One machine performs all tasks in single pass

A big red beet harvester from Agrifac in the Netherlands is a 12-row machine that is completely self-contained

FARGO, N.D. — Agrifac brought its big red Hexx Traxx beet harvester to show off at the Big Iron equipment show in Fargo this year. The technically marvelous machine from the Netherlands performs all harvest operations in a single pass.

European growers switched over to self-propelled beet harvesters 35 years ago, with Agrifac leading that movement with six-row machines, according to Hugo Bos of Agrifac. He adds that the general trend is toward all self-propelled ag implements because of their higher efficiency.

“The Hexx Traxx is designed with a big 30 tonne tank. That’s a full semi load, which contributes to efficiency because the truck carries a full load on every trip,” says Bos.

“This is a 12-row harvester. It’s completely self-contained. It does everything in a single pass with only one operator. It’s a topper or defoliator and it’s a lifter and a cleaner.

“And everything is automated to make it easy for the driver. It’s auto steering with feelers sensing to keep it on the rows. And it’s automatic depth control to suit the soil conditions and size of the beets. The driver is an overseer to watch that it goes smoothly, and he takes his time to fine tune the adjustments.”

The sugar is contained in the beet, so the operator wants to remove the least possible amount of foliage and still have a clean top to the beet. Putting more beet in the tank means more sugar in the tank and more money in the bank. Bos says a big sugar beet needs more scalping, while a smaller sugar beet needs less scalping.

To meet this challenge, Agrifac developed the ProtectPlus scalping system. This allows the operator to set the defoliator higher, creating more space between the scalper and the controlling crest. This leaves a perfectly scalped beet, which puts more sugar into the storage facility. Bos says the toppers are hydraulically controlled so the operator can control how deep they cut into the beet on the go.

To compensate for rolling land, the lifters are regulated in three groups: left side, middle and right side. Instead of putting the beets through rollers once they are lifted, the Hexx Traxx runs them through a device Bos calls a turbine. This is a big spinning merry-go-round with steel rods that shake off the dirt and mud and return it to the field rather than send it to the beet plant for processing.

“We have two groups of turbines. They rotate so the beets knock against each other for cleaning. They’re right in plain sight for the operator so he controls the speed for the best job of cleaning. The front group of four turbines we see out in the open get the beets first.

“Then the beets go underneath to another group of four turbines for more cleaning. Then the elevator collects them up and they go up into the tank. The driver can look around back in the tank to see how good of a job he’s doing.”

The big machine is hydraulic six-wheel drive and six-wheel steering. Most of the steering function comes from the two rear tires, which not only change r.p.m. to steer the unit, but also pivot like castor wheels to push the rear-end around for extreme tight turns. Because of all the weight carried out in front, engineers decided they had to have the double axles at the front. To help minimize compaction, the two rear castor tires run in their own track, inside the tracks of the front tires. Power comes from a 700 horsepower Volvo Penta engine.

“We have seven of these machines working in Michigan in the past couple years. Once a beet farmer sees the efficiency of this system on his neighbour’s place, he soon decides he needs one also.

“The cost is $800,000. But when a farmer looks at his savings in labour and semi-trucks, and getting the beet harvest done sooner, then the concept starts to make sense to them. We have a training technician stay with you for as long as you want, to make sure you understand the machine.

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