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They Built Their Own Sweet Corn Harvester
When Mark Schottman of Wheeler, Ill., decided to get serious about sweet corn production and marketing, he knew he would need a mechanical harvester. He also knew that if anyone could build such a machine it would be his neighbors, Roger and Bruce Elliott, well-known innovators who have been featured in FARM SHOW numerous times.
  The one-row, self-propelled machine that the Elliotts and Schottman came up with can harvest 80 to 90 dozen ears in only about six minutes.
  "I used it for the first time this summer to harvest 30 acres of sweet corn and it worked great. I spent only about $10,000 to have it built," says Schottman ,who sells the corn to local stores and at farmer's markets, as well as at roadside stands.
  The 2-WD, hydraulic-driven machine measures 25 ft. long, 12 ft. wide and rides on four 26-in. high flotation tires. The operator sits on a platform between the front wheels. After the ears are stripped from the stalk, they fall onto a conveyor equipped with poly paddles and a slippery poly bottom. The conveyor drops the ears into a large wooden hopper on back of the machine. There, an employee removes any stalklage that may still be attached to the ear.
  The machine's chassis, engine and hydrostatic transmission, front and rear axle, and drive train all came off an International Harvester 1440 combine that had been in a fire. The Elliotts used box tubing to build the frame.
  The machine grabs the stalks high up between counter-rotating rubber belts and pulls them back through a pair of rotating rolls that pinch the ear off the stalk. At the same time, a rotating steel disc equipped with blades cuts the stalk off near the ground. The leftover stalks go on through and fall to the ground.
  A pair of round idlers on front of the machine are used to guide the belts. The idlers are spaced 8 in. apart and are offset, with one about 4 in. ahead of the other, so that the belts can "give" a little yet at the same time hold the stalk tight. The rolls that pinch the ear off the stalk are positioned vertically about 18 in. behind the cutting disc. The rolls rotate downward at an angle while the belts pull the stalk up at an angle, which causes the ear to pop off the stalk much the way snapping rolls on a corn head pop ears off stalks.
  "When I took it to the field this spring, a lot of people stopped and watched," says Schottman. "The rig's rear wheels do the driving and steering. It turns about as short as a combine. The only limitation is that the corn has to be standing fairly well or else the counter-rotating belts will miss it. The combine's 436 cu. in. diesel engine has about 120 horsepower, which is more than I need. In fact, the entire machine is probably overbuilt.
  "The wooden hopper that collects the ears locks in place on a track. When the hopper is full, I unlock it and roll it to the back of the machine, then use a forklift to lift it off and put another hopper on the track. The box will hold about 80 dozen ears of corn.
  "I paid $2,000 for the combine and $600 for a new two-section hydraulic pump. One section of the pump operates the rig's hydraulic motors, and the other operates the steering and hydraulic lift. I bought the hydraulic motors from someone who was tearing out an old car wash."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mark Schottman, 14156 N 2300 St., Wheeler, Ill. 62479 (ph 217 868-5346).

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2002 - Volume #26, Issue #5