This harvester was specially designed by the University of Kentucky Engineering Department for one of the projects Kentucky Hempsters was affiliated with this year. The concept was to create a machine that would cut and gather prestine cut flower tops from the field. Within just six weeks, the engineering team at UK managed to assemble a machanie that would do just that.
On September 10, 2015, it was put to the test! After another journey to Utica (Owensboro), Wildcat was ready for it's first harvest. It had been tested a couple days prior on a field in Shelbyville that had been devastated by weeds so it seemed to work, but it needed a few adjustments.
The UK Crew had worked late into the night finishing it's final modifications, so we met at the field around noon. It comes in three large parts - tractor, combine head, and conveyer belt - and it takes approximately 20-30 minutes to put together.
After it was fully assembled, it was time to put it to work! Wildcat was a beast. Taking the tops of the plants and sweeping them onto a conveyer that would shoot them into another conveyer riding alongside the machine attached to the side of a truck. The truck conveyer would deposit the tops into a bag and after the bag was full, a front loader would lift the bag into a reefer semi.
The photo above shows what remained in the field following the harvest. The remaining hemp stalk could be removed from the field and used for biomass, feed, etc. In this case, the crop was left in the field in an effort to put nutrients back into the soil.
After collecting approximately 4,000-5,000 lbs. from the field, the company harvesting the material had a sufficient amount for operations.
"We were extremely pleased with the Wildcat's performance and the quality of the material that came out of the field" said Kentucky Hempsters co-founder, Kirstin Bohnert. "It was wonderful to be part of such a historical moment and impressive advancement in Kentucky hemp history."