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Sprayer offers big capacity, easy-to-repair design

The four-wheel-drive sprayer has a Tuff Boy Manufacturing chassis, a Cummins engine and Allison transmission.

WESTERN PRODUCER — Two things have driven machinery evolution in the agricultural equipment industry in the last few decades: capacity growth and increased sophistication. That has made farmers much more productive — and machines much more complex.

However, Steven Raska, who operates Ag Trucks and Equipment near Great Falls, Montana, says “complexity is not necessarily sophistication.”

His small company builds large capacity sprayers that offer most of the latest in sprayer technology but with a difference. He wants anyone to be able to diagnose and repair a problem without having to call a service technician to bring out proprietary software to log into a CANbus system. He also wants owners of the machines he builds to be able to source replacement parts easily from a variety of local suppliers.

“Everybody has CANbus that runs everything,” he said.

“We try to excise out as much CANbus as possible. We understand our machines go out in the wilderness, so I want people to be able to get parts at Napa or any parts supply. They can fix it themselves or some local mechanic can come help fix it with our support.”

That requires building a system based on widely available replacement components that can be sourced from a number of retailers.

“The main object is to keep people in the field and running,” he said.

“That’s an absolute priority. In the cab we excised out the CANbus. So if you have problems with a rocker switch, it’s the rocker switch (that needs to be replaced), not a $1,500 circuit board. You can hot wire just about anything.”


He said it’s that philosophy that is behind the overall design of the AG-TRK-430 sprayers that his company offers.

These sprayers offer some of the largest capacities on the market, higher than most major brand offerings. The AG-TRK-430 can be ordered with up to a 3,000 gallon (11,356 litre) tank and boom widths up to 132 feet (40 metres).

The base of the AG-TRK-430 is a chassis built by Tuff Boy Manufacturing in California. It gets power from a 430-horsepower Cummins diesel mated to an Allison automatic transmission. Aside from the fact that it is probably the most powerful engine in an ag sprayer on the market right now, it uses an all-gear driven drive train rather than hydrostatic. A heavy-duty transfer case delivers power to both the front and rear Meritor axles with differential locks for maximum traction.

“Ours is an all-mechanical drive,” Raska said.

“It’s a big truck, is what it is. And we take pride in using generic domestic parts. They’re all recognizable parts. Anyone who handles repairs on their truck can easily handle repairs on the chassis. It’s a very simple chassis.”

That “big truck” configuration also means it’s capable of moving at up to 80 km-h to get between fields quickly.

“It drives down the road like a pickup,” he said.

The chassis uses a heavy-duty air bag suspension to support the weight of the tank.

“Air ride suspension and two-inch sway bars are standard,” he added.

“So it really controls that large tank, especially in the hills.”

On top of the chassis, Raska’s company assembles a custom spray body to meet specific customer orders. Widely available components are used to create a simple, easy-to-service system.

“We pick and choose what we want,” he said.

“Our tanks are built by Mid-State Tank in Illinois. They build the tank to our design. We buy booms from Specialty Booms (which is now owned by CNH). We use the aluminum Millennium boom. We usually standardize on Raven. There isn’t another control system out there that does everything, as far as something off the shelf.

“If you were to order Trimble, you get steer and product control. They don’t make boom height control. They don’t make PWM nozzle control systems. So you end up with a mishmash of four or five different companies’ controllers in your cab, and it takes up a lot of real estate. In the Raven system we have Hawkeye 2, that has nozzle-by-nozzle control and turn compensation.

“We can put any control system in that the customer would like. We like Raven. We support it very well. We have a pretty deep bench on service for Raven.”

Owners can call Raska’s company directly and speak to a service rep to assist in any repair diagnosis.

“There are very few proprietary components,” he said.

“Parts are available in many places, so you aren’t necessarily tied to a dealer. And we encourage that. As a farmer, you want to be as self-sufficient as possible.”

Raska’s firm has been building sprayers on the AG-TRK-430 chassis since the California company began producing it about three years ago, and it has proven to be a durable, reliable machine.

“Repairs on the chassis have been about non-existent,” he said.

“So we expect the lifespan of these machines to be 10,000 or 12,000 hours. No one has ever plugged into an engine or transmission for diagnostics. And some of these machines have 5,000 hours on them. We’re comparably priced with every other machine in the market, but we have a lifespan three or four times what the competition’s might be.”

The AG-TRK-430 comes with a three-year comprehensive warranty, and Ag Trucks and Equipment will sell and extended warranty.

Raska said they build roughly 10 or 12 units a year, but anyone who is interested in buying one can have it delivered before the next growing season.

“We’re a small company and we do things the way we think people want,” he said.

“One customer called us the Big Bud of sprayers.”

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