At the Ag in Motion farm show near Langham, Saskatchewan, Seed Hawk had a concept canola planter unit on display. And this one is a little different than most of the other planters on the market. It blends the big fertilizer capacity of an air cart with the precision seed placement offered by a planter to make one-pass planting a viable option for prairie growers.
“We’ve had a planter for quite a while now, and we can get farmers to buy into using a planter for canola,” explains Phillip Korczak, regional sales manager at Seed Hawk. “They understand the benefits of it. But usually the question they ask after that is, ‘How do I put my fertilizer down.’ And to this point, with the bulk fertilizer you need for canola, (the answer is) is some sort of additional pass or several passes perhaps.”
Eliminating the need for those extra passes is what the concept machine on display is designed to do.
“We spent a lot of time in the last decade with guys doing one-pass applications, and that’s what they want out of a planter (too),” he continues. “So we’re one of the only companies that has access to an air seeder tank on the Seed Hawk side of things, as well as a planter on the Väderstad side. So we decided to marry the two together this year. Using the Seed Hawk tank as our bulk fertilizer delivery, but yet we get the accuracy of the planter.
“With the planter you see here, if you filled up all the hoppers with canola, you have about 300 acres of capacity on the seed side, but we only had about 140 bushel fertilizer tank (with the standard Tempo planter design).”
The concept planter ramps up that fertilizer capacity pretty significantly by bolting on an off-the-shelf 660-bushel air cart, which is built in the Seed Hawk plant in Saskatchewan. The planter is one of Väderstad’s Tempo models built in Sweden. (Väderstad is the parent company of Seed Hawk.) But marrying that trans-Atlantic couple together still requires some engineering to get both machines’ digital components to work together seamlessly.
“The way we ran it this spring there are actually two separate systems,” says Korczak. “They both had their own iPad. One controlling the Tempo planter and one controlling the Seed Hawk tank.”
Of course, producers buying a new seeding rig won’t settle for that level of complexity. So the challenge for engineers is to develop a digital system that will look familiar to producers, especially those who already use Seed Hawk or Väderstad equipment, and is easy to use. So the company put this concept machine in the field to get some end-user feedback. They wanted to get a better idea what that system, and the overall machine design, should look like from an owner’s perspective.
“It (field testing) was more of a proof of concept this year,” he says. “Is this something that’s going to work? We got some feedback from our customers, is this something that you’d like? What else do we need on it to make it viable for your operation? I think we did a good job with it this spring, and we’re going to move forward with it.”
So far, however, this planter design remains just a concept, and it won’t be on the market for a while.
“The producers that have used it, some have actually asked us if they could buy it,” says Korczak. “At this point, no. But we were showing it at the demos at Ag in Motion, and people that came forward at the booth were quite interested in this combination. You get the accuracy with the planter in canola to reduce your seeding rate and ultimately put your fertilizer down with one pass.
Among those producer comments was one aimed at the planter.
“There are a couple of key features we’ve been told by customers that we need to be competitive in the market,” he says. “One of them being 15-inch spacing. The narrowest we currently offer is 17.7. We’re working on a 15-inch machine as well as central fill for seed so you don’t have to fill up individual (row unit) hoppers.”
So, will Seed Hawk/Väderstad eventually hit the market with a planter offering 15-inch row spacing and a high capacity fertilizer tank to blend the best of an air drill with the precision accuracy of a planter for canola? Korczak thinks it’s likely to happen in the not-too-distant future.
“In the next several years we could have some pretty exciting products in the market,” he says.