Better to Be Safe When Handling Bulk Seed

July 26, 2013 10:21 PM

As popularity for bulk packaged seed increases, so do the farmer innovations to help ensure safe handling

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The Box Opening System, invented by Illinois farmer Mark Hoffmann, mounts to bulk seed boxes and enhances safety by using remote control to open the seed slide.

While bulk seed helps keep planters rolling, the packaging requires special considerations when filling planters and transporting. Chief among those concerns is how to safely handle thousands of pounds of seed.

As farmers tend to do, when presented with a challenge, they find a solution.

Mark Hoffmann, who farms nears Waterloo, Ill., has been a seed dealer for 10 years. After handling hundreds of bulk seed boxes for himself and customers, he devised a mechanized opener.

"When we have the seed box lifted in the air to fill the tender, I didn’t think it was safe to have someone repeatedly get underneath the box to open the slide for the seed," he says. "On our tender, there was no ladder that made the bulk box accessible."

His solution is the Box Opening System or BOS, as he calls it. Powered by a 12-volt battery and controlled by remote, its aluminum frame clamps to the sides of the box. Using 400 lb. of force, the remote-powered handle pulls open the seed slide.

"It takes one person to secure the BOS, load the box onto a fork truck, lift the box over the tender and with a remote, open the seed slide," Hoffmann explains. "What I like about it is that it keeps anyone from having to climb on the tender and precariously open the box by hand."

Hoffmann has customers who have mounted cameras to the underside of the bulk seed boxes; from the fork truck, they can position the box over the tender and monitor seed flow.

"The BOS can fit any of the bulk seed boxes, and it only weighs about 42 lb.," Hoffmann says. "There are 6" of rubber fingers and bolt heads that secure the frame to the box, which can’t be pulled off or fall off."

Because it secures to the side of the bulk box, the BOS can be installed with the box on the ground or in a lifted position. It can easily be moved from box to box when one is emptied.

Every BOS kit comes with two batteries and two remotes. So he always has one ready to go, Hoffmann keeps a battery on the charger all season long. The included remote has a range of up to 200'.

Hoffmann uses boxes for all of his seed, including wheat, which is delivered in bulk bags.

"As soon as our wheat seed arrives, I cut the bulk bags open and unload them in boxes so I can use the BOS rather than try to unload bags," Hoffmann says.

Box disposal. Although many farmers don’t have to worry about disposing of the boxes, those who sell seed probably know that seed companies want dealers to invert their bulk boxes before pick up. The boxes weigh around 300 lb. empty and measure almost 5', making them cumbersome to handle.

Having injured a shoulder during this process, Dick Haas from LeRoy, Ill., knew there had to be a better way. A farmer and seed dealer with his son and grandson, Haas handles more than 300 bulk boxes a year. He invented the Nester, which is available in power and manual models.

Now in its fifth generation of product, the Nester can fit any forklift and is made for 4", 5" or 6" forks. The Power Nester has a control box that mounts on the fork lift and can be used on gas/propane models or electric fork lifts. The metal frame secures to the top half of the box; then either with the power assist or hand lifts, it rotates to invert the top half over the bottom half—in less than 30 seconds.

"The Nester makes the job safer," Haas says, "but it also makes the job a lot faster."
The Haas family sells the Nester themselves, and it’s manufactured at a nearby facility. They’ve sold Nesters in more than 20 states and Canada. 
You can e-mail Margy Eckelkamp at

To watch videos of the Box Opener System and Nester in action, visit

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