Heavy equipment manufacturers Bell Equipment and Richards Bay-based Matriarch Equipment will exhibit their new cane slew loader (CSL) at this year’s agricultural and livestock expo, Nampo Harvest Day, next month in Bothaville, Free State.
The CSL, which was developed by Matriarch Equipment, was launched at the South African sugar industry trade show, Sugarfest, in Amatikulu, KwaZulu-Natal, last year.
Productivity of the CSL averages between 35 t/h and 40 t/h and the vehicle is powered by a 63 kW water-cooled diesel engine.
Bell Equipment product marketing manager for sugar, forestry and agriculture Tim Beningfield says the partnership is a good opportunity for Bell, as the machine complements the company’s existing agricultural offering and provides the market with the first-ever competitive and economical lightweight slew loader.
He explains that other CSLs on the market are larger machines, with a higher specification, making them affordable mostly to large-scale sugar estates. “Some farmers modify tractors by adding a slewing-crane attachment, but this often results in an unstable machine,” he says.
“Matriarch Equipment offers a purpose-built slew loader with a similar level of simplicity, functionality and durability as our Bell triwheel loader,” says Beningfield.
The Matriarch CSL is controlled using foot pedals, while the crane and grapple device are controlled with separate joysticks configured in the standard excavator pattern.
Another advantage of the Matriarch CSL is that the operator’s cabin turns with the boom arm, so that the operator has his eyes on the grappling device at all times.
“Feedback from operators who have tested the CSL indicates that they are impressed with the visibility and comfort, and this is hugely positive for productivity,” he says.
The slew loader is ideally suited to operations with a ‘controlled traffic’ approach to the loading of whole-stalk cane, reaping the benefits of reduced in-field compaction and significantly lower damage to the cane stools. Depending on row spacing, the track of the slew loader can be made wider with spacers that are bolted onto the rigid front axle.
Grapple configurations come in two options, either based on the same concept of the Bell triwheeler, with a wide grapple and tilt functionality, enabling the machine to work on slopes, or a narrower, free-swinging grapple with a push-piler.
Matriarch Equipment cofounder Ashley Bell explains that productivity largely depends on cane quality and how it is presented to the machine. In ideal conditions, we have achieved 50 t/h.
To increase workflow, a 100 ℓ diesel tank is fitted to the vehicle and consumption averages between 3.5 ℓ/h and 3.8 ℓ/h. For this reason, the Matriarch CSL has been named Ulteco, short for ultimate economy.
During last year’s cane season, two 5.4 t Ulteco 5 series CSLs were in operation. Owing to the success of these units, the company plans to manufacture 14 units this year, six of which will be sold on the South African market, with the balance to be exported.
The company is also at an advanced development stage with an 8 t model, the Ulteco 8. Suitable for large-scale sugar estates, this will be a 4 × 4 unit with an air-conditioned operator’s cabin. Bell expects that a prototype will be operational by midyear.
While Matriarch manufactures the machines, Bell Equipment will be responsible for its marketing, distribution and support.