Getting It Right

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No matter whether its a 25,000-ton capacity megaplant or a smaller facility housing a 2-ton blender, retailers want a dry fertilizer blending system that is easy to operate, fast, and accurate.

These criteria are especially important in a year when corn acres are expected to significantly increase, putting greater demands on the blending system and its operators.

“It is quality and consistency that retailers are looking for,” says Lloyd Derowitsch of Speed King, noting that there is no second chance to get the grower-customer’s order right. “A wrong blend is a chilling call to receive for any dealer (and his insurance company),” he says.

‘Precise’ly Right

Rising fertilizer costs have retailers seeking more accurate and precise blend capabilities. Many already are using GPS tracking, autosteer, and add-on control systems on their spreaders and tenders, notes Michael Tibbett, whose company, Adams Fertilizer Equipment, plans to have new blender system styles available soon.

“When fertilizer wasn’t so expensive, if you were off by plus or minus 10% to 20%, it wasn’t life or death,” Tibbett says. “Now, if you put 20% more fertilizer on than you need to, by year’s end you’ve racked up some real change.”

Retailers also can realize more return on their investment by avoiding the pitfalls of buying a system too complicated for their needs. “The errors are larger due to the speed and volume of the equipment and can therefore be even more costly then just the original cost of the equipment itself,” Derowitsch says.

No matter what level of sophistication a retailer chooses, speed and convenience are still hallmarks of a successful system. Manufacturers continue to improve those features; for example, Doyle Equipment Manufacturing‘s new 30-inch load-out conveyor on its 8-ton paddle blender and vertical blend systems “provides improved discharge time,” says Doyle’s Mark Baggett.

 Conditioned For Quality

Retailers also are under the gun to provide top quality fertilizer. “When we were able to integrate a Bulk-Conditioner right into our TriTon vertical blend system, we struck a chord with fertilizer dealers,” says Jim Crane of The A.J. Sackett & Sons Co. “Especially ones blending fertilizer for planter boxes and aerial application, where lumps cause major problems and are just unacceptable.”

The expected increase in corn acres and therefore, fertilizer tonnage, could put quite a strain on the dealership’s existing blender, but may only require adding on to the existing set-up. Ranco Fertiservice purposely builds this flexibility into its DW blend system as a customer convenience. The company recently added a touch screen to remotely operate and monitor its digital control panel.

“Retailers with Ranco systems can respond to this increased usage by adding another meter screw to an existing urea bin or adding another bin,” says the company’s Bruce Hinkeldey. “Both options can be done in a short period of time at a reasonable price.”

Papa, Mama, Baby Bear-Sized

“Add-ons” of a different nature also continue. In recent history, there’s been a trend towards building mega plants — or “hubs” — in some regions of the country. That trend appears to be continuing but stabilizing, while the number of small plants is growing, too.

In the middle are pockets of retailers that consolidate their fertilizer into facilities that hold 4,500 tons to 5,000 tons, much less than the typical 25,000-ton mega plant and more than the average small plant, says Rob Henderson of Waconia Manufacturing.

These facilities primarily are found in the eastern U.S., such as the Carolinas, where large storage is needed for a single product.

The mega plant sector is evolving, too, says Anne Sheehy of Yargus Manufacturing. Yargus is currently working on a mega plant in northwestern North Dakota, and will equip another mega plant in east central South Dakota this summer.

Like many other blender equipment manufacturers, Yargus strives to make systems to equip mega, mid-, and smaller sized fertilizer plants. “We are constantly adapting our standard Volumetric Blender System to maximize demand in different regions in the U.S. and throughout the world,” says Sheehy.

No matter what size facility, all customers “are looking for one company that can provide all the solutions,” says Hinkeldey.

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