“Our aim is to offer high-tech solutions to farmers worldwide,” said Christian Dreyer, CEO of the family-owned, German-based implement manufacturer Amazone, speaking through an interpreter during a field day near Bremen, Germany, in September. “Our strategy is to become specialists in crop production.”
To do that, Dreyer believes his brand needs to focus heavily on emerging digital technologies as it stretches its offerings to include every implement necessary for crop production short of tractors and combines. “Integrating data and technology is where farming needs to go to survive,” he added.
The field day coincided with the company’s 100th anniversary. It started off 100 years ago by building just a single model of fertilizer spreader. Now Dreyer is looking for “new markets” for the brand’s current product line. And that includes becoming a bigger player in North America. What Dreyer is counting on to help him distinguish his brand from other short-line manufacturers is an emphasis on technology.
Nowhere is that more obvious than on the brand’s newest pull-type sprayers, which the company says it will make available in Canada to challenge self-propelled sprayers, which have dominated the market here. While a pull-type sprayer and tractor may not be able to offer the same under-body clearance, the combination offers a lower cost alternative to SP models, and marketing staff at Amazone think they can more than compete when it comes to technology.
The UX AmaSpot
The UX AmaSpot sprayer leads the pack as the company’s most advanced offering. It’s built around some high-tech wizardry that won a Silver Innovations Award at Agritechnica 2015. This model, with its “Intelligent Nozzle System” offers growers the ability to significantly minimize the amount of chemical used per acre. An on-board digital system allows it to identify growing weeds and spray herbicides only where needed.
The AmaSpot system uses GreenSense fluorescent sensors that detect chlorophyll. It can differentiate between green plants and bare ground, which would be useful in pre- and post-season glyphosate applications. Sensors are spaced every metre along the boom. Each one has four segments that scan strips of field surface 25 centimetres wide.
When a sensor detects a green plant, the appropriate nozzle is activated with centimetre accuracy, even at speeds of 20 km/h or at night. The boom also uses a special nozzle that can open or close in just two milliseconds.
Using pulse width frequency modulation control, the nozzles are capable of 50 switches per second. So the system is not only able to turn nozzles on and off with lightning speed, but it can also vary the spray rate on any individual nozzle from 100 to 30 per cent. It can maintain consistent spray pressure and proper droplet size even while only spraying selectively.
In addition, blanket coverage and selective applications can be combined. So, for example, 30 per cent of the application rate can be sprayed across the full boom width all the time, and where the sensors detect areas with weeds, the rate can be increased to100 per cent for the appropriate nozzles. That way only areas with heavy weed populations receive the full application rate.
Now that field trials have wrapped up, full production of UX AmaSpot models will begin in 2018. They’ll be available with just one choice for booms widths, 24-metres (78-feet), at least initially.
The UX 101 Super Sprayer
The company has also just released an updated version of its existing pull-type sprayers, the UX 01 Super Series. Although it won’t get that selective spraying system offered on the UX AmaSpot, it makes up for it in other ways, one of them is size and capacity. These sprayers offer three tanks sizes, 4,200, 5,200 and 6,200 litres (1,110, 1,373 and 1,638 U.S. gallons) and boom widths from 27 to 40 metres (88 to 131 feet).
The new SmartCentre operator station and retractable 60-litre induction bowl are located together in a compartment at the front left of the body. A touch screen computer controls loading and mixing functions, and it can be used even while wearing gloves.
The induction bowl can also handle granular or powder mixes and has an automatic rinse feature. Its lid folds flat to act as a shelf to hold containers. There is also a spray wand mounted near the bowl to handle external cleaning chores.
The optional Comfort-Pack feature allows for automatic tank fills. Just program in the amount needed and the pump stops filling it when the desired level is reached. The on-board computer can even permanently store up to two different fill job profiles. The operator just has to chose one, connect a fill hose and the sprayer handles the rest. And a variable rate agitation system decreases the speed of the agitator as the level drops inside the tank, which prevents excessive foaming. Comfort-Pack also has a built-in automatic rinse feature to clean the entire sprayer system, including the booms.
To keep the UX 01 following in the wheel tracks of the tractor, a steerable axle can pivot the sprayer wheels up to 28 degrees.
There are two separate boom control options, a more basic version and another that includes the ContourControl system with SwingStop yaw control, which won a Silver Innovations Award at this year’s Agritechnica.
SwingStop uses a pair of hydraulic cylinders to control fore-and aft movement with the help of sensors that compare the boom tip speeds to the sprayer’s ground speed. Up to six Ultrasonic sensors also allow the boom to contour and maintain a constant height over uneven terrain. Each side of the boom can operate independently of the other.
In turns, sensors can calculate the actual ground speed of each individual nozzle and alter the application rate along the entire boom to ensure completely even product coverage. Nozzles can be spaced as close as 25 cm apart, which allows the boom to be lowered very close to the top of the crop canopy.
And when the work is done, the ContourControl system allows for 40 per cent faster boom folds.