Ag sum­mit dis­plays new, fu­ture farm gear

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY BLAKE HER­ZOG @BLAKEHERZOG

Field demon­stra­tions of new and de­vel­op­ing farm­ing equip­ment dom­i­nated the first morn­ing of the South­west Agri­cul­ture Sum­mit Wed­nes­day, with about a dozen de­vices in var­i­ous stages of de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing go­ing on test runs at Ari­zona West­ern Col­lege.

Leigh Loug­head, agri­cul­ture science man­ager at AWC and the an­nouncer for the demo event, said any im­ple­ments which take over la­bor-in­ten­sive tasks, like in-row cultivators and pre­ci­sion weed­ers, were get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion from the grow­ers in at­ten­dance.

“With the min­i­mum wage go­ing up in Cal­i­for­nia, the min­i­mum wage go­ing up in Ari­zona, they’re look­ing at ma­chines that can do the same thing as a full la­bor crew can do with min­i­mal cost, the cost of the driver,” she said. “Au­to­ma­tion is go­ing to be­come very im­por­tant in the fu­ture as we try to pro­vide af­ford­able food.”

Greater dif­fi­culty in find­ing la­bor crews to hire is also fu­el­ing the push to­ward au­to­ma­tion, she said.

Some of the ma­chin­ery was ex­per­i­men­tal in na­ture, in­clud­ing a spray-based pre­ci­sion weed­ing ma­chine ex­hib­ited by Dr. Mazin Sa­her, a post­doc­toral re­search as­so­ciate at the Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona’s Yuma Ag Cen­ter.

He uses a water-based marker on let­tuce seedlings be­fore they are trans­planted into the ground. When un­wanted weeds pop up around it once planted, a wheeled de­vice which can de­tect the mark­ers sprays her­bi­cide on the sur­round­ing plants with 1-cen­time­ter ac­cu­racy, leav­ing the crop un­touched.

Saber said he hopes to com­plete de­vel­op­ment of the ma­chine for sale to a man­u­fac­turer in about a year.

Yuma Ag Cen­ter As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor and Ag Mech­a­niza­tion Spe­cial­ist Mark Siemens hosted demon­stra­tions of an au­to­mated,

“With the min­i­mum wage go­ing up in Cal­i­for­nia, the min­i­mum wage go­ing up in Ari­zona, they’re look­ing at ma­chines that can do the same thing as a full la­bor crew can do with min­i­mal cost, the cost of the driver. Au­to­ma­tion is go­ing to be­come very im­por­tant in the fu­ture as we try to pro­vide af­ford­able food.”

in-row cul­ti­va­tor. or “Robo­va­tor,” pur­chased by UA and the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis through a fed­eral grant. It is man­u­fac­tured in Europe and uses cam­era-based ma­chine vi­sion to de­tect crops and hy­drauli­cally-pow­ered blades to slice out in-row weeds.

“If you’re un­der a lot of weed pres­sure this is prob­a­bly a good fit for an in-row cul­ti­va­tor,” he said, while if they aren’t much of an is­sue there might not be much of a need for it.

The uni­ver­si­ties are mak­ing the ma­chine avail­able for demon­stra­tions on lo­cal farms and get­ting feed­back from grow­ers as part of the grant pro­gram.

Idaho-based GenZ Tech- nol­ogy’s G360R was one of the more un­usual prod­ucts on the field, a veg­etable sprayer which uses a se­ries of white hoods to dis­pense pes­ti­cides in a con­cen­trated man­ner, then sucks what­ever chem­i­cal doesn’t land back up, recycling it for use far­ther down­field and elim­i­nat­ing most pes­ti­cide drift.

The ma­chine’s air sys­tem cre­ates a “tor­nado ef­fect” which al­lows the chem­i­cal to be blown onto all sides of the crops, and is es­pe­cially good for reach­ing mildew, GenZ Pres­i­dent/CEO Grant Thompson said. The force of the air can be di­aled from 0 to 150 mph, he said.

A G360R runs about $45,000 to $55,000, Thompson said: “It’s a lit­tle be­yond what a stan­dard sprayer would cost it, but not by too much.”

The nois­i­est demon­stra­tion was also the low­est-tech, with an air can­non and other py­rotech­nics in­ter­mit­tently fir­ing at the end of the field to show dif­fer­ent meth­ods of “bird ha­rass­ment,” or non­lethal meth­ods to get birds and other wildlife to steer clear of fields in pro­duc­tion.

Christo­pher Car­rillo of the U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture said “bangers” and “scream­ers” are shot off from a starter pis­tol, and they have much of the same crackle and whis­tle of full-blown fire­works. A propane-fu­eled air can­non can be used in the ab­sence of farm em­ploy­ees, with pe­ri­odic blasts from the can­non. These can be ef­fec­tive, but could cre­ate other is­sues when used near res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

How­ever, the birds even­tu­ally learn to ig­nore the “ha­rass­ment” and go back to peck­ing at the veg­etable crops, so grow­ers need to switch up their meth­ods.

“Bird ha­rass­ment, it’s a full-time job for one per­son to change this type of be­hav­ior,” Car­rillo said.

Wed­nes­day’s other ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded classes on food safety, weld­ing and the pos­si­ble ef­fects of new fed­eral gas reg­u­la­tions on farm fleets.

To­day, the sec­ond day of the South­west Ag Sum­mit will have a key­note panel on the Colorado River water sup­ply, break­out ses­sions on water, in­te­grated pest man­age­ment, health­care re­form and more, with the peren­ni­ally sold­out Har­vest Din­ner clos­ing out Thurs­day evening. An “ad­vanced ag” tour will be held Fri­day morn­ing.

Buy these pho­tos at Yu­maSun.com PHO­TOS BY RANDY HOEFT/ YUMA SUN

MARK SIEMENS (RIGHT), WITH THE UNI­VER­SITY OF ARI­ZONA YUMA AGRI­CUL­TURAL CEN­TER, talks about the au­to­mated in-row cul­ti­va­tor Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the 2017 South­west Agri­cul­ture Sum­mit on the Ari­zona West­ern Col­lege main cam­pus.

NICK COPASS (CEN­TER), WITH GENZ TECH­NOL­OGY, out of Boise, Idaho, talks about the com­pany’s air-as­sisted tun­nel sprayer at the sum­mit. The com­pany’s veg­etable sprayer uses a se­ries of white hoods to dis­pense pes­ti­cides in a con­cen­trated man­ner, then...

A GVM MAKO 440 SELF-PRO­PELLED SPRAYER is put through its paces Wed­nes­day morn­ing at the Jor­dan Equip­ment tent at the sum­mit.

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