Mounted, Reviews, Spreader

REVIEW: Vicon RO-EDW GEOspread 3900 spreader

No matter how and where you make your living from the land, chances are it’ll be more profitable with a variety of additives. Steve Kealy looks at the Vicon RO-EDW Geospread 3900.

As anyone who’s ever had to do it will know, actually spreading additives can be time-consuming, costly and inaccurate — whether it’s by hand from a basket or from any number of mechanised devices.

Pretty good coverage could be achieved by an experienced operator, so long as the land is flat, level, uniformly shaped and a constant speed is maintained. But add a slope or incline, a dam or ditch, perhaps a clump of trees or rocks, or even an awkward fence and dosing accuracy can go right out the window.

But the 21st century has caught up with this time-honoured task. A very precise global positioning system (GPS) controller has been added to an upgraded version of a tried-and-trusted spreader.


The machine


Spreading system







The result is a machine that accurately meters flow rates and spreading patterns to ensure every metre of even the most irregular field gets exactly the same coverage. It draws an electronic mental map of not just the shape but also the fall of the land and tracks where the valuable material has been deposited, making sure it doesn’t overdose in some places or run lean in others.

The device is no ‘flash in the pan’ invention from the fertile mind of a techno-geek. It’s the latest, logical extension of a range of top-drawer spreaders made by recognised farming equipment manufacturer, Vicon.

Originally Dutch, but with customers in over 80 countries, Vicon has been in the agri-business for over a century. It started introducing electronics into its existing range of spreaders as far back as the mid-1980s.

Vicon’s current stable of rotary flow spreaders starts with the RO-C compact, RO-M medium, RO-XL extra large, right up to the flagship RO-EDW model, which stands for electronic dosing and weighing.

There are eight different models in the RO-EDW  full range, ranging from 1,500 to 3,900 litres capacity, with empty weights of between 665 and 795kg. Maximum gross weight is 3.9 tonnes.

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Vicon RO-EDW 3900 GEOSpread Spreader _display

The big red bins have four 5-tonne load-sensing electronic cells which measure the weight of the product, sampling twice a second. They’re coupled to a central reference sensor that measures G-force shocks generated by potholes, ditches or stray rocks and also senses angle, gradient and speed changes, adjusting the spreader’s flow-rate accordingly.

A rugged dual-display touch screen with a multitude of computer ports, the chunky in-cab IsoMatch Tellus hooks up to a standard IsoBus cable interface. More than 50 types of implements from a variety of rival manufacturers will work on IsoMatch Tellus.

Dual colour screens allow the operator to track the performance of the implement and the tractor, displaying tractor ECU data, a zoom-able GPS map, daylight or infrared reversing camera views and even the internet, if the relevant hardware is installed.

At the heart of the system, Geocontrol monitors where you’ve been and adjusts the spread automatically to avoid dead zones with no coverage or over-treatment by double-dosing. The working width is automatically adjusted to suit the overlap and coverage. For example, when operating in an irregular-shaped field, Geospread will decrease the working spread-width in 2m steps.

The system also saves operational job data and field maps for download to farm management systems.

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Vicon’s rotary flow system has internal agitators that start the granules spinning before they get flicked out on their carefully calculated trajectories. This reduces crushing of the feed-stock which means less dust and better coverage.

Dual rotating dosing units run at between 540 and 950 rpm and have eight horizontal vanes that accelerate the medium being spread, which is key to getting ultra-accurate coverage.

There are two electric actuating arms on each dosing unit: one controls flow to the discharge point of the dosing cup onto the disc, the other controls the application rate. The Geospread makes it possible to adjust the discharge point individually for both discs from the tractor’s cab, but at less than 70kg/minute, two of the three apertures close.

Vicon doesn’t use hydraulic power to adjust disc speed, instead changing the point and timing when fertiliser enters and leaves the spreading vane with the actuators.

The spreaders are driven directly by either the 6-spline 540 PTO or a 21-spline adapter — no heavy and costly hydraulics.

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Vicon RO-EDW 3900 GEOSpread Spreader _with Tractor

Sam Benson, of Agri-Tech Services in the Hillston and Griffith region of New South Wales, is a spraying contractor who does a lot of top-dressing on wheat and cotton.

In the few months he’s had the machine, Sam has put about 20 tonnes through it, across about 300 hectares. Mostly he’s been asked to spread urea prills — about the smallest medium that will give a reliable result. He can put down an accurate layer in a 36m-wide band at 20 km/h.

With a full deck of extensions and a cover, his Geospread holds exactly 3 tonnes of urea and he’s found the weight measurement to be extremely accurate. Being a contractor, he’s hoping that the machine will be in high demand in the coming winter months.

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Because the Geospread has only been available since the end of 2012 in Europe, and an even shorter period in Australia and New Zealand, there’s no real data for long-term cost of maintenance.

Users in traditionally damp and aggressive climates, however, report that with basic care (an after-use hose-down and decent greasing of moving parts) they expect a very long service life.

Stainless steel is used wherever practicable, and the paintwork is so thick it looks like powder-coating. With Vicon’s strong reputation for durability plus the occasional nature of its usefulness, the spreader will probably last long enough to become a family heirloom.

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There are no real losers when the Geospread comes out to play. The land gets exactly what the agronomist ordered, with no costly and potentially dangerous overdosing.

The land-owner gets a reduced consumption of whatever is being spread. There’s less chance of surplus product running off into waterways or dams, and eventually, the crop or harvest should reflect this attention with a higher yield.

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Make/model:  Vicon rotary flow RO-EDW Geospread

Capacity: 3,900 litres

Empty weight:  795kg

Maximum gross weight: 3.9 tonnes

Spread width: 12- 45m

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Don’t forget to pick up your copy of NewFarmMachinery magazine issue 7, on sale March 24 for the full test report. Subscribe to the magazine to have it delivered to your doorstep.

Click here to find Vicon spreaders for sale.

Photography: Steve Kealy

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