Review: Goldacres Crop Cruiser Evolution self-propelled sprayer

By: Matt Wood, Photography by: Matt Wood

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Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 2 Big machine, small foot print Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 2
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 1 The 3m wheel track still gives decent paddock accessibility, visibility is good too Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 1
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 3 The 36m boom on this machine uses a 3TS recirculating system Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 3
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 4 Boom height is easily adjusted manually, auto height adjustment is also an option Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 4
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 5 Lykketronic and Trimble feature in this machine, though Goldacres usually favour the Raven spray control unit Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 5
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 6 The well sign posted Ezi-fill unit is intuitive enough to use. A hydraulic pump enables water to be pumped in from any water source Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 6
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 7 This vortex hopper makes loading Atrazine much faster and easier Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 7
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 8 Beefy shock absorbers and hydraulic rams take the shock out the boom sections Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 8
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 9 High crop clearance and a simple easy to access driveline Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 9
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 10 Air suspension helps iron out the bumps Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 10
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 11 Cummins power makes for easy service and parts Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 11
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 12 Spring loaded end sections on the boom reduce the risk of damage from trees, fences and other hard objects Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 12
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 14 The Evolution can cruise and spray at up to 30km/h in the right conditions Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 14
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 15 An Evolution chassis under construction at the Goldacres factory in Ballarat Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 15
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 16 Cast king-pin mounts show off the workmanship coming out of the Ballarat factory Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 16
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 17 A Crop Cruiser takes shape at the factory Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 17
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 18 Mechanical drive units like this remove the need for a hydrostatic drive Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 18
Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 19 An Evolution underway Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution sprayer 19

The locally made Goldacres Crop Cruiser Evolution is touted to be a lightweight yet tough self-propelled sprayer. Matt Wood climbs aboard to find out just how tough.


The machine tested was the Crop Cruiser Evolution 5200L and this particular machine belonged to spray contractor and part-time Goldacres employee, Shaun Breen.
 

GOLDACRES CROP CRUISER EVOLUTION: THE MACHINE, CAB AND SERVICEABILITY

Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution Sprayer _2

The stance of the Crop Cruiser makes it an imposing sight as it sits perched high above the ground on its tyres. However, imposing as it may be one of the big selling points that Goldacres commonly brings up is the light tare weight of the machine (11,000kg).

The reason for the lean physique of the Crop Cruiser mainly stems from the fact that unlike many of its competitors the Goldacres unit uses a direct mechanical drive rather than a hydrostatic drive. A chain and sprocket unit becomes the ‘legs’ of the machine and these transfer power to the drive wheels effectively becoming a double reduction drive.

The access ladder that leads to the cab flips up and down as the electric park brake is engaged and makes cab access reasonably easy. Daily engine fluid checks are also easily done from the access stairs.

Inside the Claas-sourced cab of the SPS there were not only one but two electronic units waiting for me, one was the Lykketronic spray control unit, while the other was the global positioning system-equipped Trimble control unit which helps keep the unit on the straight and narrow while spraying is in full swing.

The ride quality of the Evolution was excellent, the air bag suspension on all four corners was very effective and any impacts that made it past the air bags were soaked up by the suspended cab and then suspended seat.

A nice touch was the suspended controls which kept you from lunging for buttons in the rough stuff as the controls moved with you and the driver’s seat. Just to make sure that the driver isn’t breathing in any nasties the climate controlled cab has a carbon air filter which keeps the atmosphere inside the cab healthy.

On the side of the machine was a strange looking little flip-down hopper that could easily have passed for a washing machine. However, this is a very useful hopper for mixing Atrazine.

As Atrazine has a tendency to froth and bubble when being mixed it can take long time to mix in conventional chemical tanks. Shaun reckons that the hopper’s whirl pool mixing function allows him to load 60kg of the chemical in about two and a half minutes which takes some of the pain out of loading it.

 

GOLDACRES CROP CRUISER EVOLUTION: ENGINE AND CONTROLS

Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution Sprayer _11

The European Lykketronic unit is not usually standard fitment for Goldacres who usually stick to the more basic interface of the Raven spray control unit.

The Crop Cruiser uses a 6.7-litre Cummins QSB engine for power, the engine puts out 225hp (165.5kW) and develops 700ft-lb (949Nm) of torque. This power is then fed into a 5-speed Allison automatic transmission.

Shaun’s unit is the top of the range four-wheel drive version however, the popular consensus back at Goldacres HQ seems to be that the two-wheel drive version has more than enough off-road capability for most applications.

Axle articulation on the Crop Cruiser was actually quite impressive when demonstrated. Again this is where the advantage of the light gross weight (16,500kg) really comes into play.

Once through the gate and out onto the first crop, Shaun unfolds the spray booms from the cab to their full 36m stretch, and it was time to get down to business.

A quick lap of the boundary of the first paddock was made to get the Trimble GPS unit on our side before it took over the steering, the cruise control was then set to about 30km/h and it was then time to kick back and watch the machine at work.

Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution Sprayer _5

According to Shaun both the Trimble and the Lykketronic units communicate quite well. The Lykketronic system also has Wi-Fi and smartphone connectivity which also gives the potential to prime the system remotely via the mobile phone. Just south of the paddock we’re spraying a glowing field of canola blooms, given canola’s sensitivity to chemicals Shaun drops the boom height to minimise any drift into the crop; try doing that in a plane.

Another big help is being able to store the paddock in the spray control units’ memory. This means that the next time the crop is sprayed the SPS can follow the wheel tracks from the earlier chemical application via the GPS system, reducing further crop damage.

Bearing this in mind I quiz Shaun on the fuel economy of the big green sprayer, "I’m averaging about 15 litres per hour with this machine, the mechanical drive means I can cruise at 25-30km/h at quite low rpm."

As a contractor Shaun averages 1,000-1,500 hours a year on his machine, as a result he readily admits that fuel economy is a big plus for his business.

 

GOLDACRES CROP CRUISER EVOLUTION:  SPRAY SYSTEM

Goldacres Cropcruiser Evolution Sprayer _3

The Evolution’s direct chemical injection system, while not unique to the machine also means that chemical can be dosed into the boom system more accurately. It also makes flushing the system with water from the main tank more efficient, especially with the recirculating system.

This all means that when slowing down for obstacles, low speed manoeuvring and turning at the headland of the crop, the droplet size and consistency of the spray coverage remains the same. First impression was the quiet operation of the green SPS, the Claas-sourced cab leaves you nicely insulated from the mechanical noise outside yet provides excellent visibility while both spraying and in transport mode with the wings tucked in.

Large block-style switches are easy to use and engaging cruise was easy at the flick of a rocker switch. As this was my first steer of this kind of machine I was reassured to find that the end boom sections were hinged to reduce the chances of any damage due to impact with the fence line, trees, windmills, power poles, cows etc.

In undulating country the boom height control or wing tilt also comes in handy as you can adjust the height of the booms using the joystick controller. Failing that you can use the optional UltraGlide function that automatically adjusts boom height in relation the ground. 

The Crop Cruiser can also prime the boom and flush out on the move as the TriTech boom uses a 3TS recirculating system called Rapid Flow which pre-charges the boom with chemical, the return line keeps fluid moving through the system at the desired pressure.

Working in conjunction with this system is the Rapid Fire system which has a pneumatically actuated valve for every nozzle on the boom section. Again this means that when the boom is fully charged with chemical there’s no delay in turning on or shutting off spraying, this also eliminates dribbling from the spray nozzles and increases accuracy.

The dual nozzle 3TS system also ensures consistent coverage at all speeds and helps maintain optimum droplet size at all times. In other words the machine keeps a consistent spray pattern regardless of speed.

It does this by using 0.015mm diameter nozzles at low speed and 0.02mm nozzles at cruising speed, these nozzle sizes are what Shaun was using. But just to make things trickier the spray control unit can also vary the spray pressure (usually between 6-8 bar) to ensure that the most efficient sized droplet is being applied at all times. Higher spray pressures also minimise drift.

Shaun reckons that this set up works great, especially when spraying for fine grasses in a mature high canopy crop. The boom section control also minimises wastage and the regardless of the spray control unit used will also make sure that there’s very little spray overlap via the GPS, this also comes in handy when turning at the headland of the paddock.

 

THE VERDICT

On one hand buying a dedicated self-propelled sprayer may seem like a bit of a luxury. But, on the other hand if you factor in buying a trailed sprayer and a dedicated tractor to pull it you start to get into similar price territory.

Chemical application is, if anything on the rise, so spraying becomes an all year round exercise which also increases demand on the equipment. Using a larger 300hp plus tractor is overkill, it’s cumbersome and you’ll start to have soil compaction and crop damage issues. If you happen to have an older reasonably small tractor already in the shed the scales may tip in favour of a trailed unit, but there’s also reliability and maintenance to factor in.

All up the Crop Cruiser Evolution adds up to being a big machine with a little footprint. Goldacres have a machine that has enough tech to get the job done easily but with enough mechanical simplicity to make it a reliable proposition; you’re not likely to get airsick in it either. 

 

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