Ryan Sommerfeld, inventor of the Aerow, has found on his farm that when his hay crops are not drying and there is either a heavy dew or a light sprinkle of rain, it can delay baling by a day or two. The quality of his hay deteriorates. The hay might be just about dry, then a rain event passes over and the quality really plummets.
With his first machine, Ryan was able to process his hay swaths in the morning at a time when baling is almost never possible anyway. The moisture that is on the swaths actually helps the leaf material not shatter. This is especially useful immediately following a rain.
In a side-by-side trial, Ryan was able to see his hay swaths dry by as much as 1% per hour compared to unprocessed swaths, and also found faster drydown than V-rake turned swaths, That extra drying time dramatically expands his harvest window and allows him to bale sooner and more acres in a day.
While hay and forage was the inspiration, field crops soon became another area for the Aerow.
We tested the Aerow with two very successful farmers in the fall of 2019 and the spring of 2020. The situation in the fall of 2019 was a difficult one for many producers. The cooler temps and extensive rainfall made harvest a challenge. A lot of crop got left out because the harvest window was just too short.
Cam Seidle is a seed grower near Medstead and they were looking to get some seed barley off dry to achieve germination and grade. The extremely heavy barley crop had two stages of growth and had been intended to make seed. The field was swathed to try to hit a harvest window, however with the unpredictable weather patterns, that window never developed, and in fact heavy rains compressed the swath and resulted in free water within the swath. Cam had heard about Ryan’s new invention and asked him to come over and aerate the barley swaths to see if this machine could help to dry them out. Ryan was able to process half of the swathed barley right away. That enabled combining, which resulted in it making the germination standard for certified seed. The fluffed swaths allowed free water to escape and air to penetrate hastening the drying process. The remainder of the field was processed by the Aerow on the following day, and when that barley was harvested it had a noted increase in sprouting and diminished germination.
“I was very impressed with how well the Aerow worked. There were some minimal shattering losses that were far outweighed by the gain in grade. The crop dried much faster, which made the difference between seed and feed grades. It gives us one more management tool. Given the increasingly unpredictable weather we’ve seen the last few harvest seasons, we are really excited to see this product coming to the market.”
Cam Seidle, Seidle Seed Farm, Medstead, Sk.
Another farmer in the Glaslyn area was also impacted by the terribly wet harvest. Leigh Stuart farms approximately 7000 acres and was forced to leave 1560 acres of malt barley out over winter. Luckily it was swathed. The heavy snow in the winter of 2019/20 protected the swaths from deer and other damage, but some deer droppings were also visible. By early May, it dried up enough to start combining again. Leigh was contacted and made aware of Ryan and Ben’s new prototype and was interested to try it on his barley swaths. The barley was already testing dry enough and the swaths were able to be picked up by the combine, but significant crop was being left behind and scattered showers kept delaying things. Starting to combine in the morning seemed unlikely.
Leigh hooked the Aerow onto his 125hp Kubota tractor. One of his employees operated the machine. The Aerow started processing swaths on the first field. Side by side testing showed that the barley would dry approximately 1% per hour more than the swaths that were left. However, the biggest difference was the speed. Leigh found that his combine drivers were able to drive roughly twice as fast and the swaths were feeding into the combine so much better. Any lumps that were caused by swather plugs were also spread out and that avoided the stops and risk of plugging a combine with a wet lump of barley straw. They also noticed most of the deer droppings were shaken out of the fluffed up swaths. The combine operators discussed it with Leigh and they decided that the entire 1560 acres of spring harvested barley would need to be processed by the Aerow if they had any chance of getting the combining done quickly.
A key concern was whether the Aerow could stay ahead of 3 Case-IH 9-series combines driving at 4-5 mph. However, it all proved to be inconsequential. The operator would start first thing in the morning and that allowed him to get a 2-3 hour head start, processing 40-60 acres. Those swaths were found to be ready to harvest by 11:00 and the combines would fire up. The operator was able to travel at a moderate speed but because he didn’t have to stop to unload and was driving a little faster than the combines, he was able to stay ahead of them. They worked like this for several days until all the barley was harvested.
“I was impressed with the speed and gentleness on barley and how fast it helped dry down. What a great machine!”
– Leigh Stuart, Glaslyn, Sk