Aug 082011

A Scottish farmer has invented a bale wrapper to weatherproof hay and straw round bales so they can be stored outside.

James Rickard takes a look.

A lack of building space and bad weather can be a problem when storing hay and straw round bales – and the rocketing cost of forage just compounds the issue.

To tackle the problem, Scottish arable farmer and contractor John Johnston designed, developed and built a bale wrapper for weatherproofing bales so they can be stored outside.

“I came up with the idea out of necessity, due to a lack of storage. I just wanted to weatherproof bales cheaply and effectively,” says Mr Johnston who has a 55-hectare (135-acre) arable and beef farm at Leven, Fife. Contracting is his main business, which includes a complete stubble to stubble service and fencing.

Mr Johnston, like many farmers, began designing and building machinery for his own needs – usually based on already-existing products, but with a few tweaks. Up until now, none of these creations had any commercial value.

Mr Johnston had the idea for a weatherproofing bale wrapper for a while and, after talking to neighbours, realised there was a possible market.

Further research revealed no such machine existed in the UK, and, while similar, the the one he found in America was more basic and labour-intensive to operate.

With this in mind, and the possibility of inventing something which could go into production, he began the design process.

After sketching down his idea, a friend helped him put it into a Computer Aided Design package.

Within a few weeks, while busy with his contracting business, he had built a prototype and was ensuring his design was protected.

Patent application

Through an inventor friend, he submitted a patent application. “Designing and building the prototype was relatively easy compared to the paperwork required to make sure the design is protected and getting it patented,” says Mr Johnston.

“The patent application requires a lot of design detail, so they can carry out checks.”

Once the initial patent application checks are carried out, the design is protected, but the full application process takes around two years – and £12,000.

“Knowing people in the inventing and engineering industry was a big help,” says Mr Johnson, “especially with a discount for the patent application and the mountain of paperwork.”

The prototype front linkage-mounted Wrapide CW-01 can wrap round bales up to 1.5m (5ft) in diameter at a rate of two bales per minute when placed in rows. Mr Johnston says it costs 64p to wrap a 1.37m (4.5ft) diameter bale with three layers of plastic film.

It works by driving forwards and spiking a round bale with an offset table to the operator’s right. After the table has been turned backwards through 90 degrees, the bale, now vertical, is rotated by the table as plastic wrap is applied to the circumference from two 750mm film dispensers. The machine rests on two height-adjustable skids for stability.

Once the desired number of layers has been applied, the table is rotated backwards through a further 90 degrees, and a cut and hold mechanism takes care of the plastic. The bale is now on the ground and the tractor can continue forward to the next bale.

“It’s the 180-degree patented turnover mechanism which is key to its design, allowing the tractor to remain in a forward motion,” says Mr Johnston.

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