Crop Hopper

Tool Concept
The Crop Hopper is a zero turn lawn mower converted into a cultivation tractor. Its equipped with spinning weeders like a "Regi weeder" that are controlled by the operator's hands while steering with foot peddles. It also has hilling discs, rear tire sweeps and a high clearance compost/harvest cart. This machine is being developed to address the need for affordable precision cultivation equipment, especially on sloped and rough land.



Problem Statement/Functional Need.

There is no cultivation tractor commercially available that is affordable to purchase and maintain, capable of hyper-accurate weed control, and is able to track straight on sloped ground.  Many cultivation systems are used behind a full-sized utility tractor,such as the Williams Tool system and the Regi weeder, causing serious soil compaction and a lot of space lost to wide wheel tracks.  In the case of the Regi weeder or other two person tools, labor costs are also doubled.  

Functional Description.

The Crop Hopper is powered by a 19 HP Kubota zero turn lawn mower.  The output shaft that powered the mowing deck is now fitted to a hydraulic pump.  Twin spinning tine weeding heads are controlled with the hands while steering is done with foot peddles.  The machine is very light, has excellent traction, uses very little fuel, and is a lot of fun to opperate.  Most of the parts for the conversion are commonly available off the shelf at any industrial supply co. 

Two areas that need a lot of work are the weeding heads and the steering.  I'm hoping to have a much improved weeding head design ready to test in the spring of 2016.   I'm also planning a re-design of the steering around the new generation of zero turn mowers that have rack and pinion steering on the front wheels and hydraulic fluid metering for steering on the back wheels.  This would make the machine much easier to control, especially on sloped land.









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Your speed isn't much better than a person with a hoe.  

Feet aren't precise enough for steering.  If you are going to use feet, you need a non-linear actuator.  That is, initially it takes a lot of foot movement to make a small correction, then the amount of steering per foot inch increses.


Overall a better strategy:  Get your rows right the first time.  Use the idea of a row set:  If you plant 4 rows at a time, then those 4 rows get weeded as a set every time.  If you do this, then all your culvators can be on the exact same spacing.  

Now the cultivators ride at the front -- by the steering.  So you are watching the culivators and the steering at the same time.  None of this turning around.  This may mean you hve to put a water tank on the front to put enough weight there.  A tank allows you to adjust weight.    Put baffles in the tank so you don't get too much weight on one side when doing a side hill.

If you want to run 2 independent cultivators, have one fixed,  You position it by steering.  And one movable.  You have a hand lever for it.  Set up your steering for the other hand.