With its new design the H4 Reefinator can pulverise harder rocks like basalt and it works to a depth of 450 mm.
Those in the know might have been wondering how Tim Pannell could possibly improve the Reefinator, while those who have been living under a rock might just find that rock about to be crushed.
The original Reefinator was launched in 2015.
Tim and Tanya Pannell and their daughters Joanne, Amy and Kate farm in Western Australia and they had some bony land with annoying spurs of laterites (iron-rich rock). Along with shallow soil, the laterites created water run off that caused a rising water table and flooding.
Tim found a rotary rock crusher made overseas to deal with the laterites, but it was very costly to run. So, in the spirit of all good pioneers, he thought, ‚ÄòThere has to be a better way‚Äô and built his own.
The Reefinator has heavy-duty tines that rip into rock, and they are followed by a ribbed roller that smashes up the pieces. Smashing rocks in situ creates more soil and ultimately it converts shallow, difficult soils into deep, crop-friendly ones.
Last month, after two years of design and testing three prototypes, Tim released the new H4 version of the Reefinator as well as a contractors‚Äô model, the H4C.
The Pannell‚Äôs are also contractors in the Western Australian Wheatbelt, and the new H4 prototypes have put in 2500 hours in the region‚Äôs highly abrasive silica soils, ensuring they are the best they can be in all terrains.
There are impressive differences from the original. The 100, 200 and 300 series Reefinators were not designed to crush hard rocks like granite, but they were built to survive any encounter. A $24 shear pin would break when 22 tonnes of ballasted weight came on a single tine, saving the machine from expensive damage.
Tim says the H4 uses a different technique. The ‚ÄòH‚Äô denotes hydraulic and it will move over a rock if it really is too hard to crush, which saves a lot of time for the operator.
‚ÄúBut really there are very few rock types it has to jump and there is almost nowhere it won‚Äôt go. I wouldn‚Äôt promote it for blue granite, but even that would not hurt the machine and it won‚Äôt break a shear bolt because it has none.‚Äù
The H4 is a heavier machine at 28 tonnes ballasted weight and has one less tine. Each tine hydraulically actuated, which protects it and the machine from damage.
‚ÄúIts ability to penetrate and get into rock is on another level compared to the 300 Series,‚Äù Tim says.
The new H4 Reefinator has two rows of hydraulic tines and the operator can lift the front or back row of tines to apply even more force on the remaining row. Also, it is now easy to adjust the hydraulic pressure on the tines from the cab.
‚ÄúThe actual action of the hydraulics makes the machine easier to pull,‚Äù Tim says. ‚Äúwhen the tines strike something really hard, the H4 tines can jump just enough to absorb some the shock and keep going. The whole machine is more efficient at getting through rock.‚Äù
The H4 works deeper -down to 450mm ‚Äì compared to an effective working depth of 200 mm with the 300. This makes it a cross between a rock crusher and a deep ripper.
The H4 also handles trash, which the 300 model did not do, so it can go into more types of paddocks. It is also better at dealing with variation in soil and rock types.
‚ÄúA lot of country has cemented soils or geological hard layers. This machine can deep rip in country never ripped before and it will process the cemented sub-layers. Put this machine over it a couple of times and you can farm the top 400 mm without ever worrying about what comes up again.‚Äù
Another efficiency gain is the wear points last longer. How much longer depends on the type of rock. Also, the wear points are faster to change. It is not necessary to use a hammer to make the switch, just and Allen key.
Because of the new Reefinator‚Äôs 28 tonne ballasted weight, it takes a tractor of around 400 hp to pull it.
The H4C contractors‚Äô model is nearly the same as the H4, except it has induction hardened pins and bushes, so it can work thousands of hours before pins and bushes wear out.
Tim and Tanya‚Äôs company Rocks Gon Pty Ltd sells the Reefinator direct, except in SA and Victoria where they have agents.
The Reefinators are made in WA. Tim and his team do all the design and preparation, and then assembly is contracted to a local engineering company.
Rocks Gone still produces the 300 model but only sells them into areas without hard rocks like basalt. Tim says for areas with softer rocks, the 300 is cheaper and does the job.
Pricing remains affordable for farmers, and Tim contracts his Reefinator out a $500-$600/ha. He says many of his clients have made a lot of money converting low value rocky land into higher value land.
Rocky pastures can be vastly improved as well.
There are a lot of rocky soils around the world, so eventually the hope is to export to New Zealand and further afield.
There is also an industrial market for the Reefinator. Tim is running trials with an industrial model in mines, The H4 may make laying roads or working in surface mines easier by partly processing the top layer of rock.