Articles Within Our Area of Expertise: Worker Health and Safety
Pocket Money with a focus on the Environment
Maintaining a competitive advantage requires that you go beyond the traditional strategies to increase quality and lower production costs. New technologies and the evolution of human behavior call for machines that continuously adapt to their operating environments.
Modern machines are smarter, safer and greener. They are more connected, flexible and efficient. Using smart technology, they enable preventive maintenance, easy collaboration and lower cost of ownership.
Smart agriculture is a growing field, with Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology available to track the location and condition of livestock, monitor the growing conditions of crops, and optimize the performance of farm equipment (using precise geo-location to minimize wastage in crop-spraying operations, for example).
High-value crops can be monitored by wireless sensors for a range of parameters (air temperature, humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture, leaf wetness, atmospheric pressure, solar radiation, trunk/stem/fruit diameter, wind speed and direction, and rainfall), with real-time data gathered by an on-site gateway, sent to the cloud and accessed via Internet-connected computers or smartphones. This information allows irrigation and other agricultural interventions to be precisely matched to local growing conditions.
The seed treatment equipment of today has sophisticated supervision and operation systems and it’s a great advantage to be able to communicate with your Programmable Logic Controller (PLC).
You can supervise your seed treatment from anywhere, using your PC, tablet or even your phone. You get information on how much you have treated, how much products you have used etc. You have access to your quality control and operating panel anywhere you are. If something should happen, engineers can easily access the PLC of your seed treater and do damage control. They can determine what´s failing and also talk to the machine. This saves time and maybe also a trip for the service manager.
Engineers can upgrade or reprogram the PLC for you from anywhere in the world. A sophisticated supervision system makes sure the seed is treated according to your recipe. You tell the system your credentials and tolerances. The machine will continuously control the flow and the seed treatment process. If anything out of the ordinary happens, the seed treater will tell you. The M2M Internet connection on your treater will help to address the issue in a quick and smooth manner. Maybe you are located out far from the service provider, perhaps even on a mobile seed treatment truck. With a sophisticated Internet-connected supervision system, you have access to all technical support if needed.
Better Environment, Better Product
Competition in the seed market is tough and you do everything you can to produce the best quality seed to meet your customer’s needs. It might not be front and center in your strategy, but much of your success hinges on the people you hire.
This is particularly true of the seed treatment operator as he or she is coating the final product and that’s something farmers can visually see. It can also directly impact planting — for better or worse. Couple that with the fact that formulations are getting increasingly complex as more is being added to the seed. A lot depends on your operator.
Years ago, your seed treatment operator was the loyal employee who grew up in your company and knew a good quality application just by looking at the seed. Today, people shift jobs more often, and more and more companies hire seasonal workers. This means you need equipment that is safe and easy to operate, calibrate and service. Operators should be able to easily check the dosing rates, and data collection should be streamlined. Basically, you need equipment that’s going to do a quality job, even with employees who have little prior knowledge.
The other factor to consider is if you are hiring seasonal help, or anyone for that matter, you want them to say good things about your company and your product. It’s important that they feel comfortable operating the equipment and that cleanouts are not messy or labor intensive. Cleaning a seed treater is not a sweet task to begin with. You are handling toxic chemicals and it can be time consuming. It’s in the best interest of your company and your operator to have equipment that is easy to clean. This not only saves your team time and money, it’s also more likely that the task will be done. Cleaning your seed treatment equipment helps improve the quality of treatment and extends the life of your equipment.
The last piece that I’m going to focus on here is dust. This is an especially hot topic in Europe. We know that dust can be an issue for pollinators; it can also affect the health of your operators or those working around the equipment. Make sure you have sufficient aspiration. This improves that application quality of the seed treatment and improves the environment at your seed plant.
If we take good care of our seed treatment operators, they will take better care of the seed treatment. They will see to it that your investment stays on the seed. To deliver top quality product, you need more than top quality seed treatment equipment. You need devoted and engaged operators. I encourage you to look at how you can improve the work environment for your employees. Branding your business has never been more important, and let’s face it, an attractive workplace is the best public relations.