As vital cogs in the fertilizer delivery machine, blender manufacturers have had much at stake in recent market variations. But many say they’ve fared well. “Buying decisions are more guarded and analytical, but dealers are still eager to upgrade and improve their facilities,” says Bruce Hinkeldey of Ranco Fertiservice Inc.
Lloyd Derowitsch, industrial sales with Speed King, has seen more repairs to older equipment over the last several months — “but we’ve been quoting equipment at a steady rate. I believe most dealers are weighing their options whether to buy new or repair old,” he says.
Business has, in fact, been booming for Yargus Manufacturing, says Anne Sheehy, head of international sales and marketing. “We’ve been busy for the last 2 ½ years solid now,” and production for 2010 is booked into the summer so far, she says. Sheehy says sales on all batch blender models (four in all) have been up, with retailers turning to the volumetric styles as well. “More retail places that had a single unit blender for the last 20 years are upgrading to the larger volumetric machines,” she says. “And depending on the number of hoppers, size of the conveyers, and scope of the project, they can get as expensive as a tower.” Thanks in part to a building expansion, Yargus is also able to handle more higher-capacity projects for barge and ship unloading.
Economical, smaller-capacity units are still needed, though. The Doyle 6-Ton Vertical Blender “is still one of our most popular size blenders,” says Mark Baggett of Doyle Manufacturing. And the energy efficiency of R&R Manufacturing’s Minuteman 2 is a selling point in its 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12-ton models.
Manufacturers are sensitive to the demands of new fertilizer products — and are designing features to create the blends growers want:
Micro capabilities. Equipment makers continue to add options for micronutrient blending. Sheehy says Yargus just introduced a new volumetric feeder for the company’s volumetric and declining-weight blending machines. Designed for handling lower capacities, the feeder is efficient and accurate at metering materials at a much slower rate.
Liquid capabilities. But some manufacturers say the bigger need these days is to impregnate liquid products on dry fertilizer. Ranco offers a variety of pumps that accurately impregnate the liquids during the continuous flow blend process, according to the company. The system can treat individual fertilizer such as urea and phosphate before they are blended with other products – or it can treat the entire blend.
Jim Crane, marketing manager at A.J. Sackett, says his firm has done quite a bit of research in liquid enhancers such as Agrotain, Nutrisphere, and Avail — and has developed “some exciting processes” for its high-speed H.I.M. (High Intensity Mixer) in treating fertilizer with the products.
Speed/accuracy/efficiency. Manufacturers say this demanding triad of features will continue to gain importance. More tons are being blended by fewer people, Crane points out, so equipment needs to be as reliable and efficient as possible. He says Sackett’s Multi-Dose In Weight system is enjoying good success due to its advanced computer control system, scale accuracy on all hoppers, high speed, and ease of installation and maintenance.
Speed and efficiency will be particularly important in 2010. “Dealers are gearing up for a big spring in many areas of the country due to the late harvest and lack of good weather to apply fertilizer last fall, says Rob Henderson, sales and marketing director for Waconia. Waconia’s tower blenders are designed for individual customers and can handle up to 200 ton per minute of output, while the company’s tapered-auger vertical blenders come in seven different sizes, from 6 tons to 18 tons.