Beyond the “honey wagon” — getting manure from lagoons or tanks to the field efficiently
Modern agriculture has achieved unprecedented levels of efficiency as evidenced by its ability to meet the demands of billions of people for a diet that includes increasing amounts of animal protein in addition to traditional vegetables and grains. Working with an essentially fixed resource base of arable land and fresh water, a modern farming operation needs to maximize the value of every input to optimize the production cycle.
Fertilizers are a big part of that cycle that impact both cost and yield and large-scale animal raising installations produce tons and tons of fertilizer in the form of nitrogen and mineral-rich manure. The challenge is to get the manure from the lagoons or tanks where it’s collected to the field efficiently and at the lowest possible cost.
The traditional solution has been some form of “honey wagon,” typically a tank truck with large flotation tires that carries liquid manure to the field one load at a time. It’s effective but not very efficient, and that inspired Ben Puck to begin searching for a better solution.
Puck had been operating a contract business spreading manure and commercial waste for local customers in Manning, Ia., since 1979. That experience convinced him there had to be a better way and he found it in Europe, brought it to the U.S. and upgraded the technology to make it practical for American-scale agriculture in the mid-90s.
Today Puck Enterprises is a global supplier of drag hose liquid handling systems for agriculture as well as for a broad range of other industries. Instead of loading a “honey wagon,” Puck’s system pumps liquid through hoses directly to the field where the hose is connected to a tractor-towed tool bar that injects the manure directly into the soil.
“It’s a continuous operation,” explained Ben Puck’s son, Jeremy, who is now general manager of the company. “It’s a lot more efficient than running back and forth with a honey wagon but making it practical on an American scale has presented its own set of challenges, not the least of which is moving liquid through literally miles of hose.”
Puck does it with a family of 14 different diesel-powered pump configurations including boom-mounted units to reach into
tanks and begin the process, portable booster pumps, and even a floating pump station for large lagoons that they call a “battleship.” Puck also produces support accessories including hose carts, hose movers, toolbars, swing pipes and even have recently began manufacturing its own hoses.
“Being an Iowa-based company, we powered our initial products with diesel engines from a local big-name agricultural equipment company,” Puck said. “But, when it came time to move up to cleaner EPA Tier 4 Final engines, a lot of things had changed in our business and in diesel technology. So we decided to look around to see what else was available.”
One of the suppliers they evaluated was Caterpillar dealer Ziegler Power Systems of Altoona, Iowa, one of the largest Cat dealers in North America. Ziegler introduced them to Caterpillar’s line of Tier 4 final and EU Stage 5 engines that met Puck’s emissions and horsepower requirements while offering a range of additional advantages that outmatched the other competitors they were considering.
“We chose to go with the Cat brand for four main reasons: power density resulting in a smaller engine package, compact aftertreatments, ease of plug-and-play integration, and enhanced emissions control,” Puck explained. “Actually, there were five reasons, because Cat industrial engines are backed by a dealer network recognized as the world’s best in the industry.”
Puck is using Cat C 7.1, C9.3B, C13B and C18 engines on its pump trailers and floating agitation boats. The 302 hp (225 kW) C7.1 and 755 hp (597 kW) C18 are well-proven engines with a long track record of efficient, reliable service.
The newer C9.3B and C13B engines leverage proven core engine designs. Both engines feature high power density in a compact, lightweight design, allowing OEMs to downsize their engine platforms and lower installation costs.
Caterpillar’s C9.3B meets both EU Stage V and U.S. EPA Tier 4 final emission standards as well as Japan 2014 and Korea Tier 4 Final in a package that is 39% smaller and 55% lighter than its predecessor while delivering more torque, more power and lower fuel consumption. The six-cylinder, 9.3 L C9.3B combines an advanced high-pressure common-rail fuel system with a sophisticated aftertreatment package to produce up to 456 hp and 1,540 lb. ft. of torque.
The patented aftertreatment technology combines a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) in a single assembly configured as a module to allow OEMs to position it at several different places around the engine to maximize installation flexibility. A selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system eliminates the need for exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and its associated plumbing, parts and service requirements and potentially reduces the size of the engine cooling system. The result is an overall engine system weight reduction of 300 lbs (136 kg) which is more than 12%.
The Cat C13B offers many of the same features. It is available in multiple power ratings from 456 hp (340 kW) to 577 hp (430 kW) with peak torque reaching 2634 Nm (1943 lb.ft). The C13B delivers 20% more power, 19% more torque and the aftertreatment is 65 percent smaller than its Stage 4 predecessor allowing OEMs to downsize engine platforms, lower installation costs and maximize uptime.
Once the decision was made to use Cat engines, Puck began working closely with Ziegler for the transition to Cat power.
Both engines are produced in Cat’s Seguin, Texas, plant and shipped to Ziegler where final package elements are installed prior to delivery to Puck. Ziegler also coordinates with Puck to manage its on-site inventory which results in a one- to two-day turnaround.
“These are standard OEM engines,” Jeremy Puck added, “which means parts and service are available from the Cat network anywhere in the world. Our previous engines were special models and some parts weren’t available everywhere. That’s important to us because our equipment is used around the world and the Cat relationship has become a major selling point.”
Another important feature of the Cat engines is the expanded range of engine-focused digital solutions available to end users to support data-driven operational, maintenance and service decisions. Caterpillar telematics and digital solutions provide a gateway to the global Cat technical support and dealer networks to ensure customers receive the tools, parts and service expertise they need.
“The ease with which the Cat engines can be integrated with our advanced Lightspeed Pro remote-control technology was another major selling point,” Puck added. “All of the Cat engines speak the same language via Cat telematics. Lightspeed Pro was designed in-house by our expert team to put complete control and diagnostics of an entire operation at the operator’s fingertips. It’s the most reliable and intuitive pump control system on the market today and Cat made it easy to deliver to our customers.
“Both Caterpillar and Ziegler made this move very easy, and the results have been outstanding for our company,” Puck added. “Knowing that our equipment meets current emissions standards is a big selling point to our customers. They know there is another advantage, too: Cat Tier 4 engines lower end users’ operating costs by improving fuel efficiency.
“As I said, it was a really good idea to look around and see what Cat had to offer.”
Puck PT5480 is a booster pump helps liquids moving for many miles. It’s powered by a Cat C13 diesel engine rated 543 hp connected to a Cornell 6819MPC pump that’s designed to handle solids as large as 3 in.