For over 20 years, contract workers have been working with hydrocarts during crop rotation to their complete satisfaction. Intensive use, however, means that after some time, more and more maintenance and overhaul are needed.
Reason enough for contractors to ask APH Techniek, together with Sosef (the developer of the first type of pipe-rail hydrocart at the time), for a new version. This was worked on in recent years. Meanwhile, a prototype has been further developed into a version that is "99%" ready, says Ard Vester. "The cart has passed all tests and is now going into the greenhouse for a field test."
Salesman Henry van Wijk of APH Techniek with a prototype of the cart at HortiContact 2022
Both last year and last February, APH Techniek's Hydrokar Tube Rail Cart was on display at the HortiContact horticultural trade fair. Last year as a prototype, and this year in the version that goes into the greenhouse with a contractor. "On the outside, the cart is very similar to the old model," says Ard, owner of APH Techniek from Wateringen. For example, the large reel is still suitable for hoses up to about 250 meters, and the cart is constructed from stainless steel 316 and can be dismantled for maintenance. "But on the inside, a lot has changed," he says.
A key point is that the entire hydraulics have been 'overhauled.' "Previously, for example, the lever control was on top of the frame. This meant many hoses had to run back and forth through the hydrocart." Now, this is integrated into a special block at the bottom of the cart. Also, the valve blocks are no longer on top of the frame. "This has allowed us to build easier and cleaner."
Another point of improvement is the placement of the engine block. The hydrocart is powered by a petrol unit. "Users found its vibrations annoying. You have to imagine that standing all day on the platform, which vibrates solidly, is not nice. The vibrations from the engine went straight into the frame. Now we have suspended the engine in rubber dampers, and there are no more vibrations."
Anyone wondering why the cart is still petrol-powered in times when more and more systems are electrically powered needs to understand how contractors use the cart, says Ard. "The hydro cart is used during crop rotation. This uses a lot of water. Electronics don't like that. Moreover, there is no crop in the greenhouse at the time of use, so the exhaust fumes do not pose any problems for that." Add to this the fact that changing batteries or charging them regularly is not necessary, and one understands why this solution was chosen.
An advantage of scaling up production is that everything is 'drawn out digitally.
Even apart from the drive, where the contractor can use foot controls to move the cart forwards or backwards, there is no electricity involved in the cart. "Everything goes hydraulically." Because many parts have been replaced by modern alternatives, which allow more compact construction, the trick is to get everything optimally in tune with each other. As an example, the technician gives the interplay between the release force of the reel and the engagement of the driving force. "This requires dynamic adjustment. All valves together have to control the function. It's not a question of 'just a switch.' For example, you want the reel to always start rolling just a bit earlier than the cart starts driving."
As soon as growers start changing their crops to, say, cucumbers or finish their winter crops, the contractor will go back into the greenhouse. This will involve subjecting the new Hydrokar Tube Rail cart to its first real practical test. The contract worker who came to APH Techniek with the request for improvement of the cart will probably want to buy the first one immediately after a successful test as well. After that, they hope to start producing multiples in Wateringen. "In the coming years, the current carts will then gradually be able to be replaced."
For more information:
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Tel.: +31 (0) 174 219 200