One of the most noticeable machines on display at Canada’s Farm Progress Show last June was Honey Bee’s tractor-mounted swather prototype. Now with the widespread availability of both front and rear three-point hitches on nearly every major brand of tractor, the company sees an opportunity to take advantage of that feature by reintroducing the mounted swather header concept it originally began producing in 1984.
But this updated and completely re-engineered version brings the concept into the 21st century, eliminating some of the disadvantages inherent in the original ‘80s design, according to company owner Greg Honey.
“One of the biggest changes we’ve made from back then till now, is the ability to get it on and off quickly,” he says. “That was one of the biggest drawbacks, the time to mount and dismount. This one is, like, 20 minutes.”
“When it’s off it has to be transportable down the highway. It has to narrow up to eight and a half feet wide, and we wanted to allow it to do that without a lot of extra work. To get this one into full transport mode, it would probably take you half an hour to take it off and get it ready.”
The prototype displayed in Regina uses two 25-foot headers to provide a single-pass working width of 50 feet. “Right now we’ve only re-introduced the 50-foot, which is two 25s,” he adds.
The swather attachment can be mounted on any two-wheel drive or MFWD tractor with three-point linkage on the front and rear, which is another major change in design from the previous versions. “Back in those days there was very little (three-point) linkage, even on the rear,” he adds. “Today you can get them on both ends.
Aside from the linkages, to handle the Honey Bee headers, tractors will need up to six hydraulic remotes.
“You need front and rear three-point and rear PTO,” he continues. “And the more remotes you have the better. We need four on the rear and two on the front. What we have to do is put a remote multiplier on (most tractors) to accomplish that.”
The headers used are the same draper-style Grain Belt Swather models the company supplies for attachment directly to dedicated swathers. And they could be equipped with any of the normally-available options, although the prototype model on display in Regina had only basic features.
“We haven’t really set the price yet,” says Honey. “We didn’t put a lot of bells and whistles on this one, because we wanted to keep the costs in line. We didn’t add remote reel speed, remote canvas speed. That stuff you can add.”
In fact, the model on display at CFPS is one of only two prototypes the company has built so far. The other was sold to a customer in Kazakhstan. Honey Bee has decided to show the remaining model at events like CFPS and gauge customer reaction before committing to full-scale production.
“We’re just seeing what the interest is, again,” Honey says. “We decided to bring this one to the show to see what people would think.” †