ABERDEEN — The Tectron harvester is a monster of a machine. It is the only one of its kind in the United States and has found a happy home digging up spuds in Bingham County.
Brock Driscoll of Driscoll Brothers Farms in Aberdeen was the first to purchase the Tectron, the nation's first four-row, self-propelled 'potato digger' designed by the German company Grimme (part of German-owned Spudnik). According to Driscoll Brothers Farm manager Darren Albertson, the machine arrived in Bingham County on Aug. 27 and with his son, Dakota, at the helm, it has already dug up nearly 250,000 acres of spuds.
At just 19 years old, Dakota, was sent to Germany this summer to learn to operate the Tectron and is the only U.S. farmhand who is trained to operate this piece of machinery.
"This is as high-tech as you can get when it comes to potato equipment. It's equipped with seven cameras and two computers to monitor what's going on with the machine; that's why they sent a 19-year-old over to operate it..." Albertson joked.
Albertson said the machine has zero turning radius and can basically "turn on a dime."
"This machine has a self-adjusting blade and can capture spuds of less than an inch in diameter," he added. "There's very little loss of spuds. It used to be that people could come to the fields and pick up what the harvesters missed, but with this machine, there are very few spuds left to glean."
Albertson said the Tectron can hold up to 300 sacks of spuds without a truck underneath it in the fields. Excess dirt clods and potato vines are chopped up and dispensed from a side blower.
Albertson said he is not sure exactly how much Driscoll Brothers paid for the Tectron, but speculates that it was in the $600,000 range. The Tectron is popular in Europe and there are currently four of the machines in Canada. Albertson says he expects that more farmers in Southeast Idaho will follow the lead of Driscoll Brothers and take a look at this type of equipment in the future.
Driscoll Brothers Farms was founded by Wally Driscoll and has been in the agricultural business in Southeast Idaho since 1952.