Winds of Change
Andrew Hobbs meets the developers of an awardwinning fire prevention system that could save time and money for farmers Australia-wide
Tornado Harvester Airflow System
It was a spate of harvester fires, a fact of life for Aussie pulse farmers, which brought the frustrated farmer into the Horsham Hydraulics workshop two summers ago.
The family company’s operations director Eddy Nagorcka says 2016 had been a bad year for harvest fires – with heavy crops, volatile dust and no prior rains creating the perfect circumstances for a potential blaze.
To prevent the risk of this happening, most farmers stop harvesting a number of times throughout the day to use an air compressor to blow dust out of the machine.
“A customer came to us and said they were sick of blowing down their header all the time… They were blowing it down every half an hour, but within that period they were still having smoulders,” he says.
“They said they were sick of it, and can we put on some sort of air system that can blow away the dust while we are operating?”
The small team at Horsham Hydraulics came up with a solution that they fitted to the harvester within a couple of days and the results, Eddy says, were outstanding.
“They went to not having any smoulders or fires and the machine was really clean – and they’d only have to blow down the machine at night, and there wasn’t much there to blow down,” he says.
That was the first one – and five more were to follow that summer as word spread around about how the slapped together kit had helped to save a lot of time during a busy harvest season.
“So after that we thought this was a marketable product so we put a lot of time, effort and money into developing the product further to bring it onto the commercial scale,” Nagorcka says.
“We put countless hours into it, and we are still putting hours into it, there is always something to develop and improve, manuals to develop and that sort of thing. It is still ongoing.”
That product is now known as the Tornado Harvester Airflow System, which took out the Agribusiness Innovation of the year prize last year’s Wimmera Machinery Field Days.
Unlike most existing fire suppression systems, the Tornado has the benefit of running consistently to keep the harvester clean.
“It doesn’t allow anything to accumulate and sit on hot spots and start a fire. So it is a bit more preventative, and also creates a boost in productivity as well, because the user isn’t having to get out and blow down the headers as frequently,” Nagorcka says.
INSIDE THE TORNADO
The system uses a 6kW (8hp) fan that can move between 1,500 and 2,000 cubic feet of air per minute – with the air pumped to high risk areas such as the engine bay and exhaust system by between six and 12 different outlets.
It is connected to a cab-mounted display, which allows the harvester operator to check that the system is operating effectively, and is covered by a long-lasting ventilated cover to prevent any major obstructions from entering the fan.
The Tornado has come a long way from the 2016 model, with Horsham Hydraulics teaming with Danish company Danfoss to develop a special hydraulic valve to help run the fan, as well as improving the hoses used and developing new mounting brackets for the system.
It can also now be fitted onto 11 different makes and models of harvester, with Nagorcka saying the unit is mounted above the rear left hand wheel, between it and the auger, on most models.
“They are very machine specific, because they have all got different areas that they need to concentrate the airflow on,” he says.
“Some models are very similar, so you use your manuals and all that stuff as your basis and then change the bits
and pieces – it might be an extra bracket or two – while some are completely different so you have to start from scratch.”
Despite a big marketing campaign in 2017, which included road trips and field days, the take-up of the unit slowed a little in 2018 as the impact of drought conditions was felt across Australia.
“So we have concentrated this year on SA and WA, and we have got some systems over in those areas, so hopefully next year all of Australia can have a pretty good year and we can improve,” he says.
In the meantime, the company has been building its distributor base where it can, working with machinery dealers and a registered training organisation to train people to install the system properly.
This, Nagorcka says, is for insurance reasons – with the company ultimately aiming for the units to be factored into an insurer’s policy considerations.
“We don’t want someone damaging the reputation of the brand because they are taking shortcuts in installing,” he says
“Insurance is very interested in this system, so we don’t want to undo all our hard work by taking shortcuts on the quality of the installation.”
Working with dealers that have up to 15 different branches has been beneficial, he adds, because it means potential buyers are dealing with people they know and trust.
But because the network is only about 10 months old,
Nagorcka says the Horsham Hydraulics office is still fielding new queries from farmers Australia-wide.
Not that he is complaining.
“They are obviously promoting it as well, but until people are very well aware that there is a distributor network around they are ringing us,” he says.
“You get a sense of achievement that people want something you have developed.”
Top (L-R): Eddy Nagorcka, left, and Richard Nagorcka, second right, developed the Tornado in response to farmer demand; A Horsham Hydraulics employee fits a Tornado Harvester Airflow System to aJohn Deere S770; Eddy Nagorcka talks to a potential customer at one of a series of Field Days the company visited in 2017