When Iowa farmer Keith Schwandt designed his new seed tender, he wanted the advantages of bulk seed and fast refills without the cost of a central-fill seed system on his 24-row planter. Now it takes him just 15 minutes to fill the boxes, including talc or inoculant treatment.

“It saves me at least an hour of time every time I refill the planter compared to using seed bags,” says the Williams, IA, farmer. “I can plant 30 acres in that amount of time. That's three hours or 90 acres on a three-fill day. That's worth a lot of money when you're trying to beat a 3-in. rain. And, now I don't feel like I carried a gorilla around all day.”

Schwandt designed his seed tender with help from Jason Roth, Roth Seed Caddy, Milford, NE. “I wanted to be able to put the same amount of seed in each box so each row would empty at the same time, just like with bags,” he says. “We designed a tender with a scale that measures in 1-lb. increments,” he says. “I can set the scale for whatever weight I want. For example, I can plant end rows to a 98-day hybrid and the rest of the field to a 110-day hybrid. To plant the end rows, I calculate how much seed I'll need, divide by 24 and that tells me how much seed I need per box. I also know exactly how much seed is left in the bulk box.”

Hydraulic motors power the two augers that move seed from the Probox bulk seed units to a weigh tank designed with a gate valve in the bottom. When Schwandt hits a reset button on the control box, mounted to the end of the unload auger, the augers automatically fill the weigh tank to the preprogrammed amount of seed and shut off.

AN ELECTRIC CYLINDER opens and closes the gate valve in the bottom of the weigh tank to drop the seed into the unload auger. Schwandt methodically works his way down the planter units, hitting the reset button after each planter box is filled and then opening the gate valve to empty the seed into the unload auger.

“It took a little while to figure out the calibration. When the fill auger turns off, it still has 3 lbs. of seed that falls into the weight tank,” he says. “So if I want 25 lbs. of seed in each planter box, I just set the scale for 22 lbs. and it hits that number every single time.”

As seed moves up the unload auger, it's coated with talc or inoculant that's metered from a stainless-steel tank. “That's really one of the nicest features on this machine,” Schwandt says. “In the past, I have applied fluffy black stuff on top of the seed and stirred it in wearing my elbow-length plastic gloves. That takes a lot of time and you still don't get a uniform coating. With this system, every kernel has product on it. ”

A 20-hp gas engine powers a hydraulic pump that runs the unit's three augers. The 12-volt starting battery for the engine also provides electrical power to the scale and gate valve cylinder.