Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier: EQUI IDEA Multi-V for Horse Traction
Test report SmP 2016-2
by Paul Schmit of Tuntange (Luxembourg), Albano Moscardo of Verona (Italy) and Jelmer Albada of Sondel (Netherlands)
By multiple field tests in four European countries, the possible range of use of the multi-purpose tool carrier Multi-V, manufactured by the EQUI IDEA Company from VERONA (VR-ITALY), for vegetable cultivation by horse traction was analyzed.
Tests and measurements during the vegetable growing seasons of 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 showed that this implement requires for most of its different tools a moderate draft power of a single hitched draught horse. Exceptions to this were found on tools with greater working depth, like the hiller or potato digger, which require considerably higher tractive efforts.
With the possibility of fitting up to 14 different tools, the Multi-V can perform much of the work in a family’s kitchen garden and in smaller market gardens. It has good working results on light to medium heavy soils. Due to its lightweight construction, compact size and multiple adjustment possibilities, a good working comfort for the vegetable grower as well as for the draught horse is guaranteed.
In order to improve the working precision under certain conditions, a wider front wheel and hitch assembly should be offered as an option. Hoeing and plowing could also be done in a more effort-saving way by adapting shallow-working shares or additional coulters. Furthermore, sliding skids could help maintain a constant working depth on different tools.
Further information about a horse’s acceptable draft power can be found at www.schaffmatpaerd.org.
Building on the experiences with a tool carrier named Multi, consisting of a reversible plow interchangeable with a 5-tine cultivator, the Italian horse drawn equipment manufacturer EQUI IDEA launched in 2012 a new multi-purpose tool carrier named Multi-V. The “V” in its name refers to the first field of use, organic vineyards of Northern Italy.
Later on, by designing more tools, other applications were successfully added, such as vegetable gardens and tree nurseries. Besides all regions of Italy, another main sales area of the Multi-V is France, but it has also been sold to other European countries like Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The production reaches 10 units per year.
As with all other EQUI IDEA products, all parts as well as the overall structure of the Multi-V are computer-designed. This allows simulating fundamental correlations, like the line of draft between the adjustable evener attachment and the load center of the different tools, before the manufacturing and assembly of the first prototype starts. During the later production, laser cutting and powder coating of the steel parts warrant a consistent quality.
As a renewable and environmentally friendly energy source, horse traction is currently undergoing a renaissance in small-scale agricultural holdings, winegrowing, market gardening and forestry. However, contrary to other places on earth, smallholder producers in Europe, relying on animal traction, need lightweight and handy implements. This enables work with lighter draft animals in smaller plots or terraced fields, as they still can be found in the hilly areas of Continental Europe.
Besides developing new prototypes, one of the goals of the non-profit association Schaff mat Pa?erd is to support equipment manufacturers by testing their equipment and publishing related studies. Because the topographic, economic and social situations in much of the world do not favor big hitches, this report focuses especially on a single animal hitch. Further information about the EQUI IDEA product range can be found at www.noieilcavallo.org.
Materials and Methods
The measuring tests took place on the following farms:
- SCHMIT-LAROCHE farm in TUNTANGE (LUXEMBOURG) during 2014, 2015 and 2016
- MOSCARDO farm in VERONA (ITALY) on 10.11.2012 and 25.07.14
- WALDPFERDEHOF in DAHMSDORF (GERMANY) on 27.08.16
- GAAST’SPERGES farm in SONDEL (NETHERLANDS) on 29.10.16
In order to evaluate the required tractive effort, the draft forces and working speeds were measured during different works, listed in the following summary graphs 5 to 8 as well as on different soil types. These were:
- Medium heavy, sandy, loamy soil of a vegetable garden in Luxembourg
- Light, sandy soil of a grain field in Italy
- Light, sandy soil of a vegetable field in Germany
- Light, sandy soil of an asparagus field in the Netherlands
All parcels were flat and free of stones. All measurements were taken in the morning between 09.00 and 12.00 a.m.
The measuring device consisted of the following components:
- a Lorenz K-100 force sensor mounted between the draw hook and the single tree
- an AHLBORN FUA9192 speed sensor mounted on the single front wheel or alternatively on the left front wheel of the dual wheel kit
- an AHLBORN Almemo 2690-8 data logger with memory connector and micro SD card mounted on the beam
As well as the tractive effort generated by the single hitched horse, the working principle and results of the different tools and the operating of the machine were examined. Different horses were hitched for the tests in Luxembourg, as they were part of the various works during the garden seasons over three years. On all other farms, always the same horse was in use for the related tests.
In order to guarantee the statistical significance of the measurements, every measurement was repeated at least two times, depending on the field size, this with measurement times for the partial measurements between 01 min 23 s and 12 min 30 s. The measured values were recorded with a summary measuring rate of 100 Hz resulting in a frequency of 33 Hz for each of the three dimensions (time, force and speed). In order to not exceed the scope of the current report, the graphs represent just a selection of the results, providing an overview of the characteristics of the implement.
The graph 1.1 shows the draft force and working speed measured during spring tillage with the 5-tine cultivator. This tool, which cannot only be used for tillage, but also for hoeing operations, assures by its vibrating tines, a fine soil structure, provided that the soil is not too heavy or wet.
It was surprising to discover during the three-year long test series in Luxembourg, that the average draft force for this tool of 0,772 kN for the given working depth of about 60 mm could be confirmed exactly with other horses and in different years. Out of a total of six test series with several runs, just one trial, made on June 11th 2016 with the horse MERINA, showed a slightly lower value of 0,719 kN. All other readings varied between 0,770 and 0,772 kN.
As shown in the summary graph 6, the work with the 5-tine cultivator on a previously plowed and tilled grain field in Italy requires with 0,866 kN considerably more draft effort as in the vegetable garden in Luxembourg, this even on a lighter type of soil. This can possibly be explained by the fact that both of the preceding works were done by a tractor, resulting in soil compaction.
The great impact of the soil structure comes also out of the summary graph 8, which shows for the 5-tine cultivator an average draft force value of just 0,686 kN, due to the very light and loose structure of the Frisian sand soil.
Contrary to all expectations, summary graph 6 of the tests in Italy shows with 0,828 kN a lighter draft for the 7-tine cultivator on plowed and tilled soil as for the 5-tine cultivator. This probably because of the lesser penetration depth of the seven tines compared to the five tines under nearly the same load. With an average draft effort of 0,995 kN on not plowed, but just tilled land with a coarser soil structure, the limit of a reasonable effort for the horse was reached.
As the 3-tine cultivator was mainly used during the tests in Luxembourg for primary tillage or working in of compost, this with greater working depth than the 5-tine cultivator, the required draft is considerably higher, as shown in summary graph 5. Just the trials made in Germany, represented in summary graph 7, showed a medium effort for the horse hitched to the 3-tine cultivator, as this measurement was done on very light and loose soil between carrot rows.
On the summary graph 5, it comes out that removing two of the five tines for hoeing between narrow rows, while maintaining nearly the same working depth, lowers the average draft force by about 20%. Within this context it should be advised to retrofit the tined tools with a pair of skids, which would enable to maintain always the same working depth on varying soil conditions.
As comparison, summary graph 7 shows the average draft force values of a McCormick new 4 riding cultivator, equipped with a pair of duckfoot shares, a pair of reversible shares and a pair of finger weeders for hoeing carrots. The low draft force requirements of this wheeled implement show the importance of a very precise setting of the working depth. This trial took place together with the Multi-V tests during the two practice days on horse drawn hoeing technique in market gardening, co-organized by SmP with the working group “Agriculture” of the German IGZ association at the end of August 2016 in Eastern Germany.
The 650 mm wide version of the tined weeder with draft forces ranging from 0,400 to 0,453 kN is a perfect tool for working with young and inexperienced draft horses. These values, following the SmP classification of light to medium draft effort, were measured during the trials in the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Furthermore, as shown in graph 2.7, the draft force oscillations recorded for this type of implements show a very small mean deviation, equivalent to a consistent motion, and by that a comfortable way of working for the horse.
This is, regretfully, not given for the tools having, due to their function, a greater working depth. For the walking plow, the limit value of 1 kN was reached during the tests in Italy and even slightly exceeded during the test in the Netherlands. The recorded data clearly showed that working deeply causes high draft force oscillations coupled with undesirable stress peaks and not just during the upward movement of the implement at the headland. Within this context, the adaptation of draft springs for absorbing high draft force peaks during this particular use of the Multi-V, one of the current research works within SmP, should be advanced.
Summary graph 6 points out that the synthetic moldboard, manufactured as a prototype to dimensions for EQUI IDEA by the RO?CHLING LERIPA Company from Austria, didn’t prove to be promising. This material, named Robalon S, used by different tractor implement manufacturers in Europe in various tillage and haymaking machinery, is probably more useful on stickier soil and for higher tractor working speeds than on animal drawn implements. Furthermore the acceptance by organic or environmentally conscious farmers is questionable, as residues of the plastic material in the ground by abrasion through the frictional contact with the soil, can not be avoided.
Other tools with high draft force requirements and pronounced sudden force peaks are the hiller and especially the potato digger, as shown in graph 3.3. By comparison with the graph 4.4 and the summary graphs 5, 7 and 8, it can be concluded that disc hillers have highly advantageous characteristics concerning the required draft effort as well as the motion sequences of the tool. This can be explained by the lower rolling resistance of the discs compared to the sliding friction of conventional share type hillers.
Furthermore the discs have a tendency to roll over or cut through barriers in the soil, like stones or roots, whereas conventional share type hillers tend more to entangle themselves. A disadvantage of the disc hillers can be seen in their unstable running behaviour, which requires more attention of the operator.
The handles of the Multi-V tool carrier are easily adjustable in height, which ensures a good user comfort even during long working time and with changing tools. In order to prevent contact of the feet with the tined weeder, an extension can be mounted on the handles, which allows guiding the implement from further back.
Furthermore, the handles can be rotated to the right or the left, which permits guiding the implement outside the line of work. By the handle extension, this offset can even be increased. This possibility can be very useful when planting row crops. In this case the evener, and by that the walking line of the horse, is set out of the centre line of the implement. To do this, the variable hitch assembly can be moved sideways and fixed by a locking pin. Over and above that, this lateral handle adjustment allows to work closer to the stems of taller crops like grapes or asparagus.
Even if this creates some side draft, the draft and guiding efforts remain in an acceptable range. Both, the height and lateral adjustment of the handles can be done by loosening a lock screw by hand on the handle’s seat.
The draft line can be adjusted without any wrenches by raising or lowering the draft hook mounted in a clamped bracket. For tools needing a precise working depth adjustment, like the walking plow or hiller, the tilt angles of these tools can be widely set at infinite variables by an adjusting screw at the rear of the implement.
On the first model of the Multi-V, the tools were fixed by two M12 screws. On the 2016 edition of the Multi-V, the tool replacement can be done completely tool-free and very quickly by activating a special hand operated lever on the tool-mounting bracket. The height adjustment of the handles has recently also been optimized by a foot-operated pedal, which allows varying the handles in a toothed segment.
For the potato digger, the tined weeder, as well as for the inwards disc hiller, it is recommended to use the dual wheel kit instead of the single front wheel. This for a better straight-ahead behaviour of the implement. For interchanging the wheels, their axle stubs are made of 19 mm thick hexagon bar steels, which fit precisely in their seats at the implement beam. The fixing of the wheels in the desired track width is done by two M12 screws. For some row distances found on the test fields across Europe, a greater shifting width of the dual wheels would be preferable. The same counts for the lateral adjustment of the draft hook.
The stability of the machine and an excellent maneuverability, even in difficult terrain, is guaranteed, this thanks to the small dimensions and by a sufficiently low center of gravity. However, a skid on the handles, allowing dragging the implement in tilted position at the headlands, is not given.
By its simple design, the Multi-V does not need a lot of maintenance. Just the screw block of the depth adjustment needs to be greased regularly by two lubrication nipples. In a further development stage, it is planned to replace the bronze bushings of this device by greaseless self-lubricating thermoplastic bushings.
All details of the operation and maintenance of the Multi-V are explained in a richly illustrated 12-page manual, which is currently available in English, French, German and Italian.
As the works performed during all the tests for the report in hand varied enormously, the range of measured draft forces is also highly scattered. Nevertheless, the Multi-V proved to be an all-around tool for most of the works of a single horse in vegetable gardens or smaller fields.
A multi-purpose tool is ultimately a compromise in many ways and can never reach the level of performance of the many single purpose implements from the bygone time. However, the multifunctional and lightweight design as well as the high manufacturing quality of the Multi-V can be seen as a good foothold, and not just for novices in animal traction.
As a general rule it can be noted that the more soil is moved by a specific tool, the more draft effort it requires. Especially for hoeing operations, shares for a shallower working depth should be added to the product range. Sliding skids could also be helpful for this. For the walking plow, the use of coulters, adapted to the various working conditions, could be helpful in reducing the required power.
Related to the issue of animal welfare, it should be clearly pointed out the importance of spring shock absorbers to be used on tools with great working depth, especially the potato digger.
To better suit the different row crop distances across Europe, a wider wheel track width of the dual front wheels as well as a wider hitch adapter should be added as an option to the product line.
Additional tests must be conducted to determine the operational capability of this tool carrier under heavier ground conditions and in hilly terrain.
Technical characteristics of the implement:
- 3-tine cultivator 545 mm
- 5-tine cultivator 600 mm
- 7-tine cultivator 700 mm
- tined weeder 700 / 1200 mm
- hiller 265 – 400 mm
- inwards disc hiller 800 mm
- outwards disc hiller 500 mm
- walking plow 200 mm
- under vine plow 250 mm
- subsoiler 30 mm
Max. working depth:
- 3-tine cultivator 150 mm
- 5-tine cultivator 120 mm
- 7 tine cultivator 120 mm
- tined weeder 20 mm
- hiller 150 mm
- inwards disc hiller 70 mm
- outwards disc hiller 70 mm
- walking plow 150 mm
- under vine plow 120 mm
Total width: 550 mm (corresponds to handle width)
Total length: 1950 mm
Total height: 575-1075 mm (corresponds to handle height)
Tare weight: 39 kg (without tools)
- 3-tine cultivator 12,60 kg
- 5-tine cultivator 15,10 kg
- tined weeder 16, 3 / 25, 3 kg
- hiller 9,40 kg / 14 kg
- inwards disc hiller 23 kg
- outwards disc hiller 22 kg
- walking plow 11,50 kg
- under vine plow 11,5 kg
- subsoiler 6,60 kg
Max. handle lifting force: 0,186 kN (fitted with 5-tine cultivator)
Front wheel size: 300 x 60 mm solid rubber
Max. track width of front wheels: 550 mm
Single tree width: 750 mm
Single tree height: 315 – 400 mm
Max. single tree offset: 95 mm (to both sides)
Horses in the test:
- Name: Irmi
- Breed: French Ardennes (ID-Nr IR0267)
- Date of birth: 13.05.1996
- Height: 1,52 m
- Weight: 726 kg
- Collar size: 26” half sweeny
- Name: Loke
- Breed: Swedish Ardennes(ID-Nr SE23-03-9001)
- Date of birth: 20.01.2003
- Height: 1,49 m
- Weight: 692 kg
- Collar size: 25” full sweeny
- Name: Merina
- Breed: French Ardennes (ID-Nr MR 0340)
- Date of birth: 15.04.2000
- Height: 1,55 m
- Weight: 728 kg
- Collar size: 25” half sweeny
- Name: Tenor
- Breed: Comtois
- Date of birth: 02.04.2007
- Height: 1,53 m
- Weight: 750 kg
- Collar size: 24” half sweeney
- Name: Teade
- Breed: Frisian
- Date of birth: 12.06.1998
- Height: 1,60 m
- Weight: 600 kg
- Name: Henrieke
- Breed: Rhenish-German Cold-Blood
- Date of birth: 13.06.2008
- Height: 1,64 m
- Weight: 850 kg
- Collar size: 26” half sweeny