Start Your Blenders

Sackett Loss-In-Weight system

When the spring window for fertilizer application opens, dealers will be challenged to move tons of product to fields being readied for maxed-out yields. Blenders are key links in the application chain. “Overall the industry wants to move more product at a lesser expense at faster rates,” says Mark Anderson, national sales manager with Yargus Manufacturing. “The systems are bigger now. Time is money.”

Great sales figures at blender manufacturers we talked with reflect the urgency dealers are feeling. They’re still careful when planning capital expenditures due to the volatility of the fertilizer market, but more projects are underway, says Jim Crane, marketing manager at A.J. Sackett & Sons. The company recently received several large orders for high capacity blend towers and loss in weight blending systems, as well as wholesale terminals.

Jim Carlson, sales representative with Waconia Manufacturing, says his firm is getting more phone calls about either building new mid-sized facilities or upgrading existing equipment at an established location. And instead of large 20,000- to 40,000-ton buildings, he’s getting inquiries about 5,000- to 10,000-ton buildings.

Bruce Hinkeldey with Ranco Fertiservice sees another trend. “Retailers are considering purchasing the ‘Cadillac’ version of equipment instead of just getting by with the basic items,” he says.

Adding Vital Products

Capabilities such as adding micronutrients or incorporating chemicals into the blend continue to grow in popularity, especially in light of this winter’s crop prices, notes Anderson. Producers are wanting to maximize yields in 2011 by maximizing fertility levels, “then backing that up with the little things that might give a couple extra bushels here or there — that’s where micronutrients, stabilizers, or inhibitors come in,” he says.

The technology to incorporate micronutrients and apply fertilizer coatings is one of A.J. Sackett’s main focuses, says Crane. “Towers utilize our HIM (high intensity mixer) mixer designed specifically for high speed blending and coating. Loss-In-Weight systems incorporate state-of-the-art coating technology for individual products,” he explains.

Hinkeldey notes that Ranco’s blender systems can accurately dispense minute quantities of dry and liquid material. “We developed this feature because of the low-use-rate products being put on the market. This advantage gives the retailer the ability to react to the changing needs of their growers,” he says. Liquids, like dry products, can be dispensed on the declining weigh system to insure accuracy — and all this is done without slowing down load-out time.

Accuracy, Efficiency Gains

Hinkeldey says that the accuracy of the Ranco’s declining weigh (DW) system is the reason it’s so sought-after. “Each product is continuously weighed as it is being dispensed into the blend, which translates into accurate end-of-season inventories. No one wants to come up short on high priced products,” he says.

Indeed, the need for accuracy is heightened these days in light of variable fertilizer prices. Anderson notes that back when potash cost $100/ton, it didn’t matter if a dealer gave customers a few extra pounds of product. But now that potash and other fertilizer prices are as high as they are, retailers can’t spare the losses, he says.

Blender manufacturers are also stepping up on automation, as they see dealers wanting to do more with less and control costs, including reducing labor. Automation advances at some manufacturers include careful monitoring of inventory. “The dealer needs to be more in tune to inventory control and usage,” says Yargus’ Anderson. It goes beyond entering debits and credits. “I’m talking about actual automation of the blending systems to where there’s real-time communication, real-time inventory tracking at a keystroke,” he says.

That might sound elementary, but Anderson notes that agriculture has always been somewhat behind the times when it comes to automation of dry fertilizer plants on both the operations and accounting sides. “Allowing the dealer to take computer-entered orders and move them through the system with simple keystrokes and having data flow back to confirm actual transactions — that empowers the dealer with real-time information,” he says. Yargus is developing its own automation blending software that connects the blend system directly to the customer’s agronomy software, giving the dealer streamlined operations with real-time inventories.

Waconia’s Carlson points out that the tighter inventories are — and the more fertilizer that goes out in a short time — the more reliable and efficient the equipment needs to be. “If your business is going to happen all in a three- to four-week period, you’ve got to make sure your equipment is working. We pride ourselves on making sure whatever we put out is going to be reliable,” he says.

Waconia is now offering a number of features to speed up load-out and extend longevity of its tower systems. Carlson says the company has added 275-ton capacity blend towers (formerly the largest was 200), and towers can now be built with up to 18-ton blenders inside. NTEP-certified load cells right on the blenders take the extra weighing step out of the process — and the cells can act simply as scales in load-out for single-product wholesale business. For increased longevity, structural components in towers are now available in hot-dip galvanized steel and holding bins are now available in 304 stainless steel.

To meet dealers’ needs for more efficiency, some companies have introduced blender units at the larger end of the market in the last year. Adams Fertilizer Equipment developed its new 13-ton vertical blender, called the Lo-Pro 102. With a profile height of 16 feet, 4 inches, it has a wider, more stable base, larger intake and discharge capabilities, an extra large gear reduction box, 75 hp chemical duty electric motor, and a heavier-duty scale assembly complete with powder coat paint. “Adams is steadfast at meeting the needs and demands of the ever-growing fertilizer industry,” says Michael Tibbett, sales manager.

Rob Heiden, engineer with Doyle Manufacturing, points to his company’s brand new 13-ton direct drive rotary blender, a unit he calls “the industry’s fastest,” with a discharge rate of 9.9 tons per minute. He says it uses fewer parts than traditional chain drive blenders, and the direct drive system has a heavy duty planetary gearbox coupled to a TEFC motor.

Buying Advice

When looking to buy or build a blender system, manufacturers emphasized two things:

•  Experience. “Contact an equipment supplier or somebody you know who’s done a project similar to what you want,” says Carlson. Most companies will take the time to visit with dealers extensively to assess their needs. Carlson notes that the Waconia team has experience with hundreds and hundreds of towers and thousands of other installations that they have built to draw from. “We learn so much every day from each installation we have,” he says, “that every blender that goes out has something tweaked on it or changed to make it better.”

Adds Hinkeldey: “Go with the system that has been proven over time. The lowest cost equipment is usually not the best buy. You may save 5% to 10% on the initial cost, but how much are you really saving when you have to repair or replace the system sooner than expected?”

•  Plan for the future. Think about how much fertilizer you’ll need to move in 5, 10, 20 years and plan accordingly. Systems last an average of at least 15 years, says Crane. “Dealers owe it to themselves to invest in the latest technology and highest quality systems that will carry them forward.”

Leave a Reply

Blenders Stories
BlendersFertilizer Blenders Keep Up With Growers
February 3, 2014
Specialty fertilizer add-ons and ever more demanding growers pose real challenges for blending design and technology. Read More
BlendersNew St. Marys Fertilizer Building Is Built For Speed, Efficiency
October 1, 2013
With its precision blending facility, J.B. Pearl embraces the company’s past while setting the stage for its present and the future. Read More
Blenders10 Dry Fertilizer Blenders For 2013
November 16, 2012
Blender units are getting faster and more efficient than ever, plus some manufacturers are taking advantage of new technologies. Here Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Creates, Fills New Pacific Northwest Sales P…
March 30, 2015
H.J. Baker announced today that Gary Bingham has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division to further deepen its sales portfolio Read More
Algal blooms
StewardshipStudy: Algae From Clogged Waterways Could Be Used As Bi…
March 30, 2015
Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists are reporting Read More
Young corn plants
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit Coming To DC
March 30, 2015
The annual 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit will be held on May 12 in Washington DC. The summit will include a full Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More