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80,000 hectares and counting

Published on 20 April 2016

AGRICULTURAL contractors, Chris and David Haworth, have done more than their bit in helping Seed Hawk to become Australia’s leading brand of precision seeders, having purchased four of the toolbars over the past nine years.

Their business, AgTrac Services Pty Ltd, manages more than 16,000 ha of winter crops on behalf of a number of corporate clients in central and southern NSW. The Haworths purchased their first two Seed Hawk toolbars in 2008 for use on the Wyalong Rural Investment property, ‘Oakhurst’, which is located 35 km east of West Wyalong. “We were looking at purchasing a new parallelogram seeder when we saw the Seed Hawk demonstration rig (see panel) at the Condobolin Conservation Agriculture Field Day in 2007,” Chris says. “The local distributor agreed to do a trial on our place and we put him in some pretty tough country that had not been cropped for a long time. To our surprise, the crop came up quickly and evenly. After doing the trial, we were sold on the Seed Hawk.”

Famed for their accurate seed placement, even over rough terrain, in high trash conditions or at high operating speeds, the Canadian-manufactured toolbars feature patented ‘openers’. Separate knives on the laid-back hydraulic tyne place the fertiliser about 20 mm deeper and 40 mm to the side of the seed row. “At first, we found the concept a bit challenging but the more we thought about it, having the ability the separate the seed and fertiliser was a good idea,” Chris says. “The separate knives mean we can place urea and MAP separately to the seed.”

Each opener is pulled into its operating position by a hydraulic ram. If the adjustable ‘break out’ trip pressure is reached, the opener gently glides up and over any obstacle before re-engaging the soil. Depth control is achieved via the 10 cm trailing press wheel, which independently tracks ground contours and then packs and seals the furrow. “It was a bit of a learning curve in the first season but it’s quite easy once you get your head around it,” Chris says.

The addition of the Warakirri Asset Management properties, ‘Cowabbie’ and ‘Mukoora’ at Ardlethan, to AgTrac Services’ cropping program last year necessitated the purchase of two additional Seed Hawk 45 series toolbars. Both units feature five sections that fold to a relatively compact transport width of 4.5 m. “We have a bit of road travel to contend with, particularly with our Ardlethan operations, so being able to fold the machines to a legal size is important,” Chris says.

Both of the new units are equipped with Seed Hawk’s optional Seed Between Row (SBR) technology. A curved paddle sensor detects stubble, with two hydraulic cylinders guiding the hitch to keep the openers between the rows. Seed Hawk claims the undisturbed stubble helps to prevent dirt from being thrown into the next row, creating a cleaner and firmer seedbed. The standing stubble and depressed furrow also helps to create a moist and warm micro-climate, further improving germination and emergence.

The Haworths’ four machines are set up differently to suit the needs of individual clients. “The openers on the toolbars at ‘Oakhurst’ are on 333 mm spacings because it’s heavier country, whereas they are on 300 mm spacings here at Ardlethan,” Chris says. “We’re using 470 hp tractors and operating at speeds between eight and 10 km/h.”

Having sown more than 80,000 ha of crops over the past nine years, the Haworths probably the most experienced customers in Australia. “In nine years, we’ve worn out a couple of sets of front tyres, three or four sets of front knives and some press wheel bearings, but that’s just normal wear and tear,” he says.

The long road to success

THE widespread adoption of Seed Hawk seeding technology in Australia is testimony to the perseverance of a team of enthusiasts who have conducted hundreds of on-farm demonstrations over the past decade. The first complete Seed Hawk toolbar was imported into Australia in 2005 by Coonabarabran district farmers, Ambrose and Lisa Doolan, for use in their zero-till cropping system.

Soon afterwards, Swedish farm machinery manufacturer, Väderstad, acquired the international marketing rights to the brand and commenced operations in Australia. In 2007, Väderstad UK Managing Director (now Landpower General Manager – Product), Tim Needham, moved to Brisbane to facilitate the development of the brand in Australia. Realising the impracticality of transporting a full-scale unit around Australia, Tim set about building a unique demonstration rig that could be towed and operated by a 4WD. Mounted on a standard trailer frame and couplings, the 2.5 m wide unit incorporated 10 Seed Hawk openers, on-board seed and fertiliser tanks, hydraulic metering and a 25 hp Honda engine.

The rig has since traversed Australia several times, attracting keen interest from highway patrol officers, motorists, motel managers and service station attendants along the way.

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