Being able to spray on each plant the dose it requires, the sound of the future? Not according to BBLeap. The first sprayer is up and running. By building techniques onto existing machines, they are future-proof.
How it started
The brains behind BBLeap are Peter Millenaar, Rieks Kampman, and Martijn van Alphen. For years they have worked at Agrifac. Millenaar took a turn in 2018. Van Alphen was CTO and decided to leave last year. ‘The new techniques are just too interesting’, he smiles. Third founder Rieks Kampman is supporting the company with his developing skills from South Africa.
The men started their plan a year ago: controlling the sprayer on plant level. They reached out to potato grower Jacob van den Borne in Reusel, the Netherlands. ‘We were looking for a farmer who knows his way around with high-
resolution farming data so we could start working on plant level.” Millenaar explains. ‘That excludes most farmers, so he was the obvious guy to go to’.
“Farming On Plant Level is the third revolution in agriculture”
Peter: ‘After the introduction of fertilizer and plant breeding, we believe that farming on plant level is the next big step in agriculture. Farming on Plant Level is what it is all about. That is the reason we have founded a company. We focus on the system instead of the sprayer. Each sprayer manufacturer can become our customer, but the system is also directly available to farmers.’
The Leapbox is the beating heart of the machine that controls the pulse width modulation (PWM) nozzles. While the first machine holds a nozzle distance of 50 cm, the LeapBox has no issues dealing with 25 cm or 37,50 cm nozzle distance. The maximum capacity the system can control goes up to 250 nozzles at which the flow can vary 40 times a second.
A 160.000 planes grid
Millenaar: ‘our system can handle a grid of 160.000 planes per hectare within a 2.500-hectare surface.’ The pulse valves can work up to a speed of 100 hertz, but that is not the crucial factor, emphasizes Van Alphen. ‘What truly determines the capacity is the ability to control the electromagnetic valve that opens and closes extremely fast. It is that quick that the spray pattern is not reduced in quality. Regardless if you are driving 2 or 24 kilometers an hour, the spray pattern is constantly perfect. No need to rush when taking off at your headland.’
The 3 LeapBox certainties
Get the basics right prior to variable spraying.
Always the right droplet size
Always the exact volume
Always the perfect distribution
Full boom width
The system controls the flow, in the driving direction, and the full boom width on plant level. ‘The flow is precise. Even if you are driving sleepy slow or Australian fast and that is how we are making the difference. With just one non-venturi 0.8 nozzle we can create a fine and uniform droplet spectrum’ Van Alphen explains.
We are working on the submission of these nozzles. The benefit is that due to its coarse classification it is within the 95% drift reduction classification. It is hard to measure the drift because the spray pattern of the PWM technique is completely different from that of conventional machines.
The first installation
Van den Borne’s backup sprayer, a 36-meter 2006 Dammann, was completely stripped and the LeapBox got installed. A full metric cube of hardware was removed from the sprayer and replaced by two little modules, a cable, and a series of nozzles. “Anyone who believes that his current spraying technique performs well doesn’t need to call us’, Millenaar winks his eye. Nonetheless, the undertone is serious.
First BBLeap customer experience
This summer Van den Borne Aardappelen in Reusel sprayed his 180 potato fields with the Dammann trailed sprayer by use of the BBLeap technique. The owner of the sprayer Jacob van den Borne is an enthusiastic customer. ‘We have taken care of disease control very site-specific with a variable flow over 58-sections. That means a tremendous amount of data with our acreage.’ Says van den Borne. ‘It was surprising to us that the old Fendt 936 was compatible with the system and data load. The newest generations of tractors will be capable of handling even more. That will allow us to work even more precisely. BBLeap is pushing the technique to its limits’. With that said it’s time for a demonstration. The driver takes off and the effect of the system is clearly visible. At taking off the valves seem to sputter instead of flowing and only switch twice a second. In the field at 11 km/h and 300 l/ha, the system sprays at 80% of its flow capacity and the nozzles are no longer pulsing visibly.
Easy to use
While the system may sound pretty complex, the user experience is comparable to that of an Ipad. ‘We want to be the Apple in agriculture’, says Millenaar. ‘The driver just fills in the desired droplet size and volume and the system will take care of the rest. Who is not ready to work with data on plant level, will still benefit tremendously due to the ease of use and the extremely precise spray pattern.’
Over- or underdosing in corners or at boom swings, the system can anticipate all of that and constantly maintains that perfect spray pattern. ‘We do not just say it, we prove it. We are not planning to build our own sprayer, but at the same time, we do not want to be limited by a lack of technique. Therefore we are also working on our own direct liquid injection system and high-resolution crop mapping technology.
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This original interview was conducted by Niels van der Boom and published in Nieuwe Oogst. The photo credits (pictures of Martijn and Peter) are also for Niels van der Boom. The original interview is in Dutch. You can click on this link to read it.