Australian farmers face a myriad of challenges – drought, severe weather conditions, fluctuating market prices – and having to deal with these in addition to the daily demands of the job. Which is why alleviating some of the challenges associated with running a farm, such as maintaining critical farm equipment, can make a significant difference.

As BSC Regional Manager Russell Randal asks, “Can you imagine a farmer having to run the length of their plough with a grease gun and lubricating up to a hundred bearings prior to ploughing? And doing this before they even start the working day?”

“Keeping rotating equipment such as ploughs running smoothly is critical to any farming operation. And key to that is keeping the bearing components well-lubricated,” explains Randal. “Without adequate lubrication these bearings simply fail due to the excessive heat caused by friction. But best lubrication practise requires a lot of time and effort. One of our BSC suppliers, NSK, have actually developed a solution that addresses this problem head on.”

The NSK Agri Disc Hub is a complete bearing housing unit designed and manufactured in Germany to withstand the rigours of broad acre farming, including Australia’s harsh conditions. The hub is mounted on the plough arm, and the tillage disc is mounted directly to the hub.

According to NSK Australia’s Sales Engineer Dave Healey, the Agri Disc Hub eliminates most of the manual labour involved in maintaining tillage equipment, with ‘sealed for life’ bearings.

“Before NSK Agri Hubs were introduced, this rotating motion was controlled by two tapered roller bearings and a simple sealing arrangement. Re-lubricating the bearings was a frequent and costly exercise,” he explained. “Additionally, during grease replenishment, contamination of the environment often occurred because grease leaked through this poor seal arrangement.”

NSK’s grease, is a special performance grease designed with high pressure absorption capacity. This ensures the bearing is sealed for life. Even with heavy use, this feature renders re-lubrication unnecessary. As such, Healey says “the NSK Agri Disc Hubs has transformed farming operations. Since 2010, NSK units have been used in the Australian farming sector, supplied on major European equipment such as Kverneland and Kuhn with excellent results.”

Healey explains “keeping out contamination is a major factor of bearing life. Contamination must negotiate a very complex channel to reach the rolling elements. A five lip cassette seal is strategically located up under a pressure plate and is the start of this channel. The rolling elements themselves are further protected by a triple lip seal that is integral to the bearing. The feedback from farmers who have used these hubs has been fantastic. They love that there’s no downtime for their equipment by having to replenish grease in the hubs, they’re also simple and easy to install. They won’t be going back to the traditional design at all.”

“The Agri Hub solid steel housing is also significantly thicker and stronger than other products on the market,” says Healey. The housing – which has a thickness of 8.5mm at the cassette seal location – enables greater absorption of heavy impact loads and therefore better protects the sealing arrangement. Furthermore, the 40-degree contact angle of the double row ball bearing enables the Agri Hub to cope with higher axial loads compared to a standard 30-degree angle of most competitor’s bearings.

Thanks to these features, the working life of tillage equipment is extended by the NSK’s Agri Disc Hub.

According to Randal, there is great take-up of the Agri Hub in the Riverina region where he’s based, and he sees ample future growth opportunities in this and other areas.

“The Agri Hub is built tough enough for Australian conditions. The feedback we’re getting is that the Agri Hubs have stood the test of time thus far, and that’s coming from the farmers.”