With a new planter conversion kit, farmers looking to adopt an adjustable rate system can now easily and inexpensively convert any standard planter to variable rate capacity.

Developed by crop production specialist Hutchinsons, Omnia E-Seed is due to launch this spring and is the first standalone variable rate seed drill adapter kit, which can fit any standard ground seed drill.

This comes at a time when many growers are hoping to reduce production costs and improve the efficiency of seeds and nutritional inputs, especially with the removal of the basic payment scheme and the industry’s net zero ambition to here 2040.

See also: How a Kent farmer cut his variable costs by focusing on soil health

The kit

The self-adjusting kit is available to order from late spring and includes:

  • Engine plates and mounting
  • Tank level sensor
  • Fan speed sensor
  • Automatic on / off sensor
  • Controllers.


As growers look to variable rate seeding as a way to improve crop performance, investing in a new machine that can cost over £ 40,000 can be a hindrance for many.

Oliver Wood, Hutchinsons Precision Technology Manager, explains that the new technology offers an affordable way to switch to variable rate drilling without a large capital investment.

The self-assembly kit can be attached to any seed drill, regardless of its age © Hutchinsons

“If there’s a perfectly good drill in the shed, but it doesn’t offer a variable rate application, it can be difficult to justify the cost of replacing a good machine,” he says.

Mr. Wood also acknowledges that the last two very wet falls have created difficult planting conditions, especially when large planters have been used. Converting an older, smaller, and lighter secondary drill to a variable flow rate can therefore be beneficial, he adds.

Conversion costs

In a 2018 yield trial comparing a standard farm-drilled winter wheat plot to a variably drilled plot using Omnia Precision Agronomy, an average increase of 0.6 t / ha was found .

Based on a wheat price of £ 165 / t, this equated to an additional £ 99 / ha, says Nick Strelczuk, precision technology specialist for Hutchinsons.

Starting from an improvement hypothesis of 0.6t / ha using a variable approach, it is possible to recover the cost of the Omnia E-Seed kit in just 48ha.

Assembly of the kit

The self-adjusting gearbox system can be attached to any drill, regardless of age, and includes an electric motor that bolts and replaces the mechanical earth wheel, at a cost of £ 4,800.

“The sensors fit into virtually the same holes as the original drill and are controlled via an app on an iPad in the tractor cabin, who’s talking to the box, ”says Wood.

Variable rate plans can be downloaded and sent wirelessly to the box, which is connected to Hutchinsons’ precision agronomy platform – known as Omnia – which operates variable rate control.

However, Mr Wood says the system can be used by anyone, whether an Omnia Precision user or not, as all variable rate plans can be downloaded and used by the system.

Case Study: Harry Horrell, Pode Hall Farm, Cambridgeshire

Working closely with growers and performing on-farm trials has been a key part of the development of the conversion kit.

Harry Horrell is a farmer involved in the process, running the Omnia E-Seed kit on his Horsch C06 planter.

“For us, being able to use the drill conversion system meant we didn’t have to change our drill bit and it’s a cost effective way to get us to the variable rate drill specification, which allowed us to save a considerable amount of money. “

Harry horrell

Harry Horrell © Hutchinsons

Mr. Horrell returned to the family business over 12 years ago and went from a plow-based system to direct drilling.

About 18 months ago the decision was made to begin variable rate seed applications, but Horrell found converting his Horsch C06 seed box to a variable rate system to be a real challenge. This prompted him to speak to the Omnia team and between them a separate variable rate unit was designed – the Omnia E-Seed Kit.

“Securing the kit to the drill was as easy as unbolting the earth wheel, bolting the case down and wirelessly connecting to the iPad, which didn’t take more than a morning to do,” he says. he.

The variable rate plans generated from the farm office were then downloaded to the iPad, which converted the existing standard planter.

“We are more profitable, more profitable and this has allowed us to vary our seed rates according to the various conditions in the fields. We saved the best part of £ 100,000 for a new drill, ”he says.

In addition, Mr. Horrell noticed marked improvements in the establishment of cultures using the approach. “The stand across the fields is more even, as we were able to control black grass spots and areas of high slug pressure by increasing the seeding rate in these plots. “

Case Study: Jonathan Roberts, Morley Farm, Warboys, Cambridgeshire Fens

Cambridgeshire farmer Jonathan Roberts has tested the conversion kit on his farm and has been pleased with the results so far, with improved crop establishment being a key benefit.

Seeking to switch to variable rate drilling in an effort to improve farm profitability and promote crop development, the Drill Conversion Kit was an attractive option for Mr. Roberts, which allowed him to convert and modernize its Moore Uni-drill.

Jonathan roberts

Jonathan Roberts © Hutchinsons

“The kit was simple and easy to install; we just installed the motor on the back to replace the drive unit or earth wheel. Sensors virtually mounted in the same holes as the previous sensors. We then set up the app and off we went.

After using the system for a second season on a 140 ha farm – where winter wheat, spring barley, spring wheat, potatoes and onions are grown – Mr Roberts says that ‘he doesn’t want to go back to his standard approach.

“Walking in the fields now, there is definitely an improvement in the crops. We had a very rainy winter and the harvests look really good, even in some areas of our wheat which traditionally would have struggled. “

He also adds that the technology is simple and easy to use, and you don’t have to be technically minded to use the tool.

“We can set our own rate and tailor it on the iPad – you don’t even have to have a variable rate plan. It’s just as easy to turn off the variable rate feature as it is to turn it on, ”he explains.

“It gave us more drilling flexibility and it’s a lot easier to calibrate. I can take the iPad out of the cab and calibrate the drill – there’s no need to wrap the handle a few times and set everything up.

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