History of Spaders AKA Digging Machines, Vangatrici
By the mid 1950’s in Italy the rotary hoe had come into wide use. Rotary hoe is
the name used in Europe to describe the rotovator or better known as the
rototiller in the USA. The rotary hoe saved a great deal of time over the
traditional hand spading, plowing and harrowing previously done. In 1958 Piero
Zama a man not yet 20 years old got the idea to create a tractor mounted
implement to imitate hand spading. Observations and discussions with local
farmers taught him that rotary hoes powdered the topsoil and created a hard pan
in the subsoil. Traditional hand spading retained soil structure but was tedious
hard work on a large scale.
In 1960 Piero Zama formed the Falc Company and by May 1961 began demonstrating his spading machine at the local Agricultural College. Picture #1 shows that first version; note wheel for depth control, hand shovels, and fork to break up clods. Also note location of locating links that create cam action to make spades throw dirt. Picture #2 and Picture #3 show a revised model being demonstrated at an agricultural show in March 1962 where it was recognized for innovation. The machine used 6 spades driven by a single crankshaft powered by a central gearbox receiving its power from the PTO of a 30 HP tractor. The gearbox had several stroking speeds, as is modern practice, each crank arm was 60º out of phase so each spade could penetrate alone, saving power. This first machine was 57” wide and used 6 spades digging 12” deep.
In October 1964 the Falc spader was shown at a major vineyard show in France and
in March 1965 Falc spaders were shown at the SIMA show in Paris where it was
recognized by the Commission For Technical Research. In 1965 Falc also began
exporting spaders; among the first countries were Holland, Turkey and Israel.
Picture #4 shows a 1970 model spader that is much like the current models in
the Falc line. Ferrari Tractor C.I.E. in California began importing Falc spaders
into USA in 1991.
Far to the west of Faenza, where Zama was working, two Gramegna brothers came up
with an idea for a motorized digging machine. Theirs was to be powered with a
motor cultivator i.e. a two wheel, walking tractor. Their unit had four shovels
with each pair of spades driven by a separate crank shaft driven by it own gear
box set side by side and driven by a central PTO from the tractor. A pair of
links attaching mid length to each spade arm gave the spades a kicking action to
throw dirt to break it against the rear cover as you see in
The quality of the work done by this machine was recognized as a big improvement
over rototilling. The two wheel model was hard to handle. The Gramegna’s started
work in 1962 to produce a tractor version. It was introduced in 1963 as a 6
spade model. As you can see in picture #6
that early version retained the multiple crankshafts with linked together
The most important feature of design shown here is the location of spade arm’s
linkage. It is the placement of the attachment point half way between the crank
end and spade tip that allows the links to create the motion that keeps topsoil
on top and subsoil broken but not intermixed. All spader manufacturers
adopted this feature very quickly.
Gramegna began selling their spaders at the Verona Equipment Show in March 1965
and received recognition for invention and innovation at that show. In the years
since then Gramegna changed their machine’s design to use a single central
gearbox to drive a single crankshaft like that used by Falc from the beginning
and by all subsequent spader makers. And by the same note Falc adopted the low
forward location of the spades arm links to give the kicking action, first used
Gramegna has continued to innovate offering a unique secondary tiller unit that
mounts at rear of their spader to allow a finer breaking of clods to create a
shallow seedbed without overworking topsoil. This machine permits you to go from
an old compacted pasture to a nursery seedbed in one pass.
Picture #7 shows the first model of this type imported by Ferrari Tractor
and sold in California in 1993.
In the 1980’s Falc began producing a 4.2-meter wide spader (14ft.) that could be mounted in front of a large tractor equipped with a front 3 pt. and front PTO so that a power harrow and seeder could be carried on the rear 3 pt. and driven by the rear PTO as shown in picture #8.
In the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s other spader manufacturers came into being adopting
the same general design but sometimes coming up with unique models to fit
special uses. A couple of interesting examples come from the Tortella Company.
In picture #9 you see a spader that can be
offset to the right so that narrower spader with lower power requirement can
still cover tire tracks of wide tractor. The spader in
picture # 10 shows a spader capable of working over the top of perennial
plants such as artichokes and pineapples.
During the late 1990’s and continuing today Celli and Tortella are attempting to
produce very wide, 20 plus foot wide spaders to fit California’s large scale
rice farming operations. The spaders ability to work wet soils and to
incorporate very large quantities of straw make them attractive tools. Celli’s
approach has been to mount two 10 ft. spaders side by side and drive each of
those gearboxes from a third central gearbox. So far that approach has problems
with over hearting of the gearboxes. Tortella’s version has not yet gone into
the field in California but will in Fall 2001.
The spaders promise of improved tillage was achieved in a relatively short
period of time yet 40 years later evolution of the spader continues as does the
evolution of systems to use the spaders’ many capacities. In
picture #11 a standard Falc spader is being used to till wild rice fields
while flooded with 10” of water. Here it is the tractor that had to evolve by
being equipped with “moon wheels” that allow it to navigate in deep mud and
Copyright 2001- Ferrari Tractors CIE