It’s fall, and you’re pulling your ripper into corn residue. After you make a few rounds in the field, you may notice — or not — a change in the trash pattern.
Not until you get off the tractor and check do you learn that you sheared a bolt on the ripper shank. Well, when did that happen? How many acres have you already covered? If you’re like most farmers, you’re under pressure to finish that field. You acknowledge a potential yield hit and move on.
What if you had access to monitoring equipment that immediately alerted you as soon as that bolt sheared?
Say hello to Shank Patrol, invented by Adam Bjerketvedt, a Hancock, Minn., crop farmer and president of Precision Ag 360. After three years of testing by the Precision Ag 360 team, and gathering input from about 20 farmers who tried it in their soybean, sugarbeet, corn and sunflower fields under various soil and management conditions, Bjerketvedt is excited to release it on the market.
“As soon as a shear bolt breaks, you’re losing money,” he says. “Our No. 1 comment for feedback was that Shank Patrol gives the confidence of knowing the job is getting done right, and that feeling gives you peace of mind.”
Simply put, Shank Patrol is a monitoring system consisting of a cab monitor, row wire harnesses, mounting brackets, sensors and magnets that can be installed on conventional tillage rippers or any tillage or fertilizer system that has a shear-bolt-style shank or knife. Each shank on the ripper is fitted with a bracket that protects a sensor, magnet and wiring. The sensor tells the operator when a shank or knife is not in its correct position. So when a bolt breaks, the sensor trips and the in-cab monitor’s light and alarm go off. After the repair is made with a new shear bolt, the system automatically resets itself.
“Time is money, and ignorance can be expensive,” Bjerketvedt adds.
With Bjerketvedt’s first version of Shank Patrol (patent pending), up to 16 rows can be fitted thus far on specific tillage and manure application equipment, including 870 and 875 Case rippers, Deere 2700 and 2730 rippers, DMI 530 Ecolo-Tiger and 730, Case 530 and 730, Wil-Rich SoilPro 513, Dietrich Series 70 shanks and Sunflower 4630. Use on strip-till machinery also is in the works.
How it came to be
Nearly every farmer has a story to tell about busted shanks. Bjerketvedt says he and cousin Brent Schaefer were commiserating one morning several years ago after working very late the previous night. They had just noticed that the ripper had three broken shanks.
“Brent’s first words were, ‘I had no idea when they broke.’ Then he repeated over and over, ‘There’s got to be a better way to know right away that the shear bolt is broken,’” Bjerketvedt recalls.
“I teased him a bit and told him, ‘You need to check your equipment more often.’ Then we got to thinking about it. When we plant, we lift and lower the planter, and a whisker switch tells our current planter monitor when it is lifted or lowered. So why not add a sensor to the shank to tell us if it is still in the right position? After that, our research and development began.”
Bjerketvedt went through a few prototypes before settling on the current model. He tested the durability of different sensors. He worked at designing an electrical harness system that would it be easy to install and maintain, as well as reliable and protected from the elements.
“The first sensor froze up, and other types failed internally,” he says. “We dealt with wires getting pinched and connectors pulling apart. Now, after three years, we believe we’ve got it right.”
As product development moved along, Bjerketvedt says the farmer-user was always foremost in mind.
“When installing or repairing, our goal was no welding and no drilling for the customer,” he adds. “We wanted to keep it as simple as possible.”
Shank Patrol is a locally made product, too, with a manufacturer in Morris, Minn., making the hardware brackets, and Bjerketvedt and his team building the row harnessing in his shop.
Rolling out the product
Bjerketvedt plans to unveil Shank Patrol Feb. 25 at one of his on-site customer meetings. He also will take it to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 14-17. He will be sharing space at the Thunderstruck Ag Equipment booth at the show.
Bjerketvedt is currently taking orders for Shank Patrol, which will be in limited production this fall. Price is specific to models and number of rows, so contact Bjerketvedt at 320-392-0360 or shankpatrol.com for more information.
“Shank Patrol will help you have the confidence to get the job done right,” he says. “In the fall, weather changes quickly, and equipment can freeze. It gets slippery, making it more hazardous getting in and out of the tractor to fix things. This will help you safely finish by monitoring equipment for you.”