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Fertilizer tender brings new flexibility, productivity

Photos by Willie Vogt Andy Young, engineer, Heartland Ag Systems
INNOVATING DESIGN: Andy Young, engineer at Heartland Ag Systems, has solved a problem with unload auger positions on a fertilizer tender. He created a machine that allows the auger to work from either side of the machine — an industry first.
Heartland Ag launches the first tender designed with a variable-position auger system.

Editor's note: You can see a video of the variable position auger in action at the end of this story.

Andy Young likes to work things out when he’s designing a new machine, as do most ag engineers. For Young, it’s about reviewing the needs of the customer and then finding a way create a new product to fill the need. And this time, Young may have hit one out of the ballpark with the industry’s first fertilizer tender with a variable-position auger system.

Young is plant engineer at Heartland Ag Systems and was tasked to develop a new side unload tender to add to a line that already includes the MT 900 top unload tender, but there was a challenge.

“I talked to people about what they wanted, and some said the auger had to be on the left to load over a ditch, while others said on the right,” he says. The answer he came up with solves both.

The VPA 1000 is a side discharge tender. The auger design means you can park it on the right shoulder and load into a field to the right (and stay with the flow of traffic). But if you need to be on the other side of the road, or field access is limited, you can swing the auger to the other side to unload to the left.

The VPA 1000 with flexible auger designNEW TENDER: The VPA 1000 offers 1,100 cubic feet of capacity — and 1,100 with extensions. That’s 32 tons ready to head to the field. And with the flexible auger design, the machine makes it easier to tend application equipment.

And Young designed the system so if you have the auger feeding to the left, or the right, you can simply close and secure it to the side you’re unloading from. No need to “reset” to a single storage position. That can be a timesaver when moving material from place to place in the field.

The flexible auger

Essentially the core of the system is that flexible auger, which rotates to the left or the right using a slew drive, which is a durable worm-gear setup that can rotate the auger. This approach is long proven in the construction industry where it’s used on excavators and other big rigs. This slew gear is a lot smaller but provides durable service.

Essentially, a main unload auger runs below the three hoppers. Each stainless steel hopper is designed with a 50-degree angle. “That provides better material flow and prevents plugging,” Young says.

The auger is mated to that unload auger with a maintenance-free nylon coupling between transfer auger and unload auger. That slew gear then rotates the auger from side to side for unload. The unload auger itself can pivot open to be secured to the tank.

How did Young come up with the approach? “I worked on a lot of ideas, and then I came up with the idea of that slew gear,” he says. “We worked with suppliers to find one that was suitable for this.”

Young notes that there were five or six approaches before this final design. But he admits that even though there’s a finished product available for order today, “I’ll never be finished with the design.”

The tender is built for speed, with the ability to unload material as fast as 5,000 pounds per minute. The machine has up to 1,100 cubic feet of capacity, or 32 tons of material. And given the need to cover more acres more efficiently, this machine will fill the needs of both custom applicators, as well as large-acre farmers.

With the auger’s flexibility, Arnie Sinclair, president of Heartland Ag Systems, notes the approach provides efficiency and safety for customers. “And with the current labor shortages ag retailers are experiencing, a machine like the VPA 1000 can make a significant difference in their ability to cover more acres with fewer machines and with fewer people doing it,” he says.

Convenience features

Young didn’t stop with the innovative unload auger design. An experienced observer will notice there’s no ladder welded to front or back of the machine. Instead there’s a ladder latched to the side of the tender’s frame.

VPA 1000 includes a ladder a user can attach wherever needed HANDY LADDER: While that innovative auger may be a game-changer for the VPA 1000, little touches like a ladder a user can attach wherever needed make the tender more useful, too.

“We wanted to provide access where the user needed it, and the ladder can be a challenge,” Young says. “This way, the user can have access where they need it.”

Another challenge with big-tank tenders is cleanout. Perhaps an applicator is done using a specific material mix and needs to make a change. Young came up with an attachment that can be used with the unload auger out of the way. The short snout couples to the bottom auger and allows for a quick dump back into storage.

Innovation in agriculture comes in many forms. For Heartland Ag Systems, a versatile tender with an innovative unload auger can fill a key customer need. Young did note that dealers who tried out the early prototypes of the machine “wanted to buy it.” Ample evidence of future product demand.

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TAGS: Fertilizer
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