Called Steam’R, steam is applied through a series of 5.0m hydraulically-folding hoods, and versions are available to cover three (R3600), four (R4800) or five (R5100) beds with a maximum width of 1.55m.
With empty weights of 5.7t, 6.0t and 8.0t respectively, power to all three models comes from a 50hp 3-pot Deutz engine. There is no on-board water tank. Instead, water is supplied to the generator-powered steaming device via 200m, 300m or 400m long hoses. Once the hoods are lowered, steam is pumped into the soil for 3.5-4 minutes, after which the steam hoods are automatically raised and the machine drives forward to the next position.
It takes the Steam’R about 40 hours to cover one hectare.
Guided by a steering sensor, the machine works without a driver, automatically stopping at the headland when the front-mounted laser scanner detects a pre-placed marker, when the operator receives a text message. A test message is also sent should the Steam’R encounter an obstacle before it reaches the headland.
It takes about 40 hours to complete a hectare during which time it uses around 4,000 litres of water. A few of the £110,000-€150,000 machines are already running in Europe. The French firm says that there is interest from British growers and does not rule out the possibility a machine coming to the UK at some point.