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Automated boom height control for crop sprayers

Norac’s system prevents collision damage and improves spray efficiency

Mike Malmgren, Canadian sales manager for Norac Systems, talks to a lot of farmers. At Norac’s display at the Ag in Motion farm show near Saskatoon in July, which exhibited the brand’s sprayer boom height control system, he explained what he often hears from farmers who don’t use a similar automated system.

“We talk to people who come here and don’t have a system and have a 100 foot (sprayer) boom,” he says. “They tell us they just can’t do it: ‘After I do two quarters I’m just fried; I’m so tired.’”

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Automated boom height control systems from Norac (which was recently acquired by Topcon) are included by some OEMs on their new equipment, But the company also offers retrofit packages direct to producers who want to update their existing equipment.

“We’re a factory installed option on RoGator,” he says. “And we could be installed on any other sprayer you can buy in the marketplace.”

Retail prices for the systems range from $6,500 for a basic starter package with two sensors to $15,000 for a top-of-the-line model. And the company will come out to install it.

“We’ll come and do it at a dealership or at a farmer’s place,” he continues. “Some guys do install it themselves, because (on basic systems) it is pretty easy. A base system you could do in a day, even if you’ve never done one. With some of the more complex systems, you’re better off to get us to come and do it and make sure it’s working right. We’ll go over it with the farmer and make sure he knows how to operate it.”

Farmers can contact Norac, which is based in Saskatoon, directly to purchase a system or there may be a local dealer that handles the product.

“We prefer to work through our dealers,” Malmgren says. “Even if farmers contact me directly, I try and find a local dealer that will work with us.”

The boom height system relies on ultrasonic sensors to locate the ground, crop canopy or obstacles. And it is capable of multiple readings, locating the crop and ground levels independently or simultaneously.

“Our sensor is unique,” he adds. “There are others in the marketplace, but ours has some features and capabilities that others don’t have. We can look at multiple layers of the crop. We can look at the crop canopy, stuff in between and the soil all at the same time. You can set your mode of operation. You can pick crop mode. You can pick soil mode, or you can pick hybrid mode.”

Hybrid mode allows the system to compensate for bare patches in the field without dropping the boom too far and hitting the crop when it reappears.

“What that (hybrid mode) does is it knows where the soil is and the crop canopy is, and it knows where the crop canopy should be if it goes missing,” Malmgren explains. “If you go over a spot that didn’t germinate, is flooded out or is lodged, if you’re using a Norac system it won’t dive down and hit the crop on the other side.”

Keeping the boom where it should be without constant operator intervention prevents possible impact damage, and also ensures the nozzles are positioned correctly to get the best chemical coverage. And it makes spraying at night a little less taxing on the driver, because the sensors work even in the dark, when it’s hard to see boom ends from the cab.

“We are the only company in the marketplace to offer a 30-day money back guarantee,” Malmgren adds. “We’re that confident in our system.”

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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