Innovation is truly on show at Techspo this year with MacIntosh demoing the amazing capabilities of the new Integrated Harrington Seed Destructor.
The story behind this wonderful invention is one of persistence and collaboration that creates a truly unique and world beating machine.
In the late nineties, Southern Dirt member, Ray Harrington sold all of his sheep and went continuous cropping in some of Australia’s best sheep country. He had seen what other WA farming families had faced with resistant weeds in their continuous cropping programs. And he realised he had to do something with his weed seeds at harvest or he too would hit the wall with resistance (once the honeymoon period was over). He knew about chaff carts and windrow burning, but wanted to avoid burning his valuable residue. So he went looking for something to smash the weed seeds to smithereens.
Enter Geoff and Mike Glenn and Steve King – bush engineers as Ray calls them. He told them what he was looking for and they found it, a cage mill that was rendering coal into dust to make BBQ briquettes. A static mill was built and modified, which then sat on Ray’s farm for five years, doing very little, until Ray bumped into…
Professor Steve Powles, the director of AHRI. This was the beginning of a long relationship with AHRI. Steve appointed Dr Michael Walsh to the project. The first job was to determine whether or not this mill could destroy the seed of our common weed species. Michael and Steve supervised 4th year student Jason Ellerton, an ag science student with a background in engineering, to put the mill to the test. Jason thoroughly tested the prototype mill with great results on killing ryegrass seed (95% kill). Steve then ‘baited a shark hook’ as Ray said, and provided some AHRI funding and gave Ray the ‘moon shot’ ambition of putting the mill behind the harvester. Ray with his friend Ron Knapp built from scratch a prototype. Thus the ‘tow behind HSD’ was born, complete with its own 100 hp motor.
GRDC were approached for funding and to everyone’s delight they came to the party with significant funds. Dr Michael Walsh was appointed to lead the project. Michael would eventually test every aspect of the HSD, including conducting 25 field trials right across Australia (an enormous feat).
The de bruin Group, an engineering firm based in Mt Gambier, South Australia, were appointed by GRDC as the manufacturer and distributor of the tow behind machines. Ten tow behind units were sold but they weren’t exactly flying off the shelf. The growers told us loud and clear that they didn’t want to tow the HSD.
Next to join the team were engineer Chris Saunders and PhD student Nick Berry from the University of South Australia who started working on prototypes for an integrated version, and the iHSD was born. Two mills, each with one moving part, were mounted at the rear of the harvester, just below the sieves, and were hydraulically driven. Eureka! The theory to use a class 9 harvester and operate it at class 8 capacity was put to the test and it passed with flying colours. The hydraulic system caused teething problems at first, but the mills performed brilliantly. The hydraulics problems were resolved and the iHSD was ready for market.
The final members to make up the team were the machinery dealers McIntosh and Son. They’ll distribute the machines nationally including fitting the machines to harvesters, monitoring performance and providing ongoing support to customers.
And so the team is complete, and what a team it is! An Australian idea with funding from Australian grain growers and government, and involvement with Australian researchers, engineers, manufacturers, and machinery dealers. This is a team that we can be very proud of, bringing an innovation to market that will have global application. Yes, it understandably took a long time from concept to reality but the important thing is that now we have it.
We are absolutely thrilled to demo that great innovation at Techspo this year.
Acknowledgement www.ahri.edu.au for the article text.