Automation Simplifies Legal-for-Trade

- Jason Kaeb

In today’s bulk seed handling environment, advanced automation/control has moved from a luxury to a necessity. A fully integrated, automated system can offer multiple solutions and benefits to a bulk and/or seed treating system. A few of these benefits include:

• A single point of control for ease of operation.
• Increased throughput.
• Seed treatment accuracy.
• Data management and accountability.
• Safety measures.

With automation, a single operator is able to consistently control both the seed delivery and seed treatment portion of the system through a single operator interface. In addition, the automation provides a level of accuracy, accountability and safety that a manual system cannot provide.

An often overlooked aspect of a bulk system is the importance of legal-for-trade status for the scaling equipment and software. Legal-for-trade simply means that a scale and software has been certified to ensure that the customer receives what has been purchased. In an industry where product is sold based on weight, accuracy and reliability are essential.

This is where the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) comes in. The NCWM is responsible for recommending policies and procedures for all measuring and weighing equipment used in the United States. Partnering with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the NCWM created the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) — a program that oversees the recommendations, tolerances and testing procedures to certify that a scale is accurate.

It is vital for a bulk seed system to be certified as a legal-for-trade system through NTEP. Without a correct NTEP certificate for a scale system, including the automation, it is possible that a scaling system might not pass state inspection, which could lead to a “stop sale.”

It’s also important to remember that legal-for-trade does not necessarily stop with the NTEP certified load cells. In many situations, the hopper vessel and the automation control system also need to have an NTEP certificate number at the main point of loading.

There are a number of automation systems on the market, and finding the right fit for your operation might be daunting. Instead of looking at, and comparing the many individual pieces, I recommend evaluating the system in its entirety. Take into consideration how many units of seed you deliver or treat, as well as the complexities of seed delivery (seed count delivery, etc.) and seed treatment application rates (AI per seed) that are required. I always tell potential customers to assess their specific needs prior to making a purchase and talk with other industry experts to make an informed decision.

Remember: It’s critical to have the right system with NTEP certification to ensure legal-for-trade requirements are met and a smooth delivery process is accomplished.