Using Ultrasonic Sensors in Agricultural Automation

During the 1980s, brothers Don, Gregg and Mike Tvetene were working at their family owned Tvetene Turf Farms in Billings, Montana. The business was experiencing huge demand for their turf, but at the same time faced an acute labor shortage. Out of necessity, the brothers conceived of an automatic turf harvester capable of cutting and stacking sod utilizing a singular operator. Their primary motivator, Gregg remembers, was their years of hard work hand stacking turf on the family farm.

The brothers, working by trial and error, managed to develop an automatic stacking harvester which worked smoothly. Don handled welding and fabrication, while Gregg worked on the hydraulics and Mike focused on the electronics. At that time, mobile electronic systems were insufficiently sophisticated to cope with the required tasks, and therefore Mike needed to devise a system which could simultaneously manage drive functions, harvesting and stacking.

The brothers subsequently founded a new company, Trebro Manufacturing, Inc.. Their hard work and continuous testing/trialling, coupled with their hands-on experience, led to the inauguration of the “AutoStack”, the first successful automatic stacking turf harvester, in 2000.

The AutoStack was an instant hit. Turf producers from across the globe were keen to exploit the benefits of increased production, labor savings, and enhanced finished product quality. The success of Trebro and the AutoStack was  acknowledged with an Industry Innovator award from the Turf Producers International and the Montana Governor’s exporting award.

The AutoStack, and now the AutoStack II, utilizes an automated Ultra Steer system as a means of accurately guiding the harvester while the operator monitors each aspect of the harvesting process. Trebro tested multiple sensor technologies for the steering system before settling on Senix ToughSonic 14 ultrasonic sensors.

See How Ultrasonic Sensors Guide the Autostack II

Senix ultrasonic sensors are mounted on the steering arms of the AutoStacker and AutoStacker II, allowing them to monitor the harvest line and thus maintain ¼” steering precision. The ToughSonic 14 was chosen for its robust all-weather construction and its capacity to interact quickly with the Trebro’s electronic control system via an RS-232 interface. The was acknowledged AutoStack II is thus the optimal high-production automatic turf harvester.

Trebro Manufacturing has now vended over 750 automated harvesters in 22 countries. It has employees in the US, Canada and the UK, with parts warehouses in each of these locations, in addition to Europe and Australia. Nevertheless, the three brothers are still at its heart.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Senix Corporation.

For more information on this source, please visit Senix Corporation.

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