes from the Latin word “premise,” which means to press, and that is basically what this machine does. Windrow material is picked up in the typical manner, then a conveyor feeds it through a pair of 80 centimetre diameter rollers that compress and force it through 16 millimetre extrusion moulds.
The company claims that by eliminating pretreatment, such as chopping, horsepower demands are halved when compared to stationary pelleting machines. The Premos 5000 will still need a tractor with about 400 horsepower.
The 29,000 psi compression forces generated during the pelleting process create temperatures of about 80 C. When combined with 12 to 16 per cent moisture content in the material, durable pellets are formed that can be handled by conventional grain handling equipment. If windrow material is too dry, that’s no problem, the Premos 5000 has an “integral intelligent wetting system.” Producers could also pretreat the material with molasses to increase moisture content and improve feed quality.
Pellets that aren’t properly formed are dropped back into the material flow along with other uncompressed fines and go through the forming rollers again.
“The pellets that are not good — broken or something — fall back through to the straw and go through again,” Lüpping explained.
The nine cubic metre hopper holds up to five tonnes of pellets. The Premos can fill that hopper in about one hour making it three to five times more efficient than other stationary pelletizers currently on the market, says a press release from Krone.
Pelletizing forage in the field offers some advantages over conventional baling or ensiling. Because the pellets are dense, they contain three to four times more material than a standard bale occupying the same space, so transportation is more efficient. And the high temperatures created during the pelleting process kill any pathogens that may exist in the forage, reducing the risk of feed-related illnesses in livestock.
And if pellets are used for bedding, they can reduce manure volumes. That’s because the pellets are very absorbent. Just 250 grams of them can absorb up to one litre of liquid, according to the company.
Krone also sees a use for the Premos 5000 in creating biofuels. The company says their research has shown that 2-1/2 kilograms of straw pellets can substitute for one kilogram of heating oil.
The Premos development project began three years ago.
“This year there are two models,” said Lüpping. “Next year we’ll build some more.”
The Premos can also be used outside the normal growing season by pelletizing shredded bales.
The Premos 5000 should be market ready for 2017, with a retail price around 250,000 Euros, that’s roughly C$372,500.