COTTONWOOD?-?Farming is a dangerous occupation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the injury rate for agricultural workers is more than 20 percent higher than the rate for all workers.
Cottonwood farmer Harold Fratzke has been inventing things for most of his life, many of them agriculture-related. Now he's come up with something to make farming easier and safer.
Fratzke and his son Kent will unveil the H&K Quick Coupler Tractor Drawbar at the Minnesota Inventors Congress in Redwood Falls this weekend.
Photo by Steve Browne
Harold Fratzke and his son Kent invented this telescoping tractor drawbar to make hooking up tractors and implements easier and safer. The H&K Quick Coupler Tractor Drawbar will be on display at the Minnesota Inventors Congress in Redwood Falls this weekend.
"Tractors have been built for over a hundred years," Fratzke said, "and we're still hooking them up the same old difficult way."
Hooking up tractors to farm implements is often dangerous, time-consuming and very difficult to do alone, according to Fratzke. A farmer has to back up the tractor to the implement and try to align the tractor hitch with the implement hitch, a process that can involve getting in and out of the tractor several times to check the alignment. And when they are aligned, they may not be on the same level. Either a farmer has to find a stick to prop up the implement hitch, or have someone hold it up while the tractor backs into it, and that involves risking fingers or life.
"Hooking up behind a tractor is very dangerous, if your foot slips off the clutch or the clutch is jumpy sometimes," Fratzke said. "This way you get away from all that."
Fratzke's invention is a telescoping drawbar hitch that pulls out when the operator releases a drawbar pin. A farmer can just pull up within a reasonable distance of the implement, get out and pull the drawbar itself out to the implement hitch, then get in the tractor and back it up until the drawbar locks into place. That's one trip out of the tractor cab and no need for an assistant in the way while backing up.
"My son and I worked on it all winter, mostly in our spare time," Fratzke said.
Fratzke has had inventions entered in the Minnesota Inventors Congress expo every year for the past 40 years. Many are related to agriculture, but some of them just for fun, such as the two-wheel drive bicycle that can be powered with the feet, the hands or both, and can be mounted on a stand and used as an exercise bike. The bike won the silver medal last year. He's won some kind of award at the expo 21 times.