Water-based cutting tool
An Ontario company has created the technology for robotic cutting solutions has had some successful testing in developing an ultra high-pressure no-till planting tool that’s essentially a liquid coulter. I-Cubed began research on the idea about 10 years ago. It started on a request from farming groups who were having more and more difficulty planting seeds through heavier residue loads. “Some of the farmers were bailing and burning their residue: it was too heavy to plant through,” says Jeff Martel, applications and business development manager.
Cuts through more than soil
Martel says with the increase in cover cropping there’s continuous instance where planting is difficult because farms have to contend with residue, stubble, root crowns and cover crop materials. I-Cubed’s technology is to energize water to 55,000psi, spraying it through a small jeweled (sapphire) orifice. “It forms a very high velocity, extremely small diameter stream. That stream is traveling at Mach three and it has the ability to cleanly cut through residues, root crowns; – our belief is that it cuts up to four inches into the soil.” When comparing the speed in which the planting can be done, Martel says testing was done up to 12kms an hour when most of the traditional planting is done at about 5-6kms per hour. “There’s no question we can cut through it, it’s how fast can we cut through it.” He believes the tool is particularly suited in mid to high rainfall areas since drier areas are not as hard to cut through.
Tests showed earlier germination and larger-sized plants
The tool is currently being tested on leased farmland. They’ve leased some property and two staff members happen to have family farms, planting corn and soya. The two staff members used a modified six-row John Deer planter with the technology. The planting done the summer before last saw a 20 per cent higher yield in corn in the crop planted with the water-based method. The fertilizer rates were the same. “The notable thing we saw early on was the water jet planted corn germinated a couple of days earlier. The corn roots were completely different; the root bulb roots were fuller and had more depth. The same thing happened with the soybeans. The plants were huge, the roots were huge, the nitrogen nodes were huge.” The landowning farm was able to sell the produce. Plans for next year will involve some more structured test farming.
Not limited to water
The technology isn’t limited to just water; Martel wants to explore the idea of using liquid fertilizer. “Then not only are we putting it right where the seed is going to grow, we’re putting it below the seed so we’re not likely to burn it and we don’t need to put as much in because we’ve injected it sub soil.” Additional research needs to be done. The same thing applies to other things like fungicides, insecticides, beneficial minerals and other additives. “We see it as sort of an enabling tool.”
Going forward the company aims to work with government agencies and research groups, according to Kyle Wilson, finance and business development manager. “We’ve recognized the opportunity here and the legwork that has to be put into RD and moving forward to a sustainable product, we’re going to need some help.”