An increasing workload with a new emphasis on application of digestate from AD plants prompted the purchase of a new slurry tanker, built to Aylsham Slurry Services’ precise specification. Jane Carley reports.
Aylsham Slurry Services started out with septic tank waste disposal in 1987, before expanding its range of contracts to emptying farm lagoons and spreading slurry to land.
Working with Aylsham Growers, one contract involves spreading slurry on maize ground growing feedstock for Future Biogas, a local AD plant developer and operator.
Chris Key, Aylsham Slurry Services director, explains, “We became interested in the options for disposal of digestate from AD plants, and as we also grow maize, providing an application service for this waste material made sense.
“In 2013, as the number of AD plants in the area expanded significantly, we ended up providing a ‘fire engine’ service to spread the digestate, but I was keen to purchase a specialist tanker.”
To complement the company’s four tractor-drawn and two truck-mounted vacuum tankers, Mr Key went to the German Agritechnica machinery show in search of specialist machine capable of handling digestate.
“There were a number of poly tankers available but few companies were prepared to supply to the UK. In any case, the build quality of the Bauer tankers had impressed me more than anything else I saw. Adrian Tindall, who represents Bauer in the UK, was also happy to work with me in developing the specification to meet our needs.”
The tankers are built to the customer’s initial spec before discussion and finalisation at the factory.
“I initially specced a machine that cost about £62,000,” says Mr Key. “By the time we tweaked it at the factory it was more like £80,000.
But it is our ideal set up.”
The 18.5cu.m tanker holds 18,500 litres of liquid in a specially shaped fibreglass tank and is pulled via a sprung drawbar. The tank’s mounting plates are moulded into the fibreglass body so if a bolt comes undone there is no potentially damaging vibration.
An upgraded fully-galvanised chassis features a four-point rear linkage, capable of carrying an injector – Mr Key is currently having a cultivator injector fabricated to complement the 15m Bauer dribble bar, which has 7.5m shut off sections.
“We are on 30m tramlines, so spreading to 15m means we can work in growing crops and reduce the amount of bag fertiliser needed.”
Twin fill points allow filling from either side, with air auto shut off – useful as the 6,000 litres/min pump fills the tanker via a 15cm (six-inch) pipe in three minutes at an AD plant, where the above ground storage provides the assistance of gravity.
An autofill pipe was omitted as the tanker’s main job will be emptying AD stores which tend to be above ground.
A steering rear axle improves manoeuvrability and minimises scrubbing on headlands, protecting the Alliance 750 60 R30 flotation tyres. Says who???
Bauer’s in-cab control gives instant selection of filling or emptying, lifts and lowers the linkage, extends and retracts the dribble bar and operates its non-drip system as well as activating half width shut off. To this, Mr Key is adding Krohne flow meter control from slurry specialists Tanlake, which will utilise an LH5000 monitor to control application rates and provide reports of amounts applied and area covered.
The tanker arrived at Aylsham just before the NVZ closed period, so Mr Key has only applied about 2,000cu.m with it so far, but he has been impressed.
“Bauer’s attention to detail was good and it is built exactly to spec, even down to matching the drawbar height to my tractor.”
He says while his new 240hp Fendt Vario 724 looks like a ‘dinky toy’ on the front, the outfit is balanced, with the steering axle making it easy to pull.
Vacuum tankers usually stay in the fleet for five to six years, but Mr Key suggests the build quality and galvanised chassis may see it being retained longer.
“I asked for all of the grease nipples to be grouped at one point so it only takes about 10 minutes to grease up and there are just two oil levels to check,” he says. “Digestate is a more ‘tanker friendly’ material than some slurries as it is cleaner; we chose a spiral pump and this would not be ideal with stony material, although the lobes are easy to change if necessary.”
Where: Alysham, Norfolk
Services: Specialist tankers for septic tanks, slurry lagoons and AD digestate
Equipment: Umbilical injector system and 24m splash plate in addition to the Bauer tanker and dribble bar
Capacity: 10,500-24,000 litres
Construction: Polyester tank mounted on a galvanised steel chassis
Pump types: Spiral or centrifugal
Tanker options: Front-mounted filling arm, cranked single axle for smaller tankers in the range to give an extra-low centre of gravity; rear-steer tandem axles with leaf spring or air suspension and four-point rear linkage for a mounted applicator
Application options: double nozzle splash plate boom for surface spreading up to 27m wide, dribble hose applicators in widths from nine to 30m with a macerating distributor, hydraulic drip stop and hydraulic folding; a drag shoe applicator with working widths of 5.3m-21m; a disc injector in 5.2-8m widths and a spring tine cultivator injector
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