Vermeer unveils self-propelled round baler prototype


Vermeer unveiled a new machine — a self-propelled baler — at Husker Harvest Days in Nebraska on Wednesday.

The prototype ZR5 comes with patent-pending suspension technology (for those wondering about all the mole hills, no doubt), zero-turn capabilities, and increased automation.

“Our patent-pending suspension technology allows operators to better handle the bumps and jostling that naturally comes with baling hay,” says Josh Vrieze, Vermeer product manager. “If you think about all those bumps over the course of the day or multiple days, ride quality can really impact the operator. In the ZR5, operators experience a smoother, more comfortable ride with the cab uniquely positioned over the suspension.”

The lawn and garden industry’s zero-turn technology inspired the very same in this model, allowing for easier maneuvering and greater efficiency. When in transport mode, the machine disengages zero-turn in order to safely reach speeds of greater than 30 mph.

“Operators can spend less time turning in the field and more time baling. The zero-radius turning can eliminate skipping a windrow to make the turn or swinging out wide to get into the next windrow,” says Vrieze. “And, when it’s time to head to the next field, zero-radius turning can be disengaged. Folks who have operated other self-propelled machines will appreciate the dual steering functionality; with the zero-turn disengaged, the operator steers the ZR5 using the front wheels for a smooth, confident ride.”

Automating baling was one of the company’s goals for the prototype. When a bale reaches the desired size, the ZR5 automatically stops, begins tying, and — if the operator wishes — turns perpendicular to the windrow, dropping the bale in parallel. It then opens and closes the tailgate, and returns to where it was. The operator merely has to push “go” to continue baling.

“Farmers and ranchers are facing one of the same challenges they did in 1971 when Gary Vermeer introduced the round baler, and that is labor,” says Mark Core, Vermeer executive vice president. “As access to labor in rural areas becomes more limited, we believe the type of innovation needed to design the ZR5 will need to continue to pave the way for more efficiency, productivity and an eventual reduction in labor needed to produce the same amount of feed. I’m happy to say Vermeer is proud to be making this investment in innovation and dedicated to leading the way.”

The company’s other goals for the machine include providing the ability to make real-time adjustments based on the field, crop, and operator inputs. Though the company couldn’t share specific machine adjustments, they did say they “are working on adjustments that will help operators with variability in ever-changing field conditions and baling speed.”

The prototype does not currently adjust to width speed, but perhaps that’s coming? Or maybe they’ll have a bale-stop mechanism to help prevent an operator having to fix the neighbour’s fence when a bale rolls through it? Time will tell.

Vermeer intends to have the first self-propelled machines for sale sometime in 2019.

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