Impressive savings in time and labour have been recorded by the turf-growing arm of Devon firm, Edenvale Turf, since the arrival this summer of a Brouwer RoboMax 1200 auto-stacking turf harvester, supplied and supported by UK distributor, Turfmech.
Operating from premises at Dulford, near Cullompton, Edenvale Turf is owned and run by Steve Light supported by a 20-strong workforce, the majority engaged on landscaping and fencing contracts primarily for housebuilders, local authorities and private homeowners throughout Devon and neighbouring counties.
Just two staff are employed on Edenvale Turf's 58ha (145 acre) turf farm which supplies quality seeded turf both to the landscaping side of the business and others requiring turf for a new build, renovation or repair.
Up to mid 2006, Steve Light had relied on conventional, manually-stacked Brouwer turf harvesters to produce the 1 sq metre rolls of turf needed for delivery to a contract or for collection by customers. Measuring 406mm (16in) wide by 2.46m (97in) long, each roll of turf had to be stacked by hand onto interchangeable pallets carried at the rear of the harvester. The job was physically demanding and tiring.
Equipped with a computer-controlled robotic arm able to load five rolls at a time fully automatically onto a pallet, Edenvale Turf's new RoboMax turf harvester cut labour requirement by 50 per cent the moment it went to work. "With just a driver needed on the harvester, we were able to free-up a man immediately for other work.
This proved very helpful to our landscaping division which often needs an extra pair of hands," commented Mr Light. "We have found that the turf-growing operation can be managed during the season with just one person looking after all of the mowing, vacuuming, harvesting and transporting of the loaded pallets from the field."
Because the Robomax harvester cuts turf at an extended width of 610mm (24in), the time taken to produce a roll has been reduced by more than a third. "We need only travel 1.64m now instead of 2.46m to cut each square metre roll," explained Mr Light. "Not only has this speeded-up the harvesting operation but it benefits laying and establishment because the wider turf results in fewer joins."
Although Steve Light still has a manually-stacked Brouwer turf harvester in his yard "as a back-up", he says that self-stacking machines point the way forward for his business. "It really is a no-brainer, especially when one considers the health and safety aspects of having a man stacking turf for long hours at the rear of a machine," he said.
"Thanks to the Brouwer RoboMax, the job is now considerably safer, quicker and more pleasant. And one person is able to go out at any time and cut a pallet or more of turf on his own to suit demand. It's helped move the turf industry fast forward into the 21st century."
Steve Light at the wheel of the new Brouwer RoboMax 1200 turf harvester purchased this year by his company, Edenvale Turf.
The Brouwer RoboMax turf harvester's computer-controlled robotic arm stacks five turf rolls at a time onto a pallet. Each layer of turf is stacked automatically at 90deg to the one below to ensure a secure, tightly-packed load.
Turfmech Machinery Ltd
Hangar 5, New Road
Hixon, Staffs ST18 0PJ Tel: 01889 271503
Edenvale Turf (SW) Ltd
Devon EX15 2EQ Tel: 01884 266509