A visitor to the one of the larger European agricultural machinery fairs will soon come to appreciate that Italy is a powerhouse of implement production and that companies such as ROC are vitally important to the country’s economy.

In such a melee of competing businesses it is difficult to pick out any one particular firm that has the potential to grow and develop to a greater degree than it has achieved so far, yet the Kverneland group claims to have done just that by taking an 80% stake in ROC.

Kubota has clout

Kverneland is owned by Kubota, a parent company with enough resources to purchase pretty much whatever it likes when it comes to implement companies.

ROC merger Ubaldi
Completed ROC mergers awaiting delivery

However, recklessness does not feature widely in the corporate structure of Japanese companies, so when such a giant alights upon a particular manufacturing business then it may be assumed it has done its homework and the quarry is likely to be showing a good deal of potential.

ROC on display

Recently, the company introduced ROC to a wider audience by opening up the newly acquired factory at Rimini, on the eastern side of Italy, while also introducing some new models in its own range.

ROC Italy forage belt
Raffaele, left, and Denis Ubaldi with Mr Kamada, CEO of Kverneland Group

ROC was, until recently, virtually unknown here in Ireland. There appeared to be little demand for its main product line, which is mergers or belt rakes as they are also known.

Kverneland is enthusiastic in planning to turn this situation on its head by promoting the implement as a viable alternative to the standard rotor-type rake.

Definite benefits

There are, according to Kverneland, two excellent reasons for switching to belts when it comes to gathering together rows for either a baler or forage harvester.

By using pick up tines the crop is not dragged across the ground
By using pick-up tines the crop is not dragged across the ground

The first is that by using a pick-up reel to load the crop onto a belt, which then moves it laterally to either side, a great deal less damage is done to the forage.

This is of particular importance in leafy crops such as lucerne (alfalfa) which is cut regularly and will dry rapidly to produce a brittle swath.

ROC merger PTO
The mounting of the hydraulic pump allows for a very tight turning circle in the field

The present push to place equally as fragile species in regular swards here in Ireland can only emphasise how important this is to recovering the full compliment of nutrients which have been so assiduously grown.

ROC reduces dirt ingress

Allied to this more gentle action is, that less stones and dirt are likely to picked up from the ground, reducing contamination and saving the blades on balers or harvesters.

ROC merger tines
Fully floating guide wheels help the pick up reals follow the ground contours

The important principle to take on board here is that the tines of a pick-up will have a much slower tip speed than those of a rotor, thus reducing the damaging impact they have on the cut plant, as well as reducing the ‘flicking’ action on stones.

A multitude of placement options

The second major reason is that the equipment can move the crop to either side, or if two beds are being used, to the centre.

With this arrangement there is a great deal more versatility – crops can be moved and collated in a flexible manner, placing the final swath more conveniently for the following machine, in addition to merging smaller swaths to create a larger one.

Building the machines

All the design work is done in-house with Raffaele Ubaldi running the engineering side of the business while his brother, Denis, looks after the sales and marketing.

The company started in life in 1996, building mowers, but has been concentrating on mergers since 2004.

Given that most belt mergers we tend to encounter are lightweight units suspended from the rear of mowers, the solidity of build of these far more focused machines comes as something of a surprise.

ROC solidity hydraulics
The strength of build and the quantity of metal that goes into making the ROC mergers becomes apparent in the assembly shop

They are robust units that have been developed over the years to do their specific job reliably, they are not insubstantial or vulnerable to stress.

Pumps and sockets

The hydraulic drive for the belts creates a power take off (PTO) driven pump located in the headstock, while the folding and height adjustment are a function of the tractor’s own hydraulics.

Hydraulic motor ROC
The belts are driven from a motor situated at the headstock

The belts are said to never wear out, although damaged sections can be replaced rather than having to renew the whole item. All the belts on all the machines are of the same generous width.

Plastic guides reduce noise and damage
Plastic guides reduce noise and damage

The pick up tines run between plastic guards that are not subject to damage, although they are easily removable for servicing the tines. A happy consequence of this is that they also run without the clatter normally associated with such mechanisms.

Livery matters

Away from the actual engineering, two immediate questions arise from this latest move in the machinery trade.

The first is, will we see the ROC machines being painted in Kverneland colours? The answer appears to be yes, although the details of how and when that will happen have yet to be worked out.

ROC engineering belts
The substantial frame of the ROC mergers emphasises their status as high output professional machines

The second is, will the engineering expertise inherent within the ROC organisation be applied to the grouper units on Kverneland mowers?

The answer to this is a little less clear cut. The ROC units are heavy duty items while, as already mentioned, groupers need to be light in weight – yet there is obviously a synergy between the two distinct products so any progress on this front will take a little longer to show.

Kverneland is obviously pleased with its purchase and the Irish end of operations is enthusiastic in its determination to see mergers become part of the landscape here.

One small fly in the ointment is the price, with mergers costing considerably more than rakes, but it is claimed that the benefits will easily justify the extra cost.