When I was a boy on the family farm in Sweden, my brothers and I would walk behind dad when he was ploughing the earth with the horses. In just a few metres, we’d pick up enough worms to go fishing for a day.
When I returned to the farm 40 years later, there was not a worm to be found. The topsoil was incredibly shallow with no humus. As a result, the earth would crack in dry conditions, and flood in the wet, due to the soil becoming hydrophobic and less able to absorb and hold moisture.
Generations of traditional cultivation methods had destroyed the structure of the soil. The precious humus and microorganisms had been continually buried deep into the subsoil, leading to crusting and soil compaction. In turn, this had created conditions unsuitable for one of the most vital components for healthy soil: earthworms.
BENEFITS OF EARTHWORMS
Movement of earthworms through soil can loosen and aerate it making drainage rates up to 10 times faster.
IMPROVED NUTRIENT AVAILABILITY
In consuming organic matter, earthworms concentrate the nutrients and their casts provide a nutrient rich addition to the soil.
IMPROVED SOIL STRUCTURE
Earthworm casts bind soil particles together into water-stable aggregates that are better able to store moisture.
There is a close correlation between the number of earthworms p/ha and production capacity of the land.
INSPIRATION FROM THE VIKINGS
The word ‘Wiking’ is the Old Norse pronunciation of ‘Viking’. You might notice that those of Scandinavian origin seem to use a ‘w’ in place of a ‘v’ or vice-versa.
I decided to use phonetic spelling for the Wiking Rollavator to pay homage to the Vikings of old, and keep the spelling and pronunciation consistent for those who don’t hail from the far flung shores of Scandinavia.
The idea of the rolling cultivator came to me when I was 17, after I had started my first job digging an open drain through a peat swamp. When the peat dried out it became very light. The chunks I was removing from the drain were about a cubic foot in size, yet weighed less than a kilo.
In those days there were no rotary hoes, so breaking down those fluffy blocks was arduous work! But one day I spotted an old wooden construction on a heap of stone – it was a frame with two rollers mounted inside. There were several rows of steel pegs in each roller; they didn’t intersect like the Wiking Rollavator, but they were sufficient to penetrate the soil. The device needed a bit of repair (which my boss thought I was crazy to attempt), but I was stubborn, even then, and went to work.
After tinkering and getting the machine operational, I set it in action, running it over the windrow of dried peat. Within several passes, the peat was broken up enough to be handled by conventional harrows.
Years passed. I owned my own farm and saw the introduction of the rotary hoe and the detrimental affect it had on the soil. My mind often returned to the old wooden machine I had found back in Sweden and the elegant simplicity with which it worked.
Being mechanically minded, I began to think about how I could improve on the design to make it more suited to cultivating the land, without the adverse effects of the rotary hoe. And so I created my own version.