Grimme and Hengstler offer impressive robustness, even filling, and don't let customers down

In Germany alone, over 10 million tonnes of potatoes are harvested each year. Worldwide, the total even exceeds 341M tonnes*. More than 80 years ago, Grimme developed the first potato harvesting machine. A great deal has happened since that time, and now Grimme is the world market leader in potato harvesting technology. Besides the actual harvesting, efficient storage technology is equally important to ensure that potatoes remain available in top quality to meet demand. For this type of requirement, Grimme offers the SL80 store loader for example, which uses the Hengstler absolute encoder AC58.

The challenges of working in a potato warehouse become obvious just from looking around. Less than two weeks after opening a new storage area, one can see how much dust and dirt collects from storing freshly harvested potatoes that are hauled in directly from the fields. The layer of dust is several centimetres thick in some places. What's more, the vibration and shocks that occur when the mobile unit is in full operation have to be taken into account. As many tonnes are moved per hour, the dynamic is evident. On the other hand, the climactic conditions appear relatively harmless. In winter however, low temperatures are to be expected in some regions.

Nevertheless, despite all these far-from-ideal conditions, the technology must keep functioning. And that includes every detail. Potato harvesting is a seasonal business, and in high season if the Grimme SL 80 store loader were to break down, it would be a catastrophe. It has to run non-stop, round-the-clock. And here that really does mean 24 hours a day, seven days a week, often after a literally cold start, if it has stayed unused for several months. At Grimme, quality is the number one priority. When selecting individual components for the machines, the choice goes in favour of robust and highly reliable solutions. Precisely this aspect has been Hengstler's strong point for decades. They offer automation components for widely differing purposes, even in the toughest application areas. In the harsh conditions of the warehouse, the ACURO has proven its worth in remarkable style - robust, accurate and reliable. Hengstler pre-equipped the AC58 absolute encoder for Grimme with a specific wiring harness.

But how does a store loader function exactly and what are the challenges? Using suitably adapted sensors, the store loader detects the current filling level. Using these values and the positioning data, the Hengstler encoder controls the travel and angle of the conveyor mechanism using an intelligent system. The goal is fill the storehouse in a careful, smooth and defined manner. The storage of fresh potatoes is the little-known link between automated harvesting and on-time processing or marketing.

This customer-specific solution is paying off. So far there have been no reports of problems or breakdowns. This means that Grimme's customers can rely on their machines always and Grimme relies on Hengstler for determining the positioning data.

And the signs for the future are very positive, particularly in the area of potato harvesting. Demand for fresh potatoes is forecast to remain flat in industrial countries, whereas the market for processed potatoes is growing due to increasing demand for ready meals. However, consumption of fresh potatoes is growing in developing countries because people's nutrition is growing more varied. To provide greater ease of operation and flexibility to farmers, digital technology is continuing to make headway in harvesting technology. However Digital Farming is not just being determined in the Cloud, but in everyday tasks, mostly in demanding conditions. This means that quality like that offered by Grimme with harvesting machines, and Hengstler with robust and reliable components, will be needed more than ever in future.