Maybe he was inspired by watching fighter jets refuel from a supply plane in midair. More likely, Gregg Sauder just wondered how he could speed up the planting process.
However he did it, the Tremont, Ill., farmer and entrepreneur has come up with an idea that could someday allow you to plant more acres in a day simply because you’re not making as many stops.
With his prototype 360 Sprint system, a UTV catches up to the planter on the go and refills starter fertilizer tanks without the planter ever stopping. Of course, you still have to stop occasionally to fill up for seed — at least until Sauder figures out how to achieve that goal “in flight” as well.
If it all sounds like “Star Wars” to you, no one can blame you. Sauder brought the concept to the 2017 Farm Progress Show and displayed it in action on a big track all day long, every day. It was easier to believe after seeing the demonstration.
Devil in the details
People behind the scenes can offer an inkling of how the system works. “It simply enables the transfer of any liquid fertilizer from a 300-gallon tank on a trailing UTV to the planter tractor tanks,” explains Lee Dahlhauser of 360Yield Center, the company Sauder founded after selling the first company he founded, Precision Planting.
There are two 350-gallon Sprint saddle tanks on the tractor, one on each side, Dahlhauser says. The connection between the supply vehicle and the planter occurs when two steel plates mesh together. Making that happens involves correctly aligning electronic magnets.
Future for Sprint?
After seeing the system in action, no doubt farmers with lots of acres to plant who apply nitrogen starter fertilizer wished they could take the unit home with them. That’s not possible yet — there is still testing to be done.
“We will do alpha testing with the concept in 2018, and hope to do beta testing in 2019,” Dahlhauser says. If beta testing proves successful, the product is often launched the next year.
Technically, Sprint 360 isn’t a new product right now. But it’s definitely a concept worth keeping your eye on. To better understand how it works, check out the slideshow.