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A Novel Double Wheel Rake Machine to provide high quality fodder and high operational speed

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RA-RAKE (A Novel Double Wheel Rake Machine to provide high quality fodder and high operational speed)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-04-30

Dirty forage is responsible of many problems in EU agriculture sector. Ash contamination causes the reduction of the milk production chain of almost 5% (e.g. minus 400 kg of milk per cow every year), dirty triggers fermentation processes which destroy the forage itself; an average of 2.5% of cattle dye by bacteria, living inside contaminated forage. Raking operation is the most critical inside those ones necessary to produce forage since, due to the direct and continuous contact with the ground, it can deeply affect its cleanliness. Dust and soil present in the forage, together with water, sugars and starches helps the growth of bacteria (Clostridia in particular), thus resulting in less palatable feeds and, in more severe cases, in animal illness that, in few cases, could also be transmitted to humans. Forage quality can be affected by bad weather conditions (e.g. rain) too. Rain occurred during hay making operations reduces the digestibility and develops moulds and bacteria, which cause a decrease in forage quality and, in some cases, lead to the total loss of it. Fast raking means a reduced probability of weather changes. Some different technologies are available today on the market too but no one of them can fully satisfy all the three main requirements of RA-Rake, such as: clean forage, high operating speed and low initial investment. Moreover, thanks to its low price (if compared to the state of the art), it can be purchased in EU markets with limited purchase power thus helping their development.
RA-Rake will improve productivity and quality of diaries, will decrease cattle’s diseases and reduce environmental impact thanks to the reduction of fuel consumption due to its very high efficiency. RA-Rake can be considered as a protective measure to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases transmissible to animals through feed. Since statistics relate also about cases of transmission of diseases from animals to humans, RA-Rake can be considered also as a protective measure to prevent human diseases due to food contamination.
The main objectives of RA-Rake project can be summarized as follows: it will be a double wheel rake, able to obtain neat forage (with a very limited ash contamination), performing at high speed (20 km/h or more) with a low initial investment, thus resulting in a very short payback time.
At the beginning of the project we started with the optimisation of the components necessary for realising four prototypes that were developed and tested in the field at the beginning of Autumn 2017. The field tests have been performed together with the University of Milan (subcontractor), in order to scientifically analyse the influence of raking operations on the main characteristics and qualities of the forage. The lessons learned during the first tests, were obviously the basis for the optimisation of the parts necessary to develop new prototypes that we tested during the second period. In the first period we started also the drafting of the quality plan to guide us during the industrialisation process. An in-depth market analysis was made, thus identifying the most relevant EU markets and consequently define the best dissemination and commercial strategies for optimising the use of the financial resources. All the scheduled IPR activities were implemented: RA-Rake trademark was registered and the patent related to RA-Rake technologies was applied inside and outside EU. The dedicated website was published, including video and pictures, together with the most relevant information about the development of the project. Some press releases, one interview and some advertising on a specialised magazine and brochures were made, in order to spread awareness about RA-Rake. We also prepared dedicated gadgets to be distributed during trade fairs and B2B meetings. Indeed, a huge communication activity was made; we organised more than 70 B2B meetings and, from November 2017, we attended four international trade fairs.
The first half of the second period was mainly dedicated to Season 2 test activity. Indeed, several tests has been organized for sampling the forage to be analysed by the University of Milan, thus comparing RA-Rake with the existing technologies, improving the features of the prototypes and defining the specification of RA-Rake ready for the market. Through this deep activity, the better quality of the post raking forage obtained with RA-Rake (in comparison with those one obtained with the other existing technologies) has been demonstrated, thus identifying RA-Rake’s final configuration. RA-Rake was then certified and approved according to Regulation (EU) n. 167/2013 and directive 2006/42/EC2. An in-depth benefit analysis evaluated both Direct benefits and Indirect benefits of RA-Rake, mainly throughout an LCA analysis. Thanks to a structured industrialization process, RA-Rake was ready for the production in series. The dissemination of the data was performed through several press releases reaching about 1200 journalists through 130 campaigns in different languages. Advertising was published on specialized magazines, the dedicated website was updated together with the social networks. Videos were a very important dissemination channel. Six international trade fairs and two “open days” with our dealers have been attended in the second period, together with seventy B2B meetings.
In order to facilitate the achievement of the expected results within the scheduled terms, several meetings were organised thus participated by representatives of the different functions.
The project financial management has been carried out through a high standard level control for the costs assigned to Repossi.
The state of the art of windrowers includes the following categories with their relevant aspects. Rotary rakes: they are the most commonly used inside EU market, they have a high retail price, the quality of the forage is not good, they have high maintenance costs and a slow working speed. Comb rakes: they are not so common, they have a high retail price, the quality of the forage is very good, they need high maintenance and they have a slow working speed. Pick up rakes (also called mergers): they are not so common due to their huge retail price, the quality of the forage is good, they need very high maintenance and an average working speed. Standard wheel rake: they are common due to their low retail price, the quality of the forage is bad, they do not need maintenance and they work very fast. At the end of the project, RA-Rake has a low retail price, the quality of the forage is better than those one of rotary rake (-66% increase in ash contamination of post raking forage), it needs no relevant maintenance and it has a high working speed. Thanks to the above summarised unique characteristics, RA-Rake impact will be disruptive inside EU in the next five years, as follows: increase of 280,100 Tons of milk produced, an outstanding profit of 130M Euro, more than 187,000 working hours saved thus permitting to the entrepreneurs to invest into their business creating new job position among agriculture and the industry at its service.
Another important social implication of RA-Rake was demonstrated through the LCA analysis and consists in the lower environmental impact in comparison with the other raking technologies.
Detail of RA-Rake
RA-Rake in operation