Industrial agriculture – including deforestation, the use of synthetic fertilisers, and widespread tilling – poses some of the biggest threats to soil fertility. Protecting the dwindling amount of healthy soil around the world is imperative for the future of food growing, with so many farmers looking to adopt less disruptive methods during the planting process.

The act of tilling serves to mix crop residue, weeds, and animal manure into the soil, while aerating and warming the top layer. In doing so, however, it also loosens the plant matter from the surface. This leaves the area more susceptible to erosion by wind and water, leaving less healthy soil behind for each new season. Tilling can also compromise the soil biology, displacing the microbes and insects that contribute to its growing productivity.

In 1963, Jack Hine began pioneering the no-till movement from his family farm in Mansfield, Victoria. This practice was later advanced on the Southwest coast of Western Australia by his sons, Garry and Darryl, who adopted the no-till and zero-till farming practices on their family farm in Wellstead. Subsequently a new business called Direct Seeding and Harvesting was birthed from that farm, importing, and selling zero-till seeding equipment across Australia. In September 2017, the grandson of Jack Hine and nephew of Darryl & Garry, Stewart Mactaggart, took the reins from Darryl to run Direct Seeding, which is now based in Albany, Western Australia. Stewart is just as passionate as his uncles and grandfather about innovating new ways to perfect the zero-till farming system and promote the long-term benefits of stubble retention and soil cover.

“Zero-till farming is a niche market, but we’re starting to see a growing interest which has allowed us to come into our own,” Stewart enthuses. “In Australia, this transition is happening in part because there is an increasing need for more grass-fed livestock. There has been a substantial growth in the manufacture and sales of pasture seeding machines.”

Specialising in zero-tillage, precision, and controlled traffic seeing equipment, the business harnesses multiple generations of broad acre farming experience to manufacture and distribute the best quality product for Australia’s unique environmental factors. In doing so, Stewart explains, they opt for only the highest-grade componentry that can be relied on to last.  

“We have been using the NSK Agri Disc Hubs on our equipment for about six years, but recently began sourcing them through Motion Australia. They have been particularly valuable to us while we continue to innovate and develop robust equipment to suit our country’s unique farming conditions.”

Primarily used in the design of their Air Seeder Bars and Double Disc openers, the Agri Disk Hub bearing unit protects each piece of equipment from contamination, moisture, vibration, and heavy shock loads while in service.

“Where we are based in Western Australia, the soil is very abrasive and acidic, which leads to an increased chance of bearing failure, especially during years with more rainfall,” explains Stewart. “Our country has some of the harshest operating conditions in the world, but zero tillage technology has come a long way in the last ten years. I can say that Agri Disc Hubs have definitely contributed largely to that.”

According to Russell Randal, Motion Australia’s National Accounts Manager for Agriculture, this relationship provides an opportunity for both businesses to leverage on their strengths in the market, particularly during an uncertain time for industrial business.

“When we initially got talking about how we could support their manufacturing process, they were very excited about what we have to offer across the extended portfolio of hydraulics, power transmission and bearing parts,” he says. “We’ve helped Direct Seeding overcome gaps in their supply chain for a product that was already so integral to their design process.”

“The guaranteed lead times and exceptional service was another reason we switched to Motion,” Stewart adds. “There’s also the fact that they have a huge number of branches across Australia. By choosing a national supplier with ample stock on hand, we have no issues sourcing replacement parts for customers.”

NSK’s Agri Disc Hub units incorporate double-row angular-contact ball bearings to accommodate for heavy radial and axial loads. An O-ring seal protects the bearing from external aggregators, along with a cassette seal on the unit’s arm side. 

“We initially opted for Agri Hubs because we needed something that was fully sealed against dust, dirt and water, and that doesn’t require manual greasing, which can put farmers at risk in the field,” says Stewart. 

“We found that with some non-greaseable bearings, the seals just weren’t as durable, and we needed something that could accommodate both sideways pressure and downforce, which is where the flexible load bearing comes in,” he furthers. “Over the years, it has performed extremely well on our equipment, and while there are certain limitations, we’ve converted over to them wherever possible.”

Understanding the everyday challenges faced by people in the agricultural industry is part of the job, says Stewart, and developing durable equipment that is low maintenance and easy to adapt is their number one priority.

“When it comes to OEM practices that are this specialised, you really need parts that are purpose-built for the industry. NSK has hit the mark for agriculture with this product, and it gives both me and my customers peace of mind to know that they’re not going to fail during field service.”

The NSK Agri Disc Hub 

• Higher contact angle allows higher axial loads

• Optimised seal for long life

• Easy to mount

• Higher contact angle of 40 degrees

• Optimised interior design