Susterre’s Flagship Product
In 2021, Susterre will release its flagship product, an upgrade kit that adds ultra-high pressure water jet technology to existing no-till and traditional planters.
Ultra-High Pressure (UHP) fluid jets are an existing technology that is used to cut metal in precise patterns during industrial manufacturing processes. Susterre is engineering commercially viable products that incorporate Ultra High Pressure liquid jets in place of traditional discs as the cutting mechanism in a no-till planter.
Following years of development and refinement, in 2019 Susterre’s iteration of the technology was field tested in Texas and Kansas, using an Alpha prototype in two- and four-row configurations. The test units were run at typical planting speeds and were successful in cutting through heavy residue and successfully placing seed at the appropriate depth. Corn seed was successfully planted through heavy Bermuda grass. Local farmers were invited to the tests, and feedback was uniformly positive.
Videos from these field tests can be seen here.
Soil exposure with disc coulter (left)
Water jet cut and resulting trench
The use of this technology provides an entire range of benefits, some of which have been validated over several years of testing prototypes in the field. This technology not only specifically addresses the current issues associated with no-till farming, but potentially creates additional economic and agronomic benefits through improved soil oxygenation, fertilizer placement and soil structure, all of which positively affect crop yields.
- Reduction in Farming Costs: Susterre calculates that the use of UHP fluid jet technology reduces the operating cost for a farmer by approximately 13%, creating savings of $58 per acre. On a 1400-acre farm, the approximate US median for cropland farm, this translates into over $81,000 in savings per season.
- Expanded Planting Window: No-till farmers find it particularly difficult to plant through crop residue in damp conditions. These conditions are most likely to occur early in the planting season and are often found in the morning after it dews overnight. As a result, farmers have been limited to planting during daylight hours when the field is relatively dry. Planting time is of the essence, as the optimal planting window is typically just 2-3 weeks. The UHP fluid jet system cuts through residue in any conditions, which makes it possible for the farmer to start planting earlier in the season, and for more hours per day. This translates directly into more ground under management, and the greater potential for profits.
- Earlier germination: Preliminary results from 2019 prototype testing indicate that seeds planted while using the UHP fluid jet system may germinate faster than seeds planted with traditional no-till methods. This would increase the growing season and potentially increase yields.
- Lower cost transition to no-till: The cost to acquire a no-till planter or seeder is quite significant, which is a barrier to no-till adoption. No-till planters with associated attachments to manage crop residue and to measure downforce can run up to $400,000. With Susterre’s upgrade kit, farmers can literally convert their current planters into no-till rigs at a significant cost advantage versus purchasing a special-built no-till planter.
- Replace no-till attachments with one upgrade kit: Since soil residue and clumping are no longer an issue for no-till planting with Susterre’s technology, farmers will no longer have to purchase expensive cleaning attachments for their planters. In addition, any downforce monitors that they currently have will no longer be needed. This will reduce capital cost, greatly simplify the set up and running of the equipment, while reducing the maintenance burden for the farmer.
- Heavy clumps are cut easily: UHP fluid jets, which can cut through metal, can easily cut through the heaviest of clumps in the field. In 2019, multiple feasibility studies using a four-row prototype of the product were conducted in Texas and Kansas. During the testing program, the team successfully ran the prototype unit at typical operational speeds for farm planting and were able to cut through heavy crop residue. During the feasibility study, the team was also able to successfully plant corn through matted Bermuda grass, in a field that the farmer said was unusable.
- No downforce when cutting: The fluid cutting mechanism does not require any downforce to cut through residue or soil. This avoids issues with soil compaction, or the smearing of the soil currently caused by cutting with metal discs. In addition, it does not need as much tractor horsepower and weight to successfully cut through heavy residue, saving money while further alleviating compaction.
- No hair pinning of residue: The UHP fluid jet creates a clean cut through residue on the field, completely avoiding the pinning of residue into the soil trench. Feasibility studies have shown that the technology continues to cut effectively in damp conditions, when residue is typically even more difficult to cut.
- Ideal Placement of Inputs: The force of the UHP fluid jet pushes the liquid several inches below the surface of the soil. If inputs such as fertilizer are added to the stream, they are placed below the level of the seed placement. This allows the germinating plant to benefit from the input without burning the seed.
- Improved Soil Oxygenation: The jet system injects fluid into the soil at three times the speed of sound. At this speed, the system naturally pulls the surrounding air into the cut as well. Early testing indicates that this can both loosen the soil below ground level, and at the same time increase the oxygenation of the soil. Both benefits are conducive for accelerated root growth for the crops.
Conventionally planted beans (left of hand)
Prototype of fluid jet cutter (one per row)
Susterre’s product roadmap includes additional products based on the same UHP technology.