20 February, 2018
Stumped on how to remove stumps, not anymore
An Australian and an American hope they are about to solve a problem that has had others stumped.
Naracoorte's Brad Dickenson knew he was looking at something special when he saw a video clip on social media of a machine in the US wrenching old stumps out of the ground.
Brad is a mechanic and he saw it as the perfect solution for removing unwanted blue gum stumps from the so-called green triangle of southeast South Australia and western Victoria.
"I always keep my eye out for new technologies coming out," he said. "I've been fixing all these machines in forestry and realising they're slow, they break, and they cost a lot of money to fix.
"When I saw this machine I started doing my research very quickly before anyone else saw it so I could snap one up for myself and get out there in the field before anyone else jumps on board."
The machine was developed by US company Savannah Global Solutions.
Director Mark Sauer says the inspiration for the "stump plucker" was a machine from the 1970s that was being used to extract Christmas tree stumps. Mark said the challenge to replicate this machine was set by a client who processed harvest residuals and recycled wood into biomass for boiler fuel to produce electricity.
The machine has two lifting wheels mounted so that it rolls over the stumps and pulls the stumps into their midpoint, and it grabs them with enough force to pull them out of the ground.
The Australian machine is patent pending, a hydraulic compression system that "really allows us to run longer with less downtime than if we were using the spring option on the original product", Mark says.
The current version in Australia was released in WA last September and Brad had the chance of seeing that machine in action.
The stump plucker works in conjunction with a separate rake, which Mark says is mainly to pile the stumps to minimise the area they occupy.
Although Brad says it could be used for different trees, blue gums are the target.
"The industry here has just come to a stage where the blue gums are all getting chopped down, and basically, they're getting pulled out. People don't want them anymore," Brad said.
"The price of land has gone up. The price of stock, cropping has all gone up, which has all played a part in getting rid of the blue gum - and the chip price is not so good for blue gums, it has gone down from where it originally was."
Part of the challenge for land owners wanting to covert old plantations back to agriculture land is keeping stump removal costs low - and less than the difference between the price of the land with the stumps, and price without it. Brad says this machine moves up to 10 times faster than an excavator and twice as fast as a mulcher.
His new company is called GT Stump Pulling (GT refers to "green triangle"). Brad and his dad, Ian, are directors, and their wives, Sabrina and Ruth, are also involved.
Savannah is manufacturing the machines, and is entering Australia as Asyannah Agro-Forestry Solutions.