Seeing one definitely stops you in your tracks if you’re not familiar with the Australian field- or mother-bin concept. These grain carts on steroids are massive, with capacities up to 150 tonnes. But they’re not built to chase combines with. Instead, they’re placed in a field and grain carts — or “chaser bins” as they’re known down here — still perform their traditional role of running back and forth to combines. They then unload into a field bin.
With grain carts stockpiling grain in the field bins, truckers can pull up alongside the field bin and fill up as soon as they get back to the field. Then they can head right back with another load. Grain carts, too, can quickly unload and return to combines without waiting for trucks to arrive.
Truck waiting time is reduced or even eliminated. That offers the potential to reduce the number of trucks necessary to keep up with the combines.
“What we’re trying to achieve is to get the grain away from the (combine),” says Craig Miller, managing director of Dunsten Farmers Engineering, an Australian manufacturer of field bins who was exhibiting a 110 tonne model at the AgQuip machinery show in Gunnedah, NSW, in August. “We want to keep the (combine) working in the field or the paddock without stopping. It’s all about logistics; it’s all about handling; it’s all about efficiency.”
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Although buying a field bin is another major equipment expense, Miller notes that combines are a much higher cost. And it is cheaper to invest in a field bin rather than an additional combine, which can increase the productivity of existing machines.
“The combine is the most expensive piece of equipment in the paddock at harvest,” he says. “So you really want to keep that investment working.”
Dunsten manufactures field bins that offer from 85 to 150 tonne capacity.
“These are actually fully mobile,” Miller says. “They’ll just follow the harvest. It’s not uncommon for people to tow them 10, 20, 50 kilometres. And, indeed, we have contractors that will tow them hundreds and hundreds of kilometres. You can move them half full of grain. It certainly makes our farms out here more efficient, and we would argue a better return on investment.”