Depth Charger Rips Deep And Levels Too
Australian Agcontractor March/April 2018 Issue 105 pg 16-17
Tim Pannell has ripped a lot of ground to break up compaction and aerate the soil, but it always bothered him that ripping left the ground uneven with ridges and furrows, which makes a poor seedbed.
“Most farmers don’t do an extra pass because of the cost so they put up with poor germination. I tried to remedy the problem with rollers and packer, but none had enough weight or energy to solve the problem of poor seed-to-soil contact and poor placement.”
Until now, that is.
Tim farmed in Western Australia for many years, but his focus now is design and engineering through his company Rocks Gone Pty Ltd, based in Welshpool, Perth.
He pondered the ripping problem for decades, and two years ago made it his mission to solve it. In September last year he produced the Depth Charger.
The Depth Charger is a trailed deep ripper with two rows of massive tines with an integrated roller.
“The weight of the machine and the down force from the tines is carried on the rear roller drum. That drum has an important role in reconstituting topsoil. It firms up the top 125mm, leaving a good, firm, level seedbed ready for drilling.”
The prototype of the Depth Charger and a demonstration model are out working, and another 10 being made to meet existing orders. Most are going to farmers improving cropping land.
The Depth Charger comes in working widths of 3.0m or 6.0m with tines at 428mm spacings, i.e., seven tines on a 3.0m model and 14 on the 6.0m.
The tines are hydraulically adjusted from within the cab, and can work at depths down to 700mm.
Each tine has a hydraulic jump cylinder to kick it out of the ground if it strikes a serious object. The diameter of the cylinder is larger than usual to minimise stress on the tine, but it takes a fair bit to upset a tine.
“It is designed to work in our tough ironstone soils. They are not exactly rock, but they are close to it. Whereas most rippers lift up big slabs of the ironstone, the Depth Charger cuts through it and then the roller levels out the topsoil.”
There is an optional delving plate attachment. Often farmers want clay soils under the sand lifted up and mixed with topsoil. The delving plate brings clay to the surface.
“Delving plates are common, but I have never seen one fitted to a ripper before,” Tim says.
Another option is an inclusion plate. This holds the subsoil open after the tine has pulled through to allow the topsoil to flow in.
“The topsoil is included in the subsoil which is effective at improving the soil.”
A leading edge shin guard is yet another option on the Depth Charger. This is a sharp edge attached to the front of the tine. It parts the soil to relieve tension in the soil.
Tim says with compacted soil you have to break that tension before lifting. Without the leading edge, the tine has to do that work.
“It seems to be very effective and it needs less horsepower to pull it. We are still testing it.”
Depth Chargers are robust and heavy. Therefore the only limiting factor is the amount of horsepower you can give them.
“It will rip so long as you can pull it,” Tim says. “The 6.0m model needs at least 350hp and up to 600hp depending on the working depth and soil type.”
Folding one for transport would have required too many compromises, so Tim got around that by creating an end-tow system for the big models. “It’s a little more work preparing it, but it’s nice and narrow to tow.”
He says it works in any soil type. “It takes a lot of weight and energy to make a good seedbed and that is what the Depth Charger is about.”
The Depth Charger, like its predecessor the award-winning Reefinator (which smashes up rocks to bring marginal land into production), is made locally in partnership with an engineering company in Manjimup. Keeping production local provides employment and ensures high standards are maintained.
Tim is also a contractor, although nowadays a manager and a team of drivers keep that side ticking over. He says contracting is a great way to test gear in different circumstances and for constant feedback on improvements, and to see what issues farmers are struggling with.
The Depth Charger is bought directly through Rocks Gone or through their dealer in SA.
Rocks Gone provides a full back-up service and parts.
“We haven’t had any issues other than wear parts. Most of the components you can get from any hydraulic store. We don’t manufacture parts to make it difficult for people. We keep it generic.”
The Depth Charger won the New Release award in the broadacre machinery category at the Yorke Peninsula Field Days, last September. “The judges were impressed with the way it is built. We put a lot of energy in to making sure it will work… and work and work.”