The History of Harvesting Turf in the UK
Fresh Turf know little about harvesting turf before the second world war. Any turf production that was done was on a very small scale and a horse drawn turf cutter was used to slice the turf.This would result in uneven turf inches thick.
By 1948 the K&N machine shop and a landscaper called Art Ryan had together produced a fully mechanical turf cutter, "The Ryan Sod Buster". This machine was a walk behind petrol turf cutter that cut the turf 3ft long and 1ft wide. Once the turf had been cut, they still had to be folded or rolled and then hand stacked on to a pallet or directly on to the trucks. The Ryan Sod Buster went through many modifications and was renamed the Ryan Sod Cutter but the walk behind principle remained the same for over 25 years. These machines are still available to buy new today and although they are not used for harvesting turf, they have proven very popular in the landscaping industry for clearing old turf from sites.
The Mid 70s saw the release of Gerry Brouwer's innovative Sod harvester, brought over from Ontario, Canada with claims it could harvest up to 1500 sq yards in just 1 hour. This was a huge milestone in turf production methods and meant that companies could grow and hugely increase thier productivity. The Brouwer Sod harvester needed 2 men to opperate it, one driver and one stacker. The turf were cut and sent up a conveyor belt to a roll up device resulting in the stacker recieving a continuous production line of rolled turf. Alot of these older machines can now be found rotting in hedges but a there are quite a few still being used on turf farms in the UK.
Above: The Brouwer A3A turf harvester.
Over the following 25 years, until around the millenium, Brouwer and other manufacturers buit on Gerry Brouwers design. Options were added including automatic steering, hydraulic depth control and variable roll up speed. Even more significant, Kesmac had designed a 1 man DIY option that relieved the need for a seperate driver.
In 1999 Trebro arrived with a turf harvester that would change harvesting to what it is today and what it could remain for years to come. Trebro's range would include fully automatic harvesters that require just one operator to drive them. The Trebro autostack cut 2 rows at a time, 24inches wide, a total of 3 times the width of Brouwer's standard harvester. Additionaly it stacked all the turf automaticaly and dropped the completed pallets without the need to stop harvesting.
Below: The Trebro Autostack.
Trebro Autostack's and Harvestack's were selling fast among the big growers in the UK but Brouwer still had one trick left. They produced the Brouwer Robomax. This was not as fast as the Trebro's however it had two big or possibly "small" advantage's. The first was the well established Brouwer name but more importantly the Robomax was small enough to fit around the smaller turf farms, more commonly found in the UK.
Trebro and Brouwer are still competing for sales today with other less well known European names taking a small share. Brouwer have released the Robomax 2 with many updates including advanced software. Trebro have released the more compact, SC2010 in hope of winning over some of the customers with smaller farms. We eagerly await the next big milestone in turf harvesting.
While the small roll turf harvesting has taken the front seat. An increased demand for Big roll turf has become more apparent over the last 10 years, particularly for football pitches, parks and schools. Brouwer offers a high spec option for harvesting these big rolls while more economical options are more popular from Hallmarket and Turf Tick.