Croplands sprayer upgrades impress Queensland farmer

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Ongoing improvements in Croplands’ RoGator self-propelled sprayers continue to impress one Central Queensland farming family

Central Queensland farmer Simon Donovan has been using the RoGator self-propelled sprayer range for 14 years – and says every new model is better than its predecessor.

His latest has been kitted out with great new technology – with Weed-It optical spot spraying technology, Raven XRT boom-levelling and Ag Leader GPS.

Simon manages Duaringa Station, which is one of three properties in central Queensland owned by his parents, Bruce and Beryl Donovan, under the umbrella of Donovan Farming Company Pty Ltd.

They produce durum wheat, chickpeas, cotton, sorghum and corn on 4,800ha and the RoGator covers that ground at least four times a year.

Simon Donovan and his sister Sarah

The family purchased their first RoGator in 2004, inspired by a local contractor who had one which "seemed robust", so that was their choice when their old sprayer needed replacing. They are now on to their fourth one.

"For the durability and the toughness of the machine, we have found RoGators to be second to none," Simon says.

"Every model has seemed great, but then the next one arrives and it has improved. It is a nice feeling knowing that the manufacturer is listening to farmers and making the changes."

For example, Simon wanted to spend more time in the paddock. He now has a 6,000-litre spray tank with the chassis upgraded to accommodate this.

"There have been upgrades in the wheel motors, so it handles the conditions even better," he says.

The filtration system has also improved. Previous models relied on filters at the nozzles and Simon had to organise his own filtration system.

"It never worked that well," Simon explains.

"This machine has its own awesome filtration system. They have nailed it. It is built to handle the volume of water we want to use.

"Another improvement is to the boom. Other brands don’t seem to handle our conditions. We can’t fault this one."

RoGator’s liquid-system is designed for precision application

The boom is 36m, fully recirculating and is equipped to do both broadcast spraying and spot spraying with Weed-It.

The Weed-It system has blue LED sensors at 1m intervals along the boom and each sensor controls four nozzles, which fire when a weed is detected.

The superior mode of detection used by the Weed-It system ensures even the smallest weeds can be targeted before they set seed.

"With spot spraying we are saving at least 80 per cent in chemicals even though we apply at a higher rate," Simon says.

"We are really smashing it, hitting the plant with four times the rate."

He can also use more targeted sprays, which are usually more expensive.

A particular problem in central Queensland is Feathertop Rhodes grass, which is becoming resistant, however the Weed-It system allows Simon to control it.

"If I didn’t have this I would have to put steel in the ground and break up the soil structure," he says.

"I am hitting the target weeds harder and saving ourselves a lot of work and money."

Weed-It sensor

Spot spraying is slower, at about 14km/h, compared to the 24km/h Simon drives when using the RoGator as a blanket sprayer. At those speeds, the Raven XRT boom-levelling system becomes useful when turning corners or driving through a washout, he says.

"It does not hit the ground so it protects the boom. It should really be compulsory," he says.

"Each Weed-It sensor is worth $5,000 so you don’t want to start smashing them up. Without Raven I have to rely on my ability to keep it level."

Raven XRT’s radar-based sensors detect the ground and keep the boom stable in three dimensions. This also helps reduce spray drift because the boom is at a consistent height above the crop.

The RoGator has a recirculating boom and Clear-Flow product recovery. It uses air to push unused product back from the lines into the tank, or it can blow it out of the nozzles.

Combined with the rinse tank, they clean the RoGator out to make it ready for its next task; and it is easy to change from herbicides to fungicides or foliar fertiliser.

A large induction hopper allows for easy mixing of any product, be it liquid or granules, while in the tank the product is constantly moving and mixing.

With OptiMotion, the amount of agitation automatically changes as the level in the tank drops.

Simon describes the new RoGator 1300C as "really user-friendly".

He says the cab is comfortable and quiet, which is important as he feels like he lives in it during spraying season. It becomes his office and is set up with air-conditioning, a sound system, Bluetooth and connections for his iPad.

The RoGator even comes with its own weather station, providing humidity, wind speed and wind direction.

"Info is king. We can make decisions on the go, so the chemical is on the target and we do not affect neighbours," Simon says.

He particularly likes the reversing camera, which reduces the stress of backing a large machine when children and animals could be around.

The width of the wheel track is adjustable from the cab to fit with different tramlines. GPS, auto-steer and sectional control are operated through Ag Leader.

Simon’s runs on Duaringa Station are up to 8km long and auto-steer takes the fatigue out of the day.

"You can change everything on the go. You don’t have to get out of the cab to make an adjustment," he says.

The RoGator has an 8.4-litre, 340 horsepower (254kW), engine connected to a new smart drive transmission that automatically adjusts engine RPM to the power required.

"Fuel efficiency is awesome. It does not work harder than it has to," Simon says.

Croplands Toowoomba supplied the sprayer, and Simon says product delivery was flawless.

"Croplands spent all day with me," he says.

"This is a massive investment and you get what you need. Training and the answer to any questions are only a phone call away. I can’t fault them."

No matter how great the technology, a business has to justify the investment and the RoGator adds up for the Donovan family.

"With the amount of work we do, we should pay it off in 1,100 hours. I plan to turn it over on 3,000 to 3,500 hours," Simon says.

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