Hundreds of Innovations Shared During Its Quarter-Century Run
While writing about the Hought brothers’ homemade stinger concept in this issue, I was reminded again of how many ingenious ideas have been conceived and implemented through the years by sugarbeet growers. That sort of innovation has been — and still is — the rule, not the exception, as growers come up with ways to do things more effectively . . . and/or more easily . . . and/or at less cost.
Such was the premise behind the Grower Idea Contest sponsored by the Minnesota/North Dakota Sugarbeet Research and Education Board for many years. This contest was initiated in 1977 as a vehicle for recognizing and disseminating outstanding production-related ideas developed by the region’s sugarbeet producers. Entries were voted upon by the region’s beet growers to determine the winners.
Across a quarter century, hundreds of grower-generated ideas were submitted with the assistance of sugar company agriculturists. After 2002, however, the contest was discontinued due to lack of entries. It was resurrected in 2006, with the intent of holding it every other year. But a lack of interest (entries) resulted in the contest’s termination.
Who knows whether the contest will ever be renewed? In the meantime, we thought it would be fun to look back at a few of the top vote-getters through the years, including the first-place winner from that last contest in 2006. All the ideas in this retrospective group are, as you can see, harvest related. — Don Lilleboe
Roto-Beater Row Sweeper
— 2006 --
Conceived by Craig Hurner of Glyndon, Minn., this system swept leaves and other debris away from the one row that the beet harvester used for its row finder. Hurner developed the idea because, under some harvest conditions, there was a real problem with beet leaves building up around the harvester’s row finder arms.
Hurner reported the cost of his idea to be “less than $57.” It could be adapted to nearly any combination of beet harvest equipment, regardless of defoliator or lifter row size.
Defoliator Scalper Auto Lift While Tractor Is in Reverse
— 1999 --
Humboldt, Minn., sugarbeet grower Marshal Hemmes came up with this idea to prevent damage to defoliators while reversing when the scalpers are down.
It utilized a closed center hydraulic system. Two short hydraulic hoses were teed into the hydraulic lines running to the scalpers’ lift cylinders. They were then connected to the hydraulic doubler valve mounted on one of the hydraulic valves at the rear of the tractor. (This allowed use of the hydraulic lever normally used to raise and lower the scalpers.)
The two short hoses that were plugged into the doubler valve moved oil flow to the scalper lift cylinder only if the tractor was placed in reverse. The hydraulic double valve received power to activate the solenoids from a momentary “on” toggle switch. This toggle switch, mounted on the side of the tractor transmission, was activated by the shift lever whenever the tractor was put into reverse.
— 1993 --
Myron and Kurt Kemnitz of Cavalier, N.D., came up with this one: an iron pulling device that didn’t require either the truck or tractor operator to get out of his vehicle to hook and unhook while pulling trucks.
Two hydraulic cylinders were attached to the pulling arm, which was mounted on the tractor drawbar. The pulling arm — securely attached to the drawbar by the hitch pin — could pivot freely sideways when pulling. It was raised and lowered by a single hydraulic cylinder.
A steel pulling bracket was mounted on the front of the beet truck, with a pin attached to one end of the pulling arm. Raising the pin at the end of the arm placed it in the truck’s pulling bracket. A locking pin was pushed rearward by the second cylinder, securing the pulling arm to the truck.
The Safe-T-Pull came to be commercially produced, replacing numerous tow ropes, chains and cables and increasing safety on many farms during beet harvest.
Beet Topping Unit (Scalper)
— 1992 --
A desire for a better topping unit provided the inspiration for Paul and Kevin Crummy of Argyle, Minn. They wanted to incorporate the concept of a disk without the expense of a power-driven unit.
The Crummys started with a used 16-foot field disk, mounting it on a hub and bearing assembly from an Alloway beet cultivator cut-away disk. (The hubs were mounted on the top side to prevent moisture from entering the bearings.) They then built a mounting bracket to hold and offset the disk so that ground and beet contact would keep the disk turning. The free-turning unit neatly snipped the top off even the smallest beets — and never needed sharpening.
Lifter Wheel Filler Spokes
— 1988 --
This winning idea, entered by Craig Halfmann of Stephen, Minn., grew out of his frustration with installing or removing filler spokes and cables every year.
Consisting of a permanent rotatable set of lifter wheel spokes, it was based on a need for a better way to install close-ups on lifter wheels. The filler spokes, designed to stay on permanently, could be quickly rotated from an open to closed position. Always in place, they saved a lot of time, as compared to a separate installation.
The filler spokes were mounted on a flat steel ring, which in turn was mounted to the lifter wheel with two bolts. The ring was slotted, allowing the operator to rotate the spokes to open or closed positions as needed. Two other bolts locked the ring and filler spokes in the desired position.
(Note: Craig Halfmann has incorporated several innovations into products that have since been marketed by his company, H & S Manufacturing of Stephen.)
Chain Tightening Bar
— 1980 --
The chain tightening bar was developed by Donald Hurner (Craig’s father) of Glyndon. It aided in the installation of a new harvester elevator chain or tightening of a used chain without bending the chain links.
Hurner began with two 1-3/4” x 1-3/4” x 38” angle irons. (The angle iron length was to be equal to the width of the elevator chain to be tightened.) Ten hooks were then cut from old elevator chain links, with four of the hooks spaced equally on each of the angle irons and then welded to one side of the iron. Opposite these four hooks (but on the same side of the iron), an additional hook was welded in the center of each iron.
To operate the tightener, the four hooks on each iron were hooked onto the elevator chain where it was to be tightened. A cable hoist was then hooked on the single hook in the middle of each iron. With this device, only one cable hoist was needed to tighten the elevator chain.
Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower