Australian company Multi Farming Systems has plans on the drawing board for a 92 metre (302 ft) Multiplanter with 273 tines. Introducing an autonomous planter could be another option for the future, says CEO Kris Trevilyan.
Kris Trevilyan, the new CEO of Australian company Multi Farming Systems, believes today’s farmers are looking for a new wave of technology to suit multiple farming practices in all conditions. More and more options will be available for a well known Australian machine – the Multiplanter.
The Multiplanter has been popular over the years. “Farmers want the same seeding rig to plant a variety of crops with different row spacings into irrigation, cultivation, minimum or no till”, Kris says. “They want precision seed placement and depth control, with the options of double or single acting rams and drop tubes, GPS steering of the tractor and tow behind implement as well. You can even fit a sweep or chisel point to a Multiplanter tyne and turn the whole machine into a chisel plough, trashworker or cultivator.”
Since taking over the helm a year ago Kris has been working on adding new technology to the Multiplanter. Multi Farming Systems has recently partnered with a Precision Planting dealer. This enables farmers to fit their precision seed placement boxes to the rear of the Multiplanter tyne assemblies, in new or existing machines.
“It’s just an absolute perfect fit for our company”, Kris says. “We have never been into reinventing the wheel. If there is something good in the market, why copy it? And our Multiplanter tyne has precision depth, uniform seed depth control. With the Precision Planting box, our customers can have the precision seeding as well.”
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Another option for farmers is fitting the rams and plumbing for precision steering on the Multiplanter. “It enables farmers to come back in line quickly”, Kris says. “With the wider machines, if you‘ve got undulating country, the planter wants to slope creep. The precision steering on the implement talks to the steering in the tractor and will make sure the planter is actually following the tractor squarely. Basically, farmers choose their own software, the GPS system they prefer, and we supply the hardware.”
Precision steering will also make sure there is no overlap when a farmer is in crop. “The rows will be perfect”, Kris says. “And when you go around the corner, the GPS will actually steer the implement sideways, if it needs to. If you don’t have that accuracy, you can end up with these little triangles, that you‘ve missed, as well as guess rows all over the place.”
Kris is now looking into the option of adding the Australian WEED-IT or similar technology for precision spraying to the Multiplanter. “It’s still on the drawing board”, she explains. “You have to have the cameras installed the same distance from the ground, and so it is just a matter of adjusting the frame height to suit.”
The idea is to let farmers hook up the tynes of the Multiplanter, so they don’t have to take them off. Then they can use the frame of the Multiplanter as a gantry and set the chemical tank up on the frame. “We did it years ago on our own farm when I was a kid and it worked really well. One of the problems with sprayers is maintaining a constant nozzle height across the entire rig in undulating country, especially contour banks, and our machines are all over that.”
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The downside could be the speed, Kris says. “But that is countered to a certain degree by the fact that WEED-IT sprayers go a lot slower than conventional sprayers. An advantage is that farmers don’t have to buy the whole spraying kit. It would be good if we could give farmers access to a WEED-IT or similar system so they don’t have to spend a fortune on chemical and capital infrastructure trying to control these weeds. They can then target it with spot spraying.”
The CEO believes introducing an autonomous planter could be another option for the future. “We‘re all for it”, she says. “Getting rid of the tractor would reduce the capital costs significantly. We are always keen to partner with agtech companies to put their software on our hardware. In this case we can supply the hardware by having a couple of diesel engines mounted to the frame and fit driving instead of rolling wheels. We just need the software for the guidance which needs to follow a straight line but also be capable of turning around on the ends – and not run over anybody!”
For broadacre applications it would be great not to need a tractor, and it would likely be cost effective in the long run
Multi Farming Systems already did some research. “We looked at things like solar but that does not give us enough power. And we looked at the different location options such as GPS and waypoints for guidance. For broadacre applications it would be great not to need a tractor, and it would likely be cost effective in the long run. The planting rig has to be out there day and night, but only for about a month or two each year, depending on individual farmers of course.”
Watch the 160 foot Multiplanter in action in the video below
The frame of the Multiplanter is available in almost any configuration, from linkage mounted, to folding wing, and even end tow for the widest machine. Farmers can add to their machine (most models) as their operations expand.
The biggest Multiplanter frame at the moment is 65m (212ft). Multi Farming Systems has plans on the drawing board for a 92 metre (302 ft) Multiplanter with 273 tines. So far, no farmer has requested to have this size frame built. It seems 65m is the limit at the moment.
The new generation of powerful tractors can pull wider machines at the speed and depth required, Kris points out. “That means more acres can be covered at the optimal speed. The problem with travelling faster – as opposed to travelling the same speed and simply covering more land at the same time – is that more dirt can be thrown out of the trench than is ideal. Opening up the trench enables the loss of moisture. The idea is to minimise the exposed opening in the ground. Discs generally get a good rap for leaving the smallest imprint.”
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Different speeds can be achieved with the Multiplanter, depending on conditions and requirements. “I‘ve heard of deep sowing down to 9 inch in dry conditions at 8 km per hour”, Kris says. “12km per hour is the more usual speed for conventional planting. If people have wider row spacings and they want to create a water harvesting trench, they want to throw the soil out. In that case faster works for them and I have heard of speeds of 15 to 18 km per hour.”
“It has been interesting in recent years with the tractors getting more and more powerful and air carts getting bigger and heavier”, Kris says. “We have to be inventive to keep our frames strong. We have found a suitable quality of steel, with the right combination of flexibility and strength.”
Multi Farming Systems is now developing a tyne system that can be interchangeable, so that farmers can choose between tyne planting and disc planting. “That will happen quite soon”, Kris expects. “There are a lot of farmers out there who love their disc planters and we want to cater for them. But more importantly, we want to give people options. Dryland farming is usually season dependant – sometimes the season is perfect for a disc machine but sometimes the seed needs to be planted 8 inches deep. Only a tyne machine can do that.”
With the addition of new technology the company is adapting to the new era of agtech. “We‘re now building on a solid foundation to go to the next level”, Kris says. “We don’t want to invent the tech but we offer the framework for the use of the tech.”
‘Our machinery is pretty much like a Lego set’
Kris Trevilyan has been the CEO of Multi Farming Systems since 2019. Her father David started the company in 1982. He was a lateral thinking farmer who began to commercially manufacture farm machinery after several farmers had requested farming machinery similar to the ones he had designed and built, and was using on his own property.
David’s wife Rosemary was the business brain of the family and together they made a successful team. David is still involved in the business, but is making way for the next generation. Over the years different products were designed and manufactured by the company, with many being sold in Australia and overseas.
Kris began working at Multi Farming Systems in 2004. “I started at the business side of things”, she says. “I was doing the marketing, and got involved in the design later. Eventually I took over a whole bunch of different elements of the business. Gradually I also took over the customer liaisons.“
Kris works with farmers that want the machinery, and designs it with them. “That’s the really fun part of my job, our machinery is pretty much like a Lego set”, she explains. “We‘ve got all these different components and standard formats we use to build what we need, and I just pick out all the pieces required for that particular machine. I can fully spec and draw up the plans for most machines, ready for the factory to build, in about 1.5 hours flat. The simplicity of our system means the process is not reliant on just one person.“
The Multiplanter is built in the factory of Multi Farming Systems near the town of Banana, Queensland. The machine is therefore also known as the ‘Banana Planter’. It has been exported to farmers in Papua New Guinea, the US and Africa.