In the retail agriculture business, being able to provide services in the exact window farmers need is essential. Planting season for a given crop only happens once a year, so retailers must have all their equipment fully prepared when it’s time to go.
For those supplying fertilizer to their customers, it seems like the application season is getting shorter and shorter.
This has happened for a multitude of reasons, including:
- Advancements in precision application have created the opportunity for more specific prescriptive fertilizer applications, meaning fewer blanket applications and more exact custom blending and application.
- A move to larger equipment means that operators are covering more acres faster - and they’re back more quickly for the next load.
- Innovations in seed and other inputs encourage more efficient nutrient uptake and use.
Labor is also a significant pinch point. There are simply never enough people for all the different jobs that are happening concurrently at a retail location.
The combination of a small application window and a limited labor force can sometimes mean that trucks are waiting in line or application equipment is sitting idle at the field - a hang-up that farmers don’t tolerate.
Upgrading the fertilizer blending process can help retailers improve efficiency.
Every location is different, so the process for upgrading a fertilizer blending system varies. There’s no one answer, so the key is to analyze the specific operations and where the pinch points are. In most cases, whether the answer is long lines or a lack of good help, the real need is a system with greater efficiency, less maintenance and a lessened load on the workforce.
For example, some new blending systems allow one operator to run the blending tower, loading out product and servicing customers, while at the same time running the payloader and filling the tower. This moves the labor needed for the blending tower from two full-time employees to one or maybe one and a quarter during the busiest part of the season. Then someone can be moved to a truck or another position, allowing for better resourcing, and potentially, less employee burnout.
A good fertilizer blending tower can also improve your quality.
Typical legacy style blenders, whether it's an orbital style or a vertical blender, have been the industry standard for decades and take about 20 seconds per ton to set a good blend. That means that for a 24-ton load, it's going to take about 8-10 minutes, minimum, just to blend, not to mention any impregnation, loading or discharging. When one or two trucks are in line, it's no big deal, but if you've ever been to a fertilizer location during the busy season, you know that it only takes a sudden to find 10 trucks in line waiting to fill.
This puts pressure on operators to rush, meaning occasionally, the blend may not be as high quality as it should. This leads to streaky applications and can be especially detrimental when micronutrients are in the mix.
Retail fertilizer delivery is changing.
The industry is now making a turn to high-intensity, twin shaft horizontal mixers. These can achieve a thorough mix much faster, blending eight tons in 45 seconds, with impregnation. This means growers are getting a high-quality blend in three minutes or less.
This takes the pressure of the long line off – for the driver, the farmer and the tower operator. Instead of waiting in line at a retail location, the trucks are back at the field with the right fertilizer blend, waiting to load up the fertilizer truck with a consistent blend. And the operator can step away, hop in the payloader and load the tower up again for the next trucks.
GSI’s InterSystems line fits the bill.
For retailers looking to upgrade their fertilizer blending process, GSI’s Intersystem line of blend towers is an excellent opportunity. The systems typically have a 30 year or more life-cycle and many customers feel that the vertical, gravity systems have a lot less that can go wrong and require significantly less preventative maintenance. Faster cycles, high-quality blends, and more efficient use of labor all add up to improved service, a better customer experience and an improved bottom line, not to mention the longest warranty in the industry. All from a company you know and trust with a proven track record in the field.
See how a GSI InterSystems fertilizer blend tower works below.