Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Asa Lift & Its Operator

by Lisa Garvalia

Parsnips being harvested with the Asa-Lift
Living on a farm myself, I have a deep appreciation for the use of good, efficient equipment. One example is the round baler which has taken the place, on many farms, of the need for a square baler. The square baler requires someone to pull the tractor over the windrows, while the baler makes the squares, then the bales are thrown onto the wagon that is attached to the square baler. If the square baler does not have a “kicker” to throw the bales onto the wagon then someone has to manually pick the bales off the field and throw them into the wagon. There is usually someone on the wagon to stack the square bales up neatly in order to get a maximum load on the wagon. When the wagon is full, it is pulled back to the barn by another tractor and the bales are manually loaded on an elevator and dropped in the haymow. There is also someone in the haymow to stack the square bales neatly for maximum storage with less waste. I am tired just writing about the whole process.
The Asa-Lift

Now that I have given you an example of the efficiency that certain farm equipment can bring, let me tell you a bit about the Asa-Lift, our single row root crop harvester. I had the pleasure of hearing about the workings of the Asa-Lift from the main operator, Rafael. One of the most important things that was stressed in my discussion is that the settings on the Asa-Lift must be precise in order for it to operate at its best.  That being said, there are a lot of things to pay attention to so the precision is there. The front of the Asa-Lift has a leaf row cutter that separates the leaves from one row to the next.

Leaf row cutter, plow & torpedo bars
 There is a plow that lifts the plants out of the ground and 2 torpedo shaped bars that rotate and pick up all of the leaves from the plant. A belt grabs the leaves and moves the plant upward out of the ground and toward the topping bar. The dirt is cleaned off the plants from below by rubber fingers, and metal topping bars cut the leaves off the plant. After the leaves are cut off, the produce then travels farther up the conveyer and drops into wood bins. The bins are waiting on a flat rack, or wagon, that is being pulled by another tractor alongside Rafael with the Asa-lift.
Rubber fingers to clean dirt
Asa-Lift harvesting with the 2nd tractor pulling flat rack

In total it takes two tractors, and 4-5 people to make this operation work. Both tractors must travel in synchrony to make this work. One or two people ride on the flat rack to “catch” the produce with the pad and one to pick out the leaves and culls. One person also walks behind the Asa-Lift to watch the operation and pick up any leftover roots from the field. Rafael has many different things to pay attention to when he is operating the Asa-Lift.
He has to make sure that everything is working correctly because if there is one setting even a few inches off, it can either do damage to the crop, plug up the conveyer, or the dirt may not all get cleaned off. Another thing that is always on his mind is the safety of everyone around the Asa-Lift when it is in operation. He likes to work with the same crew as they are familiar with how it should be running when it is working properly and also the things that should be watched for safety reasons. On the tractor with the Asa-Lift is a small square box of controls that is right at the fingertips of Rafael and it runs all of the different components of the Asa-Lift, from the PTO to the pumps to moving the conveyer. Rafael is very keen to listen when the machine is running as he can tell by the sounds if something needs to be adjusted or looked at.  Rafael has a very important job running the machine and he takes it very seriously. If one small thing is overlooked it can cause something big and unpleasant to happen.
Topping Bars

Rafael running the Asa-Lift
Now that I have given you a brief summary on how this machine works, let’s look at what kind of efficiency it brings to Harmony Valley Farm.  When it comes to purchasing tractors and equipment, farmers must take into consideration many different things to justify the expense. Besides looking at the cost, they also look at how the equipment may improve quality of life and time saved.

With the Asa-Lift they can harvest approximately 9 different root crops and they can fill up to 40 – 50 bins per day depending on the produce being harvested. Now if this were to be done manually, it would take 10 people 4 hours to fill 6-8 bins with produce. We still have many crops that involve lifting crates and hand harvest, but whenever possible we use pallet jacks, machinery, and forklifts to harvest and move heavy roots.

The Asa-Lift was purchased from Denmark because no machines are made in this country for small vegetable farms like ours.  Another important benefit of the Asa-Lift is that it can be used at any time, even if there has been a stretch of rain, where manual harvest would be affected. This should give you an idea of why the Asa-Lift is such an important piece of machinery. Besides the time factor, it also saves on back strain that could be caused by all of the manual work that would need to be done.

Bins of celeriac being harvested by the Asa-Lift.
Vicente is on the flat rack catching celeriac and
pulling off extra leaves. Each bin holds 600-800 pounds of roots!
There are many other pieces of equipment that are used on the farm, all of which help to make the job easier and more efficient. The time that is being saved along with the health of the workers is taken very seriously. My hope is that you have enjoyed reading about the awesome Asa-Lift, its operator Rafael, and understand our appreciation of its usefulness!


Heidi Sutton said...

I have never lived or been on a farm in my entire life but I find the big machines used for farm work to be very interesting. These pictures are wonderful and show a lot of the equipment's details and your descriptions help me understand more about the Asa-Lift. It is truly amazing that such a big piece of equipment was ever created. Thanks for posting!

Heidi Sutton @ Ag Source Magazine

Traci Mcdaniel said...

Wow, I gotta say I'm pretty impressed by what you've described. I think we might be able to use it on our land. Looks like it gets the job done pretty efficiently and it would certainly be an improvement over our existing setup. Great post, keep up the good quality writing! We all appreciate the effort you put in.

Tracy Mcdaniel @ Carolina Material Handling Inc