Farm Industry News

Re-inventing the rinse cycle

Mark Underwood and Ralph Lagergren, developers of the Bi-Rotor combine that was sold to John Deere, have taken on a different project, this time for sprayers.

The cousins have assisted inventor  Ethan Eck to bring to market a system that can open and empty a chemical jug in a ½ second, rinse th jug and shred it up for recycling in less than a minute.

“It’s faster than throwing it away,” says Lagergren,  of  Eck’s multiple designs that have been patented. The system is called Chem-Blade or the newest designs are named Chem-Blade ES (enclosed system). The team is  starting the process of licensing the enclosed designs to companies.

“The problem sprayer operators have today is that chemical jugs take time to empty,” Lagergren explains. “And after you empty the jugs, you’re supposed to triple rinse them with water and then cut them up so they can’t be reused. The reality is a lot of operators just don’t have time for that.”

After conducting surveys with farmers, Lagergren and Eck found that most farmers again don’t have time to rinse or recycle. “We were actually shocked to find that 95% of farmers we talked to throw the jugs in the back of their pickup truck and later either burn them or bury them. Or, they use them in their shop to store oil or other products.”

These off-label practices put the handler at risk of chemical exposure. And, it isn’t that great for environment either. That’s where Chem-Blade comes in.

As its name implies, Chem-Blade consists of sharp blades in a sealed enclosure that cut open and empty a jug in half a second, after which a built-in spray nozzle rinses the jug. An external lever (or an optional powered switch) activates the blades in the fully enclosed container. (See Illustration of how it works.) Once rinsed, the container can be removed and shredded by a granulation system either onboard the sprayer or at the mix station.

The whole cycle takes under a minute compared to five minutes or more it might take to do the same steps by hand. The time saved will allow an operator to spray in the range of 25 to 45 additional acres per day depending on the amount of jugs used, based on tests with custom applicators, Lagergren says. Plus, because the system is fully sealed and enclosed, the operator is protected from chemical fumes and splash.   

There are sealed dry-lock systems on the market designed to accomplish the same thing of keeping operators safe. But dry lock systems are more labor-intensive and can take 3 to 5 minutes as opposed to less than a minute, Lagergren says. More time saved, more acres sprayed.

The product is timely, too, as the EPA looks at strengthening 20-year-old standards for chemical handling aimed at protecting farm workers.

The Chem-Blade system can be used for eductors on sprayers, inductors at tender (supply) stations, or inside of or attached to 15-60- gallon poly tanks. “We are in the process of licensing the technology to companies to create a safer environment while handling chemicals, therefore making the operator’s job safer, while also being so much faster and easier,” Lagergren says. 

You can buy the original retrofit system directly by contacting Ethan Eck at www.eckfab.com or with select distributors. The suggested list price is $495 To see videos of the system working, go to (web link). The enclosed systems will be licensed to established companies to sell along with their other lines of products.

Video Clips:

Quick opening

This is a clip of the jug being opened and emptied in ½ second, instead of an operator having to stand and pour the liquid into a tank. Afterward water automatically rinses the remaining chemical out the jug. The empty jug is shredded and put in a compact holding container.

Chem-blade in action

Another angle of the Chem-blade in action.

Half-second empty time

Here is a front view of the Chem-Blade system opening, emptying and rinsing the jug in 20 seconds.

Side view

This clip shows the speed at which the liquid is emptying.

Rinsing process

Here, Ethan Eck loads the jug onto the powered unit and engages it to start the opening and rinsing process. Afterward, he opens the Chem-Blade ES tank and removes the jug, which then can be shredded and recycled in a holding container. Compare this to an operator having to open and stand pouring chemical out of the jug and then triple rinsing by hand.

Safety

Here, the safety override is removed to show the blade moving inside the tank. A platform holds the jug and also serves as a safety shield for the blades to prevent the operator from getting hurt. A safety override kicks in when the lid is opened to prevent the blades and water turn-on device from engaging.

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