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Smaller doors or chutes are often located on each side of a material transfer system's trailer. The user can pull up a wheelbarrow, open the door, and push a button to unload the material in a few seconds.
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An optional injection system meters seed into the bark blower's air stream to be mixed with compost or another growing medium. This organic mixture works well to overseed projects on aerated turf. Photos: FINN Corp.

In addition to speed and efficiency, there is also cost to consider when choosing between bark blowers and material transfer systems. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for smaller, trailer-mounted bark blowers ranges from about $44,000 to $84,000, and larger (8- to 22-yard capacity), skid-mounted bark blowers run from about $110,000 to $133,000. Meanwhile, the list price for a 15-cubic-yard-capacity material transfer system is about $53,000.

— Middendorf is senior vice president of FINN Corp., Fairfield, Ohio.

Do the math

What it takes to move and spread 5 cubic yards of mulch with a wheelbarrow and shovel. (Labor rates are figured at $15/hour.)

  • If it takes one person an hour to move and spread 1 cubic yard of mulch, it would take one person five hours to move and spread 5 cubic yards.
  • 1 person x 5 hours x $15/hour = $75 to complete the mulching job.

Now, here's the same job using a material transfer system:

  • Tests have shown that one person can move and spread 5 cubic yards of mulch in approximately one-and-a-half hours.
  • 1 person x 1.5 hours x $15/hour = $22.50 to complete the mulching job.

Mechanization saves $52.50, or $10.50 per cubic yard. If a crew spreads 1,000 cubic yards of mulch annually, the machine reduces annual mulching costs by $10,500.

Next, consider the bark blower. These machines have more capacity and capabilities than material transfer systems, so 20 cubic yards of mulch is used as the basis.

  • If it takes one person an hour to move and spread 1 cubic yard of mulch, it would take 10 people two hours to move and spread 20 cubic yards of mulch.
  • 10 workers x 2 hours x $15/hour = $300 to complete the mulching job.

To calculate the cost of spreading mulch with a bark blower, consider a model capable of spreading 20 cubic yards/hour.

  • Three workers can spread 20 cubic yards of mulch in an hour.
  • 3 workers x 1 hour x $15/hour = $45 to complete the mulching job.

Labor costs are reduced by 85%. The machine saves more than $250 and frees up seven employees for other projects.