Drainage Contractor

Grade control system speeds pipe laying by up to 20 percent

November 13, 2012  By Drainage Contractor

Every year, Agrodrain Systems Ltd. installs hundreds of miles of drainage pipe on thousands of acres of farmland in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. In one pass, Agrodrain’s plow – automatically controlled by a Leica PowerGrade 3D system – cuts a slot and knifes drainage pipe to a precise elevation in the ground.

“In some jobs using laser controls, our man would spend a third of his time moving the laser transmitter around,” says John Wielgut, president of Agrodrain. “Now, with our Leica GPS system, the drainage plow can keep moving. This system is far more productive.”

The Leica PowerGrade 3D system automatically controls the plow depth, but does not steer the tractor that pulls the plow. A display monitor in the tractor’s cab indicates the unit’s position relative to the designed track line, so the operator steers the machine using that. “We generally can place pipe within one-quarter inch of design grade,” says Wielgut. “We do a lot of our drainage at minimum grades, which for us is one-tenth of one percent, or one foot of drop in 1000 feet.

That’s why vertical accuracy is very important.”


Wielgut has run the Leica PowerGrade 3D system for Agrodrain since late 2009. “The overriding observation that I have is, it is so darn dependable,” he says. “We had a small issue with one cable one day last spring (2010) that we resolved, and we have not had a minute’s breakdown since then. It is a very, very dependable system and is much more efficient than a laser system.”

Wielgut says he finds the GPS system has fewer performance issues than a laser. His laser system was adversely affected by the distance of the machine from the transmitter, by fog, and by the wind, because the transmitter had to be mounted high in the air.

Based in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, Leica Geosystems is a global company with tens of thousands of customers supported by more than 3500 employees in 28 countries, and hundreds of partners located throughout more than 120 countries around the world.

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