FORMER Wongan Hills farmer Brian Fowler was taking ryegrass out of barley with his Air Force grader last week.
And judging by its performance, he’s getting closer to commercial production, courtesy of his brother Colin (The Point Doctor).
“This is the first harvest that we’re using it commercially,” Mr Fowler said.
“While we technically are still in the research and development stage, we’re ready to move into commercial production at Wongan Hills.
“It has been about two years since we first started with the design and I’m now happy with its performance.
“It’ll keep up to two headers cleaning grain at up to 60 tonnes an hour.
“The secret is a cross-flow fan with no screens and the ability to quickly change to any grain merely by altering fan rpm.
“Basically what we create are winds up to 60 kilometres an hour and as grain falls from the top bin into the chamber, the lighter chaff and MOG (material other than grain) is blown into one chamber while the heavier clean grain falls into another chamber.
“It’s a form of weight grading and it’s a concept that was around 25 years ago.”
The cleaner is incorporated on a twin-axle trailer with a tow-ball hitch and is operated hydraulically, powered by a 22 kilowatts (30 horsepower) motor.
Options such as electronic brakes, mudguards, lights and an electric winch for transporting an auger are being assessed as Mr Fowler seeks market reaction.
Last week he was using the Air Force grader to take ryegrass out of barley for the Applegate family, Cadoux.
“It’s a difficult job because the barley is light weight, so we have to slow down the speed of operation to 20 tonnes an hour,” Mr Fowler said.
“But it’s doing a good job reducing rye levels from five per cent to under 2pc.”
According to Mr Fowler, the Air Force grader could become a valuable management tool for farmers during harvest.
“For farmers with big ryegrass problems, it would be a cheap replacement for chaff carts or adding weed management systems to a header,” he said.
“All you would need to do is slow the fan down and keep the ryegrass in the header and then use the Air Force to grade it out.
“It might mean losing about 10pc of bin capacity but I don’t see that as a big issue.”
The other valuable aspect of the Air Force is its ability to grade for heavier grain.
“If you want good quality grain in the silo for next season, it’s easily accomplished with the Air Force grader,” Mr Fowler said.
“That applies to canola too so you know what’s going in the silo is quality seed.
“The heavier the grain the better the machine will work.
“And if you’re in the container trade, you can probably ask for a premium price, by eliminating the big problems traders have with chaff, sand and rocks that take up container space.
“That’s all taken out by the Air Force grader, so having a container full of clean seed has got to put you in front.”
Jaden Applegate said the decision to employ the Air Force grader was a relatively easy one.
“We have a smaller grader which works on the same principle but it couldn’t keep up with our operation,” Mr Applegate said.
“We’re mainly taking ryegrass out of barley and that’s our biggest problem.
“What gets graded will be sent to the seed cleaners before loading into a silo for next year’s seed.
“We’ll use the seconds for sheep feed or maybe sell it to the grain cleaners or the mill.”
Mr Fowler said he would be posting results on Facebook (Air Force Graders) during harvest or you can call him on 0439 547 902.