Amphibious lagoon machine makes debut

WOODSTOCK, Ont. — It didn’t take long for the Nuhn Lagoon Crawler to go from a concept to a commercial success.

The prototype was exhibited in a static display at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show last September. Twelve months later, 34 have been sold across North America and another two to buyers in Russia.

“Went from a blank computer screen to a working prototype and we did it in just 10 days,” said Ian Nuhn, who designed the unit for his family’s firm, Nuhn Industries Ltd.

“The design work started last summer, and the first production model rolled off in February.”

The crawler uses four-inch jets for agitation and lagoon manoeuvring: one at the front and two in the rear. They move up to 10,000 gallons per minute and generate up to 120 pounds per sq. inch on the front jet.

Visitors at this year’s Outdoor Farm Show marvelled at the live demonstration.

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The remotely controlled machine weighs 15,000 pounds but is highly manoeuvrable, even able to spin in a circle while immersed. What makes the crawler unique is its ability to enter lagoons on its own.

“We have patent pending on the amphibious drive. Having the ground drive wheels is a huge selling point,” Nuhn said.

It features front and back tire steering, and the body can be lifted hydraulically for greater ground clearance. Nuhn said other jet agitation systems are on the market, but they are generally mounted on a static float system. In some cases, the float is manoeuvred with cables.

The Nuhn crawler operated at the Outdoor Farm Show is owned by Bartels Environmental of Hamilton , Ont., which has used it for municipally operated lagoons. It’s powered by a 275 horsepower diesel Cummins engine. Nuhn said there’s also a John Deere option.

The powerful jets blast solids from the bottom and corners of lagoons, creating consistent slurry in short order. Many conventional systems leave solids behind when lagoons are emptied, despite hours of agitation.

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“The nutritional value of the manure solids left behind can be a million dollars,” Nuhn said.

He said there’s been considerable interest among custom operators and expects them to be used primarily within the dairy and hog industries.

Nuhn has considerable experience in pumping technology design and worked closely with Frank Niekoley, the plant supervisor, on the original prototype.

The biggest challenges were balancing the machine’s flotation capability and making sure all components were working in sync.

Fifteen to 20 employees were involved with the fabrication.

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