Reefinator from Rocks Gone is adding to land values in several ways

And while the immediate benefit from the Reefinator is opening up more ground for cropping it is also increasing the soil’s water holding capacity reflecting in higher yields

Tim Pannell invented the Reefinator H4 for farmers in WA to transform worthless farmland into high yielding cropping and grazing paddocks by crushing rocks and deep ripping and since then reefinating fame has spread to every state

The Reefinator by Rocks Gone debuted in 2014, and ever since it has offered a soil amelioration method that has prompted a great deal of interest, and allowed growers to open up rocky ground for farming not previously though possible.

The Reefinator is designed to dig up common laterite rock or limestone, then crush it to create topsoil that is ideal for sowing to crops. Effectively converting inarable tracts of land into arable ground.

Rabobank agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy confirms that soil amelioration practices has contributed to the growth of WA farmland values in recent years.

Wes said, “Productivity was a main contributor of land values, so being able to increase a farm’s income through soil amelioration, such as deep ripping, liming or claying, would be reflected in the capacity of the land to produce and therefore, the actual value of that land as well.”

Wes Lefroy went on to say, “The Reefinator was a bit unique because it increases the arable area and therefore the value of the land due to the number of total tonnes that can be produced from that farm.”

“Whereas a lot of other soil amelioration practices such as liming, deep ripping, delving etc, they are only improving the quality of existing land,” Wes Lefroy said.

“The benefits of a Reefinator can be greater than just opening up more land because it can increase the farm’s ability, whereas farms that have, for example with pH or water holding capacity, the lowest hanging fruit for the farmer is going to be removing the biggest constraint on yield.

“So, from a farmer’s perspective, it is important to understand what the biggest constraint on yield is and what is the biggest source of potential efficiency.

“Is it having longer run lines or opening up more area with a Reefinator or is it increasing the actual productivity of the existing area, through other soil amelioration methods.” Wes contemplated.

Agricultural analysts such as Wes Lefroy confirm that soil amelioration practices have contributed to the growth of WA farmland values in recent years with a notable increase in farm incomes and the actual value of that land as well

The Rocks Gone hydraulic Reefinator H4 was developed in Western Australia specifically to help ameliorate these soil constraints to depth and lift crop and pasture productivity.

Company founder and former Yuna WA farmer, Tim Pannell, said many growers grappled with the economics of how to best tackle the rocky paddocks they may have been ignoring due to no clear method of repatriation.

“These are areas where water sheets-off the ground surface and causes problems for other paddocks or the landscape,” Tim said.

“It is hard to get a seeder through and returns are continually below average.”

Tim Pannell said he developed the Reefinator H4 to transform these areas and economically boost whole farm productivity by crushing rocks and deep ripping with the one machine.

“It’s a primary ripper but is a completely new design from the original 300 Series Reefinator and we called it the H4 Series basically designating it’s a hydraulically-operated machine, so there’s no shear pins on the tines.

“The Reefinator H4 is capable of rapidly and permanently transforming rocky outcrops into crop seedbeds,” Tim added.

“Water will stay where the rain falls, instead of running downhill, gathering speed and eroding and causing waterlogging and salinity issues in lower-lying country.

“You can then grow a decently profitable crop or pasture – with the added benefit that the renovated higher country will be less frost-prone.”

Manufactured in Manjimup WA, and available exclusively through WSB Distributors in South Australia and Victoria, the innovative Reefinator H4 has been extensively and successfully used under a range of farming conditions.

It was voted the Best Australian-made Machine at the 2019 Yorke Peninsula Field Days.

The Reefinator H4 has no equal when it comes to ripping previously untouched ground with a working width of three metres and an operating speed over 10kph with the added ability of crushing stumps and rocks in the process

Tim Pannell said experience indicated the pay-back period for the Reefinator H4 could be as short as two years in some conditions.

He said the amelioration process also mixed crushed rock back through the soil, which could help to reduce potential erosion problems.

“The Reefinator H4 can renovate country at a far greater speed and much more effectively than traditional methods of deep ripping,” Tim said.

“Unlike many deep rippers commonly used by farmers, the machine is also ideal as the first ripper for untouched land and soils that have never before been ripped to depth.”

The Reefinator H4 has a working width of three metres and, typically, is operated at a speed of 10-13 kilometres per hour.

Some of the rock it is crushing can be at a hardness of about 70 megapascals (MPa), which is significantly denser than good concrete.

In most agricultural situations, three to five passes are needed. But only one pass can be effective if it is being used as a rough country deep ripper.

Farmers can typically treat about 10 hectares a day with the Reefinator H4, which can be faster than many other deep ripping operations.

Tim Pannell said there was a cultivation effect, which – in forest gravel-type soils in particular – assisted with issues of: waterlogging/non-wetting; rhizoctonia and soil pathogen management; and crop or pasture seed germination.

But he warned that improved germination applied to everything in the paddock – and it was best to be prepared for double or triple herbicide knocks for weed control.

“This can be a positive in providing an excellent opportunity to manage the weed seedbank,” Tim added.

“Also, many growers apply soil amendments – such as lime or gypsum – before using the Reefinator H4 to incorporate these into the soil during the process.”

Tim Pannell said the machine was ideally suited for use on heavy country that had a high proportion of stumps and rocks.

He said some key improvements had been made to the Reefinator H4 from the previous model, including a hydraulic tine system to replace the manual tine and shear-pin design.

“This allows for more ‘give and take’ when the machine is being dragged over rocks.”

“If there is a hidden extra-hard rock, the tine will kick-back but – in the process – the angle of the point becomes a lot steeper, and this will bust the rock.

“The new design also tends to smooth-out the bumps better than the manual tine system and there are no shear pins to replace.”

There are four leading tines at the front and five tines at the back and the Reefinator H4 now has a cable-suspended, front-mounted levelling blade/smudge bar to help smooth the ground during treatment.

The tine hydraulic system features a 32 litre accumulator designed to handle up to 3000 pounds per square inch (psi) pressure. But typically, the working pressure range is about 1000-1500psi.

Hoses plumbed from the cylinders are 25 millimetres in diameter to accommodate high speed flow on impact.

“Pressure can ramp-up quickly and, with smaller hoses, oil can’t escape fast enough from the cylinder,” Tim Pannell added.

The machine’s ribbed roller weighs 30 tonnes when full of water and it leaves an indented surface, which is erosion-resistant and anecdotally has been found to improve crop and pasture germination on some soil types.

“Some farmers are seeing a very visual effect when the Reefinator H4 is transported across a paddock between rocky patches,” Tim Pannell concluded.

Tim Pannell designed the Reefinator H4 for heavy country with a high proportion of stumps and rocks and has made some key improvements along the way to now including a hydraulic tine system to replace the previous manual tine and shear-pin design to great effect

Examples of reefinated land

Lake Grace-based Elders rural real estate specialist Ron Dewson said rather than buyers seeking land with large amounts of rocky outcrops with the intention to reefinate, he found there was high demand for properties that had already been reefinated.

“Reefinating certainly adds value and from what I have heard – the first couple of crops grown on reefinated soil have been terrific,” Ron Dewson said.

“Buyers are certainly keen on properties that have been reefinated. And if a property has soil tests, tissue tests, good water, good fencing etc, buyers will pay accordingly.”

Ron Dewson said broadacre property prices were based on the arable area, so being able to maximise the arable area would benefit its value.

“I would say it could also increase your equity but how you would quantify that amount, I don’t know, and it would only work as long as production levels go up, which from what I hear, they do,” Ron Dewson added.

“The Reefinator is another good tool to have in the current farming toolbox.

“If a paddock needs reefinating, it should be reefinated, just like if a paddock needs lime or spraying, it should have lime applied or be sprayed.” Ron Dewson concluded.

As the Reefinator H4 becomes better known farmers in South Australia are catching on in high rainfall areas of the Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas and further east to Victoria where previous worthless farmland is being reefinated

Turning inarable land into cropping

Rocks Gone sales manager Darren Smith, who also farms at Kukerin WA, said the Reefinator can essentially turn inarable land into arable farmland that has been found to produce excellent crops.

He has a Reefinator himself and said it revolutionised the way he farms.

“I purchased a farm no one would really buy and as I reefinate, my equity just goes up and up,” Darren Smith said.

“There’s a lot of people cropping that wouldn’t have been able to crop at all before.

“It’s been a real game changer – farms are getting sold with lots of rock on them that previously wouldn’t have sold well, if at all.

“I spoke to a man who bought a farm at Harrismith who was going to reefinate it, so it has pushed land values up now in some areas.”

The current H4 model is priced about $360,000 and Darren Smith said growers soon get this back as crops that are grown on reefinated paddocks yield significantly higher than nearby unreefinated paddocks and well above their farm average.

“It is not uncommon for farmers to say that their reefinated country has yielded their best,” Darren said.

“My best crop last year was on a paddock that would have never been cropped before.”

Darren also added, “The Reefinator has managed to hold its value well, claiming a depreciation rate of only five to 10%.

Earlier models retailed new between $120,000 to $170,000 and at a recent clearing sale in South Australia, a Reefinator RGV200 sold for $120,000 and a Reefinator dolly sold for $12,000.

Two regions have been hotspots for Reefinator sales – in Moora, New Norcia, Dandaragan and Badgingarra areas and around Lake Grace, Dumbleyung and Kulin in WA.

Darren said customers have been mostly farmers, with a few contractors and some farmers have been doing contracting on the side.

“We’ve had a big year in sales, and it is now very common to hear the term ‘reefinated’ as a recognised practice in Australian farming,” Darren said.

“Our biggest growth area has been South Australia, particularly in the high rainfall areas of the Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas.

“Guys are getting rid of mainly limestone and bringing land back to reach its full potential in terms of crop yields.

“Last year, for example, some of the reefinated country produced exceptional yields where good rainfall was recorded.

“I’ve seen land go from nothing to three or four tonnes a hectare after it has been reefinated but overall, most feedback I get from owners is at least a tonne better than their average yield.

“From a return-on-investment viewpoint, the Reefinator is a popular pick with many bank managers.

“We have a wealth of stories from owners and farmers who have used the machine in areas of their farms they never touched before. They would just go around rocky outcrops and forget about that land for cropping.

“Now owners are saying to me they are getting amazing yields and are somewhat gob-smacked that the land is so productive.” Darren concluded.

To talk to inventor Tim Pannell about opening up cleaner cropping ground, call on tel: 08 9288 2993 or mobile 0429 203 039, or email: sales@rocksgone.com.au or view the H4 Reefinator video at: https://www.rocksgone.com.au/reefinator-h4

Also see more model information at: ag.rocksgone.com.au

For growers in South Australia and Victoria talk to WSB Distributors on tel: 08 8842 2177, mobile: 0419 828 802, or email: admin@wsb.com.au