Looking Back, Looking Forward

- Jon Moreland

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance we crossed paths in Chicago at the ASTA CSS 2017 Seed Expo in December. It continues to be a premier showcase for products and services to the seed industry. Although the focus has traditionally been on larger commodity crops, I now find I am meeting with customers from other segments – even flower seed – that see value in the exhibition. I find this week is always a great pulse check on where things are headed.

Optical technologies continue to evolve and spread into additional seed plant applications. Technologies and capacities continue to improve. The most advanced machines true full color RGB machines capable of sorting on a full range of color combinations, plus infrared sorting. To be state of the art, the machine also needs complete geometric and size sorting recognition. There are also several new formats coming online for fine seed optical sorting. These will run lower capacities but diminish residual losses typical in small and fine seed optical separations. Optical sorting is also spreading into other parts of seed production. There is a big push to optically sort ear corn before drying. The use of technology early in the process stands to improve downstream issues. Again, keep an eye out for improving technology that allows for 360 degree views of the ear.

Seed treatment systems are developing quickly to meet the growing complexity of what and how we apply seed treatments. Most are finding the need to also include some form of drying post seed treatment. A true system will include drying functions to handle future rate increases. The newest advances include a single integral piece of equipment capable of treating, coating or pelletizing and then drying before discharge. We also see the batch treater becoming the standard, as they apply complex recipes with 8, 10 or even 12 independently delivered components…plus a powder or two!

Any equipment that provides additional efficiencies in your seed production processes is exciting. With markets being relatively tough and margins squeezed, operations are looking internally for more efficient production. I am seeing great interest in standard machines that have been improved with engineering: for example a gravity separator that diminishes the need for a middle fraction rerun; or a cleaner with screens that a single operator can safely and quickly remove. Exciting advances in control systems for just about anything mechanical are a great place to search for improved efficiency. A good control system can morph a mechanical piece of equipment into something easier to run, set up, start up or install.