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 .
Dad has given me a plastic wheel barrow which is great. I am using the wheel barrow daily to move the pig muck about the farm. The plastic wheel barrow is a great asset as the muck can often affect metal wheel barrows but the plastic barrow can be easily washed.
It was my birthday in early December and as you know I got a mucking out shovel! So what do you think I got for Christmas? Again it wasn’t perfume, jewellery nor flowers, yes you guessed it, it was a matching mucking out fork that goes with my mucking out shovel! Like the shovel, the fork is extremely useful and is used everyday as I fork the muck into the wheelbarrow.
Have you ever been given an unusual Christmas gift?
It was my birthday in early December and what do you think my husband bought me? No – not flowers, nor perfume or jewellery. Yes it’s that gift that every farmer’s wife needs, the mucking out shovel! Although it was a slightly unusual birthday gift, it was needed and does come in very handy. I use the shovel twice a day to muck out the pig pens.
Have you ever been given an unusual birthday gift?
We were able to harvest some more of the oilseed rape on Wednesday but we still haven’t finished as the remaining areas are still too wet for the combine to travel. The combine repeatedly got stuck but we were able to ‘dig it out’ with a spade and by jolting it backwards and forwards we would get the machine out and have an attempt in another area of the field. Steady progress continued until 7.30pm when we got stuck once more. I gave the engine full throttle and tried to reverse out of the mud to the sound of a huge crack and the combine slumped over to the left. I immediately knew what had happened -the axle/reduction gearbox hub had snapped and the wheel had fallen off and was now trapped under the frame of the combine.
Having only harvested 5 acres since the last disaster with the unloading spout we were now broken down again – and in glorious harvesting weather. We’d all had enough that night and called it a day. I went spraying potatoes at 6.30 on Thursday morning and then loaded the Land Rover up with blocks of wood and hydraulic jacks ready to try and repair the wheel hub. Luckily we found a second hand hub about 30 miles away which we had to remove from a fire damaged combine before returning home with it. We had to place the wooden blocks under the front axle and then dig out the soil from under the wheel to relieve the weight of the combine that was resting on the wheel. The wheel came out relatively easily and so the next job was to jack the combine up so that the new hub and the wheel could be refitted. The wooden blocks were continually sinking into the soil because the machine had got stuck in a ‘wet hole’ in the field. After several attempts of jacking and then chocking we were able to get the combine to a height at which the wheel could be refitted. The wheel and the hub are both very heavy so we needed to use the forklift which was also sinking in the wet soil.
Harvest recommenced at 4pm after another hard day’s work of repairs. The forklift, wooden blocks, tools, chains, straps and the old wheel hub were abandoned there in the field while we moved onto the next (hopefully drier) field. The combine was altered to harvest wheat and we got started about 5pm and by 8pm the 8 acre field was completed. The grain was 14.7% moisture which is dry enough to put into the grain store without having to dry it down any further. Hopefully the wheat harvest will continue on Friday and we keep our fingers crossed that there are no more mechanical problems.