Farmland Conversion Specializes in Big, Collaborative Jobs

The company tackles a project that requires a significant outlay of equipment.

📅   Mon September 28, 2015 - Southeast Edition
CEG


Farmland relies on the weight and hydraulic capabilities of its hydraulic excavators to remove stumps.
Farmland relies on the weight and hydraulic capabilities of its hydraulic excavators to remove stumps.
Farmland relies on the weight and hydraulic capabilities of its hydraulic excavators to remove stumps. Operators of the excavators work in Aiken, S.C., to de-stump future farmland. Farmland Conversion Consultants pushes stumps and brush into windrows on a future farm in Aiken, S.C. Dozers were outfitted with rakes on their blades to help separate good soils existing on the site from brush and stumps to be removed.

Farmland Conversion Consultants, located in Aiken, S.C., specializes in big, collaborative projects including its current project, converting 1,900-acres of trees and scrubland into a fully functioning vegetable farm.

The company, which is focused on growing agriculture throughout the state of South Carolina, recognized that there is a shortage of open land for farming. Fresh vegetable costs in the region are higher due to the lack of locally grown produce — much of it is imported. Though the soils in the state are particularly attractive to different types of growers, there’s an overgrowth of timberland — some of which is well managed, some not.

A project of this size required a significant outlay of equipment. That fleet includes three 2050M dozers, two 1650M dozers, three CX470C excavators and two CX350C excavators from Hills Machinery and Case Construction Equipment. Most notable were the hydraulics and leverage provided by the CX470C, and the power and fuel savings of the M series dozers.

De-Stumping

With Excavator Hydraulics

Farmland Conversion hired five logging crews to clear-cut the land. The logging crews also burned the track so Farmland would be able to clearly see stumps and foliage as well as to not incorporate leaf litter into the soil. After the logging companies finished, the company’s excavator fleet moved in to de-stump the land.

“All of the merchantable wood on the track was harvested. Then we put the excavators in, and they typically work in line and in conjunction, just going through and stumping all of the stumps that they can find,” said Tyler Stone, managing member, Farmland Conversion Consultants. “They’ll probably do between 8 to 10 acres a day per machine.”

The company started with two 80,000-lb. (36,287.4 kg) Case CX350C excavators. The company added three 105,000-lb. (47,627.2 kg) CX470C excavators to work through the heavier stumps — and the five machines work in choreographed efficiency.

“We went up [a size] and our productivity per machine increased,” said David Crockett, partner, Farmland Conversion Consultants. “The total job took a spike in production when we put our larger machines where they’re of necessity and the smaller machines still support them in that same work area.”

One of the most important factors in pulling stumps that have been growing for 20 to 50 years is hydraulic power. Both the CX350C and the CX470C offer the Case Intelligent Hydraulic System, which blends together four integrated hydraulic control systems throughout lift/dump and dig/curl movements. It uses the machine’s hydraulic power and momentum, resulting in excellent speed, power and fuel efficiency.

“These machines are hydraulic-driven, not engine-revved,” Crockett said. “That is a very cost-effective concept. It cuts back on fuel consumption and the RPMs, which [affects the] longevity of the engine and the machine itself. The weight of the machinery initially dislodges the stump. Immediately after that, the hydraulics take over so you don’t have any engine rev. Its just the compatibility of the weight and the size — it’s a perfect combination.”

Building Windrows With Dozers

After the excavators made their way through the job site, Farmland’s dozer fleet pushed all the debris into windrows. The dozer fleet features two Case1650M dozers and three Case 2050M dozers, which are two of the newest additions to the product line. Each machine is outfitted with a rake at the front of its blade that helps separate the woody debris from the soil.

“We compared the rake size with the machine size, and we find it to be totally compatible to the width, blade width and rake width,” Crockett said. “And the power of that 2050M has more than given us the ability to increase our push distances.”

The M series dozers are the first of their kind to feature a Tier IV Final engine with SCR (selective catalytic reduction). The machine’s hydrostatic transmission delivers the force and drawbar pull required to move more material while achieving up to 10 percent fuel savings. That means a more fuel-efficient machine on the job site without sacrificing power.

“The difference in [a comparable older model] and a 1650M, we found in the varying uses that we do on a job, could be as little as 1- or 2-gallons an hour or could be as much as 3-gallons, maybe a little more, per hour of that machine’s operational time in a day, which is [a] considerable [amount] in a day’s time,” Crockett said.

With such a large project, operators spend 10 to 11 hours a day in the machine. Farmland Conversions credits the excavator’s comfortable cab for keeping its operators happy.

“The cab environment stands out, especially in this hot humidity,” Crockett said. “The radio certainly helps out and the air [conditioning]. They couldn’t ask for a better environment to work in. Case has produced that, especially with the user-friendly controls and the seat itself.”

A Productive Project

In order to keep track of their fleet on the job site, each of Farmland’s machines is outfitted with Case SiteWatch telematics. Case SiteWatch is a telematics solution designed to gather critical information about a machine’s performance and location, and present that data in a way that lets equipment owners make smart decisions in how that equipment works and operates.

“On this particular job site, we have 10 machines and one guy running this job. He can’t be at all places at all times,” said Woody Inman, outside sales, Hills Machinery. “I give him a weekly report. It shows if any machines are lacking on productivity. It gives him fuel consumption. They’re ordering fuel upon realizing how much they’re using, so it helps them budget. It’s been a huge benefit for them.”

After this project is completed, the company will move onto two smaller projects that aim to be completed in early 2016.

Then, they’re hoping to take on another large project — developing another 1,500-acres. This first 1,900-acre project as Farmland Conversion Consultants will forever stick out in their minds as an excellent collaboration between Hills Machinery and Farmland Conversions, an excellent matching of equipment to application.

“This project is backed by product support from Hills Machinery, Case driven —100-percent Case, ” Crockett said. “And I’m proud to be a part of it.”