One-Man Turf Harvesting boost Outputs, Cuts Cost.
By Mike Bird
Almost 20 years after sowing its first field of turf, Emerald Lawns is firmly established as Ireland's most progressive grower and supplier of quality cultivated turf.
To maintain this position, the Co Derry based company has invested heavily over the past few years in new equipment including the first Brouwer Robomax 1200 automated self-stacking turf harvester to go to work in Ireland.
Immediately, the number of staff required on the turf harvester was cut from two to one with a correspondingly dramatic increase in output. Instead of the eight pallets an hour output achieved previously by conventional machine where turf is stacked by hand onto pallets, the Robomax 1200 is averaging 14 pallets of turf an hour, each pallet containing 64 rolls (64 sq yds) of turf.
In a normal day, the Robomax operator is capable of cutting, stacking, loading and delivering 60 pallets of turf on his own. With an additional team member on the forklift, outputs of more than 110 pallets a day have been recorded. Previously, that would have required two turf harvesters and four staff!
Founded in the mid 1980s by father and son, Conn and Colin Sherrard, Emerald Lawns is managed today by Colin and his wife Adrienne, with Conn now devoting much of his time to supervising field operations to ensure high standards at all stages of the turf production process. "Although we sold our first roll of turf in September 1989, it was in 1991 that the business really hit the headlines when we re-turfed Lansdowne Road, the home of Irish rugby," recalled Colin. "Overnight, many more people knew of the company and we benefited greatly also from the boom in golf course construction during the early to mid 1990s, when we supplied thousands of rolls of turf to new courses throughout Ireland."
Most of those rolls were harvested by a Brouwer 1555 machine which was, in fact, the very first tractor-powered turf harvester bought by Emerald Lawns. In 1995, that machine was replaced by the uprated and more powerful Brouwer 1560 model. However, with the arrival of the new millennium, Colin was determined that Emerald Lawns move forward and adopt the latest harvesting techniques centred on automatic stacking systems.
"It had become clear that two-man harvesting, with one man up front driving the tractor and one at the rear stacking the turfs, was no longer the most efficient nor cost-effective method of lifting turf," said Colin. "Stacking is not a pleasant job and none of us is getting any younger."
In 2004, he looked at a number of one-man harvesting systems and decided to order a Brouwer Robomax 1200 for delivery in December 2004. The decision was based on good past experience with Brouwer harvesters and confidence in the technical and service support provided by distributor, Turfmech.
One aspect of the new machine's specifications that did provide food for thought was its 24in width of cut compared with 16in on a standard two-man harvester. "We carried out some market research with a few larger landscape firms in the Dublin area and received generally favourable feedback on the wider rolls," commented Colin. "We also had previous experience handling 24 inch wide turfs as this is the size produced by our Brouwer Rollmax big roll harvester which we purchased second-hand last year from Turfmech. We are seeing an increasing demand for big rolls."
The one major modification carried out on the harvester since its arrival is the replacement of the tractor's standard rear drive wheels with half tracks - at a cost of £16,000 plus delivery and fitting. Colin Sherrard pointed out that this was a conversion that he anticipated from the outset. "We are normally harvesting in wet conditions which do not favour tyres," he said. "Half tracks prevent sinkage and maintain grip."
"Stacking turf is a very tiring job," concluded Colin. "With the Robomax, we are now able to satisfy most customer's demands without stress or loss of efficiency. The beauty of the machine is that it keeps working at the same speed and the same stacking consistency hour after hour. It really is proving a tremendous investment."
Further information can be obtained from:
Turfmech Machinery Ltd
Staffs ST18 0PJ Tel: 01889 271503 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Ireland BT47 3JW Tel: 028 71 860551 e-mail: email@example.com
1. (Top Picture) Fitted with half tracks, the Brouwer Robomax 1200 harvester averages around 900 sq yards of turf an hour, all stacked fully automatically onto pallets.
2. (Right picture) Conn (left) and Colin Sherrard with pallets of turf harvested by Emerald Lawns' Robomax harvester.