Ultrasonic Sensors in Agricultural Automation

Featured Product from Senix Distance and Level Sensors


Back in the 1980’s, brothers Mike, Gregg and Don Tvetene were working at their family-owned Tvetene Turf Farms in Billings, Montana. The business was faced with a critical labor shortage at the same time that it was experiencing huge demand for their turf. Out of necessity, the brothers conceived of an automatic turf harvester that could cut and stack sod using just one operator. Their biggest motivator, recalls Gregg, was the years of hard work they had put in stacking turf by hand on the family farm.

The brothers worked by trial and error to get an automatic stacking harvester working smoothly. Mike focused on the electronics while Gregg worked on the hydraulics and Don handled welding and fabrication. At the time, mobile electronic systems were not sophisticated enough to handle the tasks required, so Mike designed a system that would control stacking, harvesting and drive functions.

The brothers formed a new company, Trebro Manufacturing, Inc.. Their hands-on experience, hard work, and continual testing and trials resulted in the introduction of the “AutoStack”, the first successful automatic stacking turf harvester, in 2000.

The AutoStack was an instant success as turf producers from around the world were eager to take advantage of the benefits of labor savings, increased production, and improved quality of the finished product. Trebro and the AutoStack were also recognized with an Industry Innovator award from the Turf Producers International and the Montana governor’s exporting award.

The AutoStack, and now the AutoStack II, use an automated Ultra Steer system to guide the harvester with precision while the operator watches over all aspects of the harvesting process. Trebro explored several different sensor technologies for the steering system before selecting Senix ToughSonic 14 ultrasonic sensors.

Senix ultrasonic sensors are mounted on the steering arms of the AutoStacker and AutoStacker II where they monitor the harvest line to maintain ¼” steering accuracy. The ToughSonic 14 was selected for it’s tough all-weather construction and it’s ability to communicate rapidly with the Trebro’s electronic control system through an RS-232 interface. The Trebro AutoStack II is the ultimate high production automatic turf harvester.

Trebro Manufacturing has now sold more than 750 automated harvesters in 22 countries. It has employees in the U.S., Canada and the UK, with parts warehouses in all of these locations plus Europe and Australia. And at its heart, there are the three brothers.