Data and Separation — Critical to Your Success!

- Brian Burney

The basic technology has been in use since the late 1800s, and the seed industry has identified the benefits going back to the early 1900s — it continues to be an absolutely critical step in the seed processing industry. You will see a gravity separator in every seed processing facility around the world. Yet, it is one of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment in the building.

Early attempts at gravity separation utilized water to float particles and identify the differences in density, but in the seed industry, we use air to protect the integrity of the seed.

We have created a “weighing mechanism” that when combined with vibration allows us to separate particles based on density. We are all aware that low-density seed has considerable relevance to germination and vigor so separating off those seeds that don’t meet our specifications is critical to maintaining quality for your customer.

The thing that is often overlooked is that this is not a “set-it and forget-it” piece of equipment. Success requires a trained and committed operator with the right data available to them to make adjustments throughout operation to maintain the correct output. This means measuring bulk density at the beginning, middle and end of the batch.

Adjustments to watch include, but are not limited to, feed rate, end raise, side tilt, speed and air which each affect how efficient the technology can operate.
Enhancing the information provided to the operator in both input and output data, must be dynamic, as this process can be impacted by a number of environmental situations — barometric pressure, temperature and humidity to name a few. With the right data, we make more educated decisions and adjustments to ensure that we deliver the desired product.

While the technology of gravity separation will continue to be a mainstay in seed processing, continued improvements in data measurement and capture will allow automation to enhance the process.

I look forward to the day when the gravity separator can be as hands off as the seeder in the field but the automation needed is directly tied to the data that it uses. The science of separation is still solid and will be a mainstay of seed processing for years to come, the next evolution will be data driven.