Reporting back from SALTEX 2017, Angus Lindsay analyses the new machinery on the market – and what he thinks is lacking.
It’s SALTEX time again and, at the time of writing, the temperatures have only recently dropped from the mid-teens – I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the leaves getting back into the trees at this point. Climate change, it
seems, is with us, despite what Mr Trump says!
So, what did manufacturers and suppliers have to offer us this year, to make our job easier in these ever changing and challenging environmental and economic conditions?
With tightening emissions standards now affecting smaller diesel engines from 25hp, manufacturers are having to consider alternatives until suitable diesel units are offered and affordable. Already available on zero-turn mowers, petrol engines are now an option on larger woodchippers. I sense a sharp intake of breath at the thought, but consider how long a 150-225mm chipper actually runs in a typical day – you may be surprised. And for machines operating within cities with Low Emission Zones there may not be an alternative, as I didn’t see any gas, wind or solar powered units at SALTEX.
And what of my favourite subject, the multi-functional power unit? Well, it was good to see that these are slowly becoming a viable and workable alternative, with Toro, Ransomes Jacobsen and Roberine triple units now readily
available with interchangeable cylinder and flail heads, though there’s still no sign of a rotary deck option. Ransomes Jacobsen is taking it a step further with its MP series, boasting cylinder, rotary and flail alternatives on the same
base power unit – though unfortunately you’d have to buy one of each, as the interchanging of cutting units on one power unit is still a distant dream.
However, the Ventrac system does offer more alternatives around one base power unit. Similar in concept to the more expensive Reform and Aebi tractors and the Holder tool carrier (new to the UK market), it’s a niche machine with plenty of potential. It doesn’t have the same power, range of implements, nor the slope climbing abilities of the Alpine tractors, but as a basic tool-carrier which can be carried on a 3,500kg beavertail and undertake ground preparation, sweeping, mowing and materials handling tasks, plus operate on 30° slopes, it’s a package worth considering.
Electric power tools, as you can imagine, were in abundance at SALTEX. These now include 21in mowers and power brushes.
Larger electric ride-on and stand-on machines were also prominent. We now need to take these machines more seriously as viable alternatives to their petrol cousins, especially within our cities – we just need our clients to specify and accept the cutting regimes to allow these machines to operate effectively.
What did surprise me was the lack of new technology. Within agriculture we have seen huge moves in the use of satellite technology linked to applications, for everything from drainage to chemical requirement, but there are still very few examples in our marketplace. There was, however, a fully autonomous robotic line marker – ironic following my article in last month’s Pro Landscaper – along with Husqvarna’s Solea; a vision of the future of open space maintenance.
Based around a ‘mothership’ concept, it dispatches a monitoring drone which controls a swarm of robotic mowers – perhaps coming soon to a park near you!
Angus’s blog article is also published in the December 2017 issue of Pro Landscaper magazine.