|Accuracy, capacity, compact design and the ability to treat seed at night or during rainy weather earned Robbie Williams' seed treater a category win in Farm Journal's "I Built the Best” contest.
The seed treater built by Henderson, Ky., farmer Robbie Williams, his seed-treating partner Nic Womack and several assistants, is noteworthy for its capacity, its compact design, the ability to treat seed at night or during rainy weather and the ability to load either bags, boxes or trucks with treated seed. But its most striking feature is its accuracy—perhaps unprecedented in a farm-scale setup.
The treater—which won first place in the Miscellaneous Category of Farm Journal's I Built the Best Contest--consists of two custom-built cone-bottom seed tanks mounted on a tubular-steel framework. Product tanks for liquid fungicide, insecticide and inoculant are located underneath.
"Mounting the seed tanks overhead, with the equipment for inoculant, fungicide and insecticide underneath, minimizes space requirements,” Williams points out. "It's a much more compact design than you usually find.”
The process of applying chemicals is similar to that used by seed companies. Seed to be treated is transported to a "dry tank” in a custom-built conveyor.
Chemicals and biological products are loaded through inductors—a conventional one for those that come in jugs and a laundry-sink inductor for those packaged in plastic bags—easily accessible from ground-level. From the inductors, treatment materials are transferred to the product tanks by Grainger air-powered diaphragm pumps.
Into the mixing chamber. From the product tanks, treatment materials are metered into the mixing chamber by Cole-Parmer peristaltic pumps. "We chose positive-displacement pumps because they provide more repeatable accuracy,” says Williams.
"We can apply each product separately, or all three together,” says Williams. "We keep the products separate until just before they are applied to the seed.”
After the dry tank is filled with seed, a pneumatic air cylinder controlled by an electric solenoid valve opens a sliding gate in the bottom. The flowing soybeans trigger a microswitch, and inoculant, fungicide and/or insecticide is applied by a Gustafson CS-1700 rotary atomizing head and mixing chamber.
When the flow of seed ends, a microswitch shuts off the flow of product. The treated seed is carried to the output tank by a second conveyor. If the output conveyor stops for any reason, a contactor, salvaged from an old grain dryer, automatically closes the sliding gate in the dry tank, stopping the flow of seed and shutting off the product pumps.
Other fail-safe features are incorporated throughout the system, including overloads on all the motors that shut down the system if any motor begins pulling too much electricity.
Continuous-flow. Because of the capacity of the tanks (each one can hold 100 50-lb. units, or 5,000 lb. of seed) and the speed of the conveyors, an operator can begin treating a batch of seed as the seed is being unloaded from a bag or box and conveyed into the dry tank. While the treated seed accumulates in the output tank, the original bag or box can be moved underneath the output tank, to be re-filled with treated seed. So there are no bottlenecks in the treatment process.
Williams calls the feature "surge control,” adding: "We can treat 700 bu. of seed per hour on a continuous-flow basis.”
- Mid-February 2010