A new machine is helping croppers in the tightly-held, lucrative lentil-growing Yorke Peninsula region make every hectare productive, including normally-avoided stony country.
The Rocks Gone Reefinator was manufactured in 2015 by WA farmer and inventor Tim Pannell, who found rotary rock crushers and deep rippers unsuitable for handling his stony country.
“Rock crushers turn into the rock or rip them up, and are not efficient on power, whereas the Reefinator cuts through the rock and then crushes it up, making it far more efficient,” he said.
The machine comprises a grate of teeth at the front, which slices through the rock, plus a roller with 75-millimetre ribs.
There are also rib-cleaning teeth to stop the drum from locking up and turning into a flat roller.
It can handle any classified soft rock and is capable of crushing 1 hectare an hour to a depth up to 200mm.
“It’s a mix between a deep ripper and a rotary rock crusher,” Mr Pannell said.
“The grate does most of the work, while the rib roller fines the rock up and acts as the wheel.”
Mr Pannell has sold more than 100 Reefinators, with 36 of those in SA.
In 2015, YP farmer Scott Newbold saw one in action and was confident it would improve limestone country on his Alford property.
“The machine costs about $140,000, so we thought if we could pick up some contracting work at the same time, it would make it worth the purchase,” he said.
Mr Newbold, operating as the SA Reefinator, began contract work in early 2016.
He said the work was generally across a four-month period post-harvest.
“I like to do it straight after harvest so the ground is ready before seeding,” he said.
Mr Newbold compared the machine to a stone rotary hoe, but the Reefinator was faster and could rip deeper.
“It breaks up most ground,” he said.
“If I can crack the rock with a 4-pound sledgehammer, then I know the Reefinator can break it up.
“The machine cuts the rock up, and then on the second pass, it breaks the rocks down even more and mixes it in with the soil.”
Unproductive soil rejuvenated
Mr Newbold says high horsepower is needed to tow the Reefinator as it weighs 22 tonnes when functioning.
So far, he has undertaken contract work on northern Yorke Peninsula and the Upper Mid North and said the average farm would have about 15 hectares to 50ha to renovate.
“Most areas we have to pass over two to three times, depending on the rock,” he said.
“But once it’s done, it’s generally done for good.”
Mr Newbold said croppers were able to use paddocks for lentils that they once avoided.
“They generally won’t grow lentils on paddocks with stone as it can wreck their machinery,” he said.
“After the Reefinator has been through, the crop roots and moisture can go down through the profile where that rock used to be.”
The Reefinator was named best Australian-made machine at the 2015 YP Field Days.