Foam meters | Six runs, three chutes, no wires
The Cleanseed CX-6 is mounted to the company’s triple chute, hoe drill. The parallel arm unit looks like a planter until the wireless, electronically controlled meters come into view. | Michael Raine photo
REGINA — A western Canadian company is offering a new approach to metering what goes in the ground.
Electronically metering up to six products individually above every seed run makes Cleanseed Agricultural Technologies’ approach to putting product in the ground unique in the broad acre farming business.
Graeme Lempriere debuted his company’s system at Canada’s Farm Progress Show in Regina in June.
The product drew producers to the company’s booth, where they got to see how a planting system could manage high rates of product, low air flows and precision seed and fertilizer metering for single pass planting.
The CX-6 Trident Crossover Drill looks like a planter unit from a distance and will be placed on a single, Wil-Rich toolbar, setup as a front folding machine.
“It has that (planter) look, but other than metering product at the seed row, that is where planters and this seeding system diverge,” said Saskatchewan producer Colin Rosengren, who is vice-president of agronomy for the British Columbia company.
With 40 to 60 units on a single toolbar, all electronically controlled, it might be imagined that the system creates a wiring harness almost as thick as the bar itself.
However, only a few small power connections run to the units, providing 12 watts of electricity to operate small stepper motors that meter seed to the soil.
The data that feeds the motors’ instructions arrive via wireless Bluetooth signals.
Most seeders on the Prairies typically rely on metering taking place at the seed tank, where seed and fertilizer are then blown to the openers through one, two or three sets of hoses.
Planters meter and drop individual seeds without a fertilizer flow, unless supplied by anhydrous or liquid, and generally to a separate opener.
Metering rollers or discs are typically hard poly, rubber or stainless steel, able to withstand the rigours of pushing products through housings at precise rates for up to 300 or more hours a season.
These systems must survive conditions that range from freezing cold to baking heat and include all levels of humidity when metering out product as fragile as tiny, delicate seeds and as sturdy and corrosive as rock- solid fertilizer prills.
However, the five by two inch metering rollers on the CX-6 are made of a spongy, poly foam the company refers to as cushion drive. Standard meters are a fully round foam wheel, while higher capacity meters are slightly fluted to accommodate greater volume.
Lempriere said in years of testing the soft foam meters haven’t caused problems.
“And if you need to replace a meter roller or a meter, it costs very little and takes minutes to change,” he said.
“We have tested these by stuffing bolts and tools into the meters and they can take it, maybe better than traditional meter bodies.”
The meters also do little damage to seed.
“We have looked at seed carefully and found that many metering technologies do some damage, cracking of seed (coats). That creates opportunities for pathogens to infect the plants,” he said.
Rosengren said each of the CX-6 units consists of six meters, electronically guided stepper motors and the venturi receivers that take in air flowed products to the units. The venturi reduces the flow to the pod when a unit has enough product for metering.
“The pods are universal and can be swapped out in minutes if there should be an issue,” he said.
“Any repairs or maintenance can take place back in the shop.”
The Cleanseed no-till opener is a cast, winged knife with a lower fertilizer run, generally aimed at nitrogen, and a pair of other runs for seed and metering pod-blended nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium.
More than one chute and meter can deliver fertilizer to the nitrogen band in high nitrogen delivery situations. As well, sulfur or potassium could be blended into that flow on the go.
There are four chute combinations, feeding three opener runs. Each of the six metered lines can be diverted into any or all of these. One of the chutes is split, allowing for two side bands to be fed seed, for paired row seeding.
Lempriere said the system is de-signed in part to meet a demand by some governments and food companies to make fertilizer use a more exact science.
The International Plant Nutrition Institute’s right time, right product, right place, right rate mantra has made fertilizer efficiency a high priority for the public, which is reflected in the machine’s design.
Rosengren said most prairie producers have been practicing low waste fertilizer applications at a time when grain and oilseed commodity prices kept them from fertilizing to optimal production rates.
“We’re getting better and better with the science of feeding each crop appropriately. (We’re) better able to manage our fields and soils to get the most out of them without putting on more nutrients than we need,” he said about the variable rate production system at the heart of the Cleanseed CX6.
The CX6 relies on field maps to drive its metering and blending. The prescription maps that the machine uses, along with the company’s software and hardware, allow the machine to vary the flow of material to meet crop needs at any point in the field.
As the drill turns, the units inside the turn reduce flow while those on the outside increase to keep rates even overall.
Overlaps are eliminated one run at time, similar to single nozzle cutoffs on a sprayer.
“Without sectional control, a drill typically overlaps about 10 percent,” Rosengren said.
“We were doing some (prescription map) work on my fields and found it to be about 7.5. Multiply that by $90 (an acre) and you start paying for a new drill pretty quickly.”
Seed and fertilizer tanks are mounted on the frame and a reload on the go, tender system in development.
The first drills using the CX-6 Trident systems will be built around the Wil-Rich 10K toolbar, with its Landluvr rubber tracks on the centre of the frame and transport truck tires on the wings.
“The pod and its metering is what is critical here,” said Rosengren.
“The openers can change, we can use other people’s tools in the soil. This one might be right for some farms and not for others. The metering can move (to other seeders).”
Lempriere said the product is so new that its future isn’t well mapped out.
“We might stay with (the Wil-Rich frame), or not. We might find the CX-6 on other drill frames. It is still early in our process of getting this onto farms.”
The company also has a line of electronically or ground driven, through-shaft metered drills that use the same sponge metering systems.
Cleanseed plans to have drills in the field next spring.
Jessica Werb | Jun 28, 2013
When Steve Jobs held aloft the first iPhone, the reception was nothing short of adulation. Now, one local company may have just done for farming what Jobs did for the humble phone. On June 19, Burnaby-based Clean Seed Capital Group Ltd. unveiled what it believes is the future of agriculture: the CX6 Trident Crossover Drill.
“It's the first time a seeding technology has come to market that's completely computerized,” Clean Seed CEO Graeme Lempriere breathlessly explains. Its name may not be as sexy as the latest i-gadget, but the CX6 Trident managed to clinch the People's Choice Award at Canada's Farm Progress Show in Regina, Saskatchewan, which is no small feat—the event is the largest of its kind in the country, attended by 45,000 visitors. In one video clip from the trade show, a young farmer says he's simply “stunned.” Another calls it “totally awesome.”
So how does this futuristic farming device work? Basically, says Lempriere, “it's a big drill that's pulled by a giant tractor.” But that's where any comparisons to what's already out there end. The machinery separates and meters out a precise amount of fertilizer and seed, communicating back to the farmer on a Bluetooth-enabled wireless touchpad.
The high-tech piece of machinery even has turn compensation, which up until now was not available to farmers, who ended up wasting seed and fertilizer because of it. “The current technologies that are out there today still apply very limited prescriptions across the field. They just have big sectional controls. They can't really blend and make an impact on the fly,” says Lempriere. It's also a no-till system, which means the soil isn't turned over—a practice that releases carbon and erodes the topsoil.
Of course, as anyone who's ever splurged on a first-generation gizmo knows, new technology doesn't come cheap. The 60-foot CX6 Trident drill will sport a price tag of $450,000, although Clean Seed has smaller units available, as well as a $7,500 unit aimed at developing countries.
Lempriere, who isn't shy to proclaim his company “the Apple of farming,” says he wants to take a calm, considered approach to rolling out the product, and will start sales in the spring of next year, targeting Saskatchewan's large agricultural sector.
“We've come so far in technology, but no one really applied it to the farm, and the farm is where all our food comes from,” he adds. “Our food comes from the hard work of the farmers, and it's vital to give the farmer the most sophisticated tools you can give them to produce the best crops.”