Article By Jenny Schlecht / Agweek Staff Writer on Sep 3, 2018 at 8:00 a.m.
FAULKTON, S.D. — In Australia, David Hedt says, many farmers don’t run as many trucks at harvest as in the U.S. Instead, they rely on 4,000 bushel rolling grain bins, called, “mother bins.”The use of the huge implements in Australia, Hedt explains, was a result of larger combine sizes and a dearth of workers to drive trucks and keep harvest moving about 20 years ago.
Hedt came to Faulkton, S.D., to work in 2003 and eventually returned to live there permanently. And in recent years, he noticed that the same problems that used to slow harvest in Australia have slowed harvest in the Upper Midwest. So, Hedt created “Walkabout Mother Bins,” to provide a harvest-time solution to farmers in the U.S. The giant implements — 58-feet long, 13-feet-9-inches wide and 12-feet-11-inches high — are crosses between grain carts and grain bins. Farmers can unload into them, then load trucks out of them. Since they provide far more capacity than the typical grain cart, they enable harvest to continue even when there isn’t a truck ready to take a load. “The combine never stops,” Hedt says.
He says farmers who use mother bins find that they can get by with at least one less truck, reducing costs for the truck and eliminating the need to find a driver. His “very, very modest assessment” is that using a mother bin can save at least an hour per day.
“It can be the difference between losing a crop to weather or getting a crop off in time,” Hedt says.
The mother bin can, theoretically, load a truck in two to three minutes, though that takes some pretty precise work, Hedt says. And, it holds enough to fill four trucks. A Walkabout Mother Bin will not come cheap. The base price is $135,000, and Hedt says the rise in steel prices due to tariffs has led to a 20 percent increase in his manufacturing costs. But, so far, Hedt has sold Walkabout Mother Bins across the country, including in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi. Walkabout Mother Bins come equipped with cameras and can be moved while partially loaded. Extra features that can be added include scales, external scale displays, remote auger shut offs, vibrator systems and low-unload packages. He doesn’t know how quickly the bins will catch on. He estimates that 30 percent of Australian farmers now use mother bins, and they’ve now got an 8,000-bushel version.