HARDI Ranger 3000 Sprayer Review

By: Jaiden Drought, Photography by: Jaiden Drought

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This month Jaiden Drought has the pleasure of testing a large-scale sprayer that appears simplistic at first glance, yet is packed full of clever technology.

HARDI Ranger 3000 Sprayer Review
The Hardi Ranger 3000 FOR SALE

Hardi Australia Pty Ltd is a leading manufacturer of agricultural spraying equipment. It is a wholly Australian-owned subsidiary of HARDI International, and employs 130 people at its manufacturing facilities on a 10ha site in Adelaide, South Australia. Eighty-five percent of Hardi Ranger 3000 sprayers are made there.

Our test Hardi Ranger 3000 is kindly supplied by Rob Mcllraith who owns a cropping farm. This is his second season running the Ranger and having covered more than 4000ha with the machine, he's more than happy with its performance.

The 9500hr John Deere 6800 pulled the machine along with no troubles and was even dressed up with the new-age Hardi GPS gizmos for the sprayer, but if you don't want all this technology almost any tractor will be able to pull this sprayer with only the PTO, a single-acting oil supply and free-flow return required.

 

The control box

For the HC5500 controller a couple of chunky power cables need be routed into the cab for the three monitors, which for me was one thing I thought could have been improved. Because of the three control boxes, plus the GPS monitor, it felt like it took up half the right-hand side of the cab. Having said this, there is a new all-in-one touch-screen controller — a more compact design but as always, it's at a cost.

To be fair, although the controls were bulky, they were easy enough to get your head around and the three monitors individually controlled a separate part of the machine. The first box was to do with the physical boom functions i.e. folding lifting etc. These functions required few switches and were very self-explanatory — it didn't take long to get the hang of it without having to look down.

The second monitor on our test machine was also auto section control (ASC) — a small module connected to the HC 5500 and the GPS receiver. ASC automatically records the area sprayed and in situations where the headland is sprayed first or in an unevenly-shaped paddock, ASC automatically closes the sections if the operator passes over a sprayed area. When a section is switched off, the pressure in the line to the nozzles is relieved, instantly shutting off at the nozzles to prevent any leaks.

Finally, the third little monitor is the auto-height system, automatically adjusting the height, tilt and slant functions of the boom. In the test scenario this was set to 85cm, although the range on the parallelogram lift is from 31cm up to a 216cm (nozzle height) and you could see the boom constantly adjusting using the three ultrasonic sensors and two angle sensors during the test. To be honest, this was one of the more impressive features of the sprayer, as it would be impossible to do manually with a boom this wide before even attempting to drive the tractor at the same time.

 

The pump

The Hardi 463 pump fitted to the test machine is a six-cylinder dry diaphragm pump which has an open crankcase, is self priming and, more importantly, is easy to service with just two grease nipples. The beauty of this dry pump is there is absolutely no contact between chemicals and moving mechanical parts which if serviced correctly should ensure years of trouble-free spraying.

The 463 pump is larger than standard for this machine with a capacity of 270L per minute and during our test each tip was only using 1.15L per minute. Multiplying this by 48 tips means only 55 litres was being sprayed and 215L being dumped back into the tank, aiding agitation, although different tips and different application rates will obviously alter this.

 

Tanks

Firstly, the main tank capacity is 3000L with an additional 450L in the rinse tank, able to be dumped into the main tank, and a small 15L clean-water/hand-rinse tank.
All primary filling, pumping and chemical functions have been grouped in one work area with logical positioning of the colour-coded handles and icons, greatly reducing the risk of somebody stuffing it up.

 

Filters

The Ranger has two filters — one filtering the water on the way to the pump and the second is the pressure filter for the tank. There are three settings for the pressure filter, self-cleaning on, self-cleaning off and turbo boost for flushing the filter. Due to its self cleaning feature, even after 4000ha it looks brand new and with a capacity of 400L per minute, even McIlraith has never had any trouble with the filter blocking, even with the majority of his sprays being in powder form.

 

Turbo filler

The turbo filler uses high-pressure rotating liquid to completely mix the powder and liquid chemicals before they are sucked into the sprayer. This is a good idea for two reasons. Firstly, it is an ideal height for loading 20-litre containers into (larger quantities can be sucked directly from chemical drums) and secondly, it sucks it into the tank and mixes it as you go. It also has a handy, easy-to-read measuring scale so you don't have to measure and double handle chemicals. Then once you're done, you place the chemical container over the nozzle and it will rinse it out for you. Ideal, Uncle Bob.

 

24-metre Eagle boom

In terms of performance, this boom is one of the more impressive set ups I have seen to date. When driving in and out of the tramlines in the paddock and at the headland, this boom seemed to be all over the show. It was in fact kept level due to the on-board suspension and auto-height system. It was more of a spongy movement, not a whipping motion, going to show how good the suspension set up is on this machine and why there is so little fatigue.

Folding in and out takes around 20 seconds, although it did seem a little aggressive which was put down to the flow rate coming from the tractor. Additionally, you need to make sure the outer boom sections are tucked in tight as they can be damaged during the final folding motion if not done correctly.

The triple nozzle holders are well covered from the front in case you hit something, although access is easy from the back of the boom. Nozzle selection is just a matter of turning the head to whichever colour head (flow rates) you want, similar to a rubix cube (but you are more likely to succeed).

The boom offers both forward and backwards spring-loaded breakaway while a coil spring self-stabilising trapeze and four rubber buffers in the centre section take care of the boom suspension and yaw dampening of horizontal movements.

 

Boom prime

Boom prime keeps the nozzles primed and ready to spray, eliminating the time delay experienced with conventional systems. Each section has an even pressure valve, ensuring the pressure in the sections is below 0.7 bar, so the non-drip valves stay closed.

The main benefit I can see is eliminating the lull between the tank and the nozzles at the headlands. It also stops sedimentation in the lines and allows you to flush the boom lines without actually spraying.

 

Verdict

These sprayers are packed with clever technology despite being relatively simple-looking machines from the outside. The fact all the filling and adjustment points are clustered together and are arranged in such a way they can all be reached from ground height goes a long way to making this a very user-friendly sprayer to operate. The boom performed impeccably and after 4000ha was showing no sign of fatigue whatsoever. Plus the control boxes in the cab, besides being on the bulky side, were straightforward and easy to grasp. Overall it's an impressive sprayer.

 

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