As crops come off the fields this fall, it will be time to start emptying manure storage and hauling the “black gold” back and forth to the fields. For some, those fields are contiguous to the farm where the tire pressure can be kept low for field use, but others have the challenge of traveling down roads and highways where it helps to have a higher tire pressure.
A new technology developed by Jake Kraayenbrink of AgriBrink allows an equipment operator to have the best of both worlds. The Automatic Air Inflation Deflation (AAID) control system can be installed on most pieces of heavy equipment to deflate and inflate tires from the driver’s seat.
As a hog farmer in Ontario, Canada, Kraayenbrink has hauled a lot of manure and always ran into the problem of compaction in the field. After learning that tire pressure changes can reduce compaction, an idea was born and he began to research how this could be achieved.
He discovered inflating and deflating tires was a common practice in the trucking industry, but could not find anything like it in North American agriculture. He began talking with a researcher at the University of Guelph , who encouraged him to apply for funding from the Farm Innovation Program (FIP), which was administered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC).
Kraayenbrink used this funding to cover the capital costs of modifying his manure tanker, but he needed to find the right parts to build it.
Meanwhile, he learned farmers had been practicing this in Europe for the last 15 to 20 years, so Kraayenbrink, a researcher and an engineer traveled there to tour six manufacturers and two universities in six countries. While at a university in Holland, he was pointed to a truck manufacturer back in Canada that would be willing to install a system on a manure tanker.
It was an elaborate design that had high pressure, low volume for the trucks; however, the reverse is needed for agricultural equipment. It also took two minutes to deflate the tires, which Kraayenbrink says is too long for a manure tanker to sit on the side of the road.
To fulfill a requirement of the FIP funding, Kraayenbrink made his innovation public through a newspaper article – where it caught the eye of Kees Hogendoorn, who milks 475 cows and farms 1,400 acres, mostly corn, in Baden, Ontario.
Hogendoorn was looking to purchase a new 12,000-gallon manure tanker and wanted the AAID installed on it. The equipment manufacturer was too busy to pursue the idea so Kraayenbrink, along with his truck mechanic, Steve Bailey of Teviotdale, Ontario, and Maurice Veldhuis, a professional engineer of Drayton, Ontario, developed the system, which can deflate tires in just 25 seconds, and created their own company.
The system is compartmentalized into three parts – air control, air delivery and air supply. “We made it into kits so farmers can install it themselves,” Kraayenbrink says.
The air control is the computer system, which is built in a quick-attach setup to be transferred from one tractor to another in just 15 minutes.
The air delivery portion consists of the swivels, plumbing and valves to be mounted on the exterior of the equipment. It can be retrofitted to any heavy piece of machinery – including, but not limited to, manure tankers, manure spreaders, balers and self-propelled sprayers – and is fairly easy to install and take off, Kraayenbrink says. It takes just eight holes to be drilled on a tanker and a tire shop to install a larger valve stem on the tires.
An air compressor and air tanks make up the air supply part. The air tanks serve as a reservoir for air so that after the tires are deflated there is enough air on hand to refill them. If the air tank is empty the system won’t let the operator deflate the tires unless they manually override the system.
The air supply component can be mounted on the piece of equipment – or Kraayenbrink has also developed a tractor with an attached air compressor.
That same tractor can be equipped with the air control so that it can back up to any piece of equipment already plumbed, hook the hoses and go, he says. It also allows for the air delivery portion to be sold separately to mount on multiple pieces of equipment without having to purchase the other two portions already installed on the tractor.
All of the components come from the trucking industry and are proven to work in rough conditions, Kraayenbrink says. The swivels and valves can also be purchased off the shelf if needed, so downtime won’t be a problem.
To discover the benefits of this system, he performed a dry land test by pumping the tires on a manure tanker to road pressure of 35 pounds. The tractor had a full fuel tank and took the tanker for a 20-minute drive around a field soft from fall tillage.
He then filled the fuel tank up and deflated the tires to make the same 20-minute trip on another portion of the field. When he went to fill up the tractor with fuel again, he found it needed 14 percent less than the previous time.
Kraayenbrink performed a similar test on the road and discovered 4 percent less fuel was used when the tires were inflated at 35 pounds.
“On average, that’s close to a 10 percent savings on fuel,” he says. “We feel pretty confident about that number.”
Plus, there is the benefit of about 50 percent reduced tire wear. That will double the life of the tire, he says, explaining the tire pressure is never compromised so it doesn’t heat up as much.
On self-propelled sprayers, the deflated tire elongates and rolls over the top of the grain instead of clawing at it, thus reducing yield loss.
And, of course, there are the benefits of less compaction on the soil, but those are harder to measure, he says.
The reduced compaction was what caught Hogendoorn’s eye. “We’re always in the field too early and could see the tracks left behind,” he says.
He hauls manure in early spring on alfalfa and corn ground; after first, second and third cuttings of alfalfa; whenever he can on wheat ground; and, finally, in the fall to empty the manure storage.
Hogendoorn is now in his second season of using this system and he likes what he sees. “For alfalfa, we don’t get the compaction that we used to,” he says. “You don’t see the tracks nearly as much.”
Admittedly, he hardly operates it because a neighbor does most of his manure hauling, but Hogendoorn does say it is easy to operate once you get used to it. It’s just one switch to air up and air down, he notes.
“We’re happy with it,” this dairy farmer says, noting he is seeing better fuel consumption and yields as a result.
In fact, he likes it so much that he is planning to install it on his older 6,750-gallon manure tanker this winter.
“It all makes sense to have less air in the field and more air when going down the road so it is easier to pull,” Hogendoorn says.
According to Kraayenbrink, the entire system is about $12,000 to $15,000, not including shipping or installation. The price does vary some on a case-by-case basis, he says.
“We see tremendous potential,” Kraayenbrink says, adding that it is a tool for the precision application of manure because it helps a farmer get into the field when the crop needs it, instead of having to wait for ideal soil conditions.
He says he’s excited about it and is looking forward to how the system can grow. In addition to the tractor-mounted air supply system, he is working to develop a multi-system control so the front and back tires can be set to different pressures. This will have a preset option so there is only one master switch to deflate or inflate as needed. PD
For more information on how to use this system to inflate and deflate tires in a matter of seconds, click here , contact Kraayenbrink at (519) 840-0919 or click here to emial. Even visit his booth at the Canadian Dairy XPO, Feb. 6-7, 2013, in Stratford, Ontario.
Equipped with an air supply and delivery system, this manure tanker can deflate its tires in 25 seconds prior to entering a field and quickly inflate the tires before heading back out onto the road. Photo courtesy of AgriBrink .