Farmers have always suffered from labour problems but some of these issues could be solved by the advances in the field of palletising robots. Buffaload, a company leading the stampede have had many successful palletising robot installations for agricultural use and have big plans for the future.
Any farmer will know the problems associated with sourcing labour for agricultural work. Unreliable, unenthusiastic employees are a real problem for all types of farming and have shaped the way we farm today. In many case Labour is the deciding factor in whether a new agricultural venture is considered and in some cases, is a factor that contributes to the closure of a farm. This cannot be blamed entirely on the work ethic of the average labourer as a lot of farm work is repetitive and conditions are often unpleasant giving them reason to be less than eager. The seasonal nature of the work also makes it impossible to keep good workers all year round. The problem may seem insurmountable but with a bit of lateral thinking solutions are emerging.
Robots have been used in manufacture for many years but the application of this technology in an agricultural setting is very new. Buffaload, a well known supplier of robotic palletisers have been working with farmers to develop solutions for vegetable packaging with great success.
An example application is that of packing and grading potatoes. Potato farmers spend a lot of time packing and grading their potatoes which is a very manually intensive task. This involves sorting and bagging the potatoes and then stacking them on a pallet ready for loading onto a transporter. The packing of the bags onto pallets is the most difficult part, as this requires someone to carry and then stack 25Kg bags continuously the whole time the potatoes are being graded. Working with producers, Buffaload have managed to configure a Robotic Palletiser to do this job. The use of robots for this task has been made possible with the application of a vacuum head to literally grip the bags by creating a vacuum and picking the bags up by suction. The bags are then stacked uniformly onto the pallet at a very high speed in the exact position every time.
The first thought of many farmers would be that the use of a robot would be far too expensive to ever pay for itself in this type of application but the savings made in speed and reliability means payback can be achieved in a very short space of time. A volume of potatoes that would have taken three men two days to complete can be achieved using two men and a robot in just a day saving the equivalent of 4 man days. Taken over a complete season, a saving of labour of more than 50% would be seen. Saving of this magnitude soon compensate for the initial outlay for the robot palletiser itself.
Buffaload, who recently expanded their product range to include, conveyors, bag stitchers and shrink wrappers plan to continue to work with farmer to solve this type of problem and many more. To view Buffaload’s range of products visit their website at www.buffaload.co.uk
For more information, please contact Rod Garnham on 08700 343 343 .