Fenix rises from ashes with cutting-edge tech

Michael Raine
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Seed Hawk makes major changes to its air seeder metering system with launch of Fenix Three

LANGBANK, Sask. — The engineering was so impressive that it won a prestigious award, but the concept didn’t live up to expectations in the field.

It happens in farm equipment. When it does, makers can pull the product or redesign and test, test, test.

In 2015, Seed Hawk’s new precision metering system won an American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers award. The new air seeder meter system provided single meters to each of two primary runs, powered by 10 watt motors and using friction fit, sealed systems with easily interchangeable meter rollers.

It was service friendly and provided fast cleanouts and major rate swaps.

Electricity produced by a hydraulically powered, onboard alternator at the front of the air seeder cart fed the banks of meter motors and an advanced monitoring and control system was.

However, problems arose.

“Wear in the meters became an issue in a hurry … and so did motor size,” said Greg Blaszczak of Seed Hawk, which is based in Langbank and owned by Sweden’s Väderstad.

It was important for the company to keep the main concepts of the design that met with the approval of the agricultural engineers that judged the new product and a loyal customer base.

“It needed more testing time and field experience, and that is what the new Fenix Three meter has,” Blaszczak said about big changes to the guts of what had been viewed as glorious.

The changes included a jump to a much larger 40 watt meter motor and a move away from the twisted flight design of the rollers.

That, and stainless steel bearings, were the start of the redesign.

Then came a new parallel fluted meter roller with a central divider wall, a seed leveling scraper at the top of the metering housing to ensure consistent loading and avoid seed pinching, and an angled and notched outlet, which all helped to even out the flow of seed.

Pulsing of seed has long been an issue in air seeder meters.

A break occurs between the emptying of the cups as fluted rollers dump their loads into the air stream.

Twisted flight designs can reduce this pulsing of seed in the flow, but they can also cause left and right pulsing in the primary tubes.

Seed Hawk’s divided rollers have the flutes, but they are offset one half a width of each other on each side of a divided roller. Combined with a shaped outlet, this results in an almost continuous flow of metered product.

The new meters are made of much tougher materials than the ones that debuted in June 2014.

“These were tested at Väderstad’s engineering lab in Sweden before being put into the field in Saskatchewan for more testing,” Blaszczak said.

Farmers began running them with winter wheat, and we aren’t seeing the issues.”

A new metal liner has been added to the meter housing to avoid wear. The bench testing procedure saw 400 pounds per acre of 25-17 fertilizer blend pushed through the system on a continuous loop, with freshening, for the equivalent of 4,000 acres.

“There was no measurable wear,” said Blaszczak.

The bigger motor runs in a 64:1 gear reduction, ensuring plenty of torque, even for high product loads.

The original system’s meter power was regulated by a wi-fi wireless feed from an Apple iPad in the tractor’s cab. The system was developed by North Dakota’s Appareo.

Producers were finding wi-fi signal drop-out in headlands and during other moments when hydraulic flow was short.

Moving the hydraulic flow from the lift cylinder circuit to the shank down pressure lines solved the mysterious wi-fi signal drop because it stabilized the speed of the alternator drive motor.

The Appareo monitoring system uses the sound of seed and product to measure rates and plugs. It had a 90 degree bend in the line where the diaphragm receiving the impacts of the product and seed is placed. There were no complaints of plugging, but Seed Hawk opened that angle up slightly to improve the flow to the openers.

Some software upgrades have been made, but the metering system and load-cell based measuring of available product remain mostly the same, the company said.

“There were a lot of changes and a lot more testing, but despite some issues, our Seed Hawk customers have remained very dedicated to us,” Blaszczak said.

“Lots of companies wouldn’t have seen this much patience. Farmers believe in our tools.”

The new system has four meter-rate roller sets and keeps the place, turn and lock design of motor placing and removal.

The company is providing the new Fenix units for producers who own the previous Icon release of the Seed Hawk boxes.

Fenix rises from ashes with cutting-edge tech